As someone who spent many hours with Deck 13’s rather underappreciated Souls-esque RPG action title, The Surge, when it arrived back in 2017, the thought of a second outing amongst the technological wasteland of society’s remnants was one that I felt optimistic about. But have we fnally got an enjoyable alternative to the Dark Souls series, or is The Surge 2 a surge too far?
Unlike the original adventure, The Surge 2 begins with players choosing from one of six available characters, each with their own background before having the choice to customise their appearance prior to heading off on a new adventure. For me, the character creation doesn’t feel all that necessary though and while it’s nice to have a whole host of options to choose from, and there is a decent variety available, your choices never really change the overall experience.
As far as the story is concerned, The Surge 2 sends players into the thick of it in Jericho City, after our protagonist is forced to free him/herself from the local prison in which they are being held after the crash of a flight caused by a recently launched Utopia Rocket. With the crashed plane holding the volatile defrag Nanovirus, the crash has in turn devastated the once peaceful Jericho City and turned its inhabitants into hostile beings. As one of the only survivors, the fight against the infected remains of society is left to you, and with the end of humanity now getting underway, you’ll need to be well prepared.
In terms of gameplay, The Surge 2 plays a lot like its predecessor with key features in place such as the Medbay, which is used for character upgrading, area enemy respawns, and Souls-like scrap drops occurring upon death, forcing you to return to the location you died once more.
From the start of the game, one thing that really stood out to me were the visuals, and not for good reason either. Whilst they aren’t exactly poor, it does feel like The Surge 2 has suffered from a drop in visual fidelity when compared to that which went before it. With textures and certain objects often looking a little jagged, and things not feeling half as smooth or detailed this time, it doesn’t take long before you start to feel development may have been a little rushed. Of course, it’s not game breaking by any means and for those who are just looking for enjoyable gameplay, they certainly aren’t going to change the overall experience, however with a better showing last time out, things do feel a little disappointing visually.
Fortunately, the gameplay hasn’t taken a step back and is just as good as before, with combat once more proving a delight, forcing players to be patient and cautious with each fight. You see, with even the most basic of enemies capable of slinging you to the ground before putting in a devastating strike that can bring a premature end, anyone not completely concentrating on enemy attack patterns and environmental hazards, will soon know about it.
Much like the typical Souls-like titles, The Surge 2 is a game that follows looping paths and forces attention to detail should you wish to progress in a timely manner. The ride isn’t easy and if challenge isn’t something you’re after, then you’ll want to look elsewhere; The Surge 2 is a game that won’t be offering up any way of easing you into the challenge and you’re going to need to learn through trial and error should you wish to make progress.
And when it comes to that progression, The Surge 2 relies on you learning the ins and outs of each area, along with the location and spawn points of the various enemies, whilst keeping a firm grip on any equipped items to ensure you upgrade to the next best weapon and armour pieces as soon as possible. Of course, which items you equip will come down to your own specific playstyle, pretty much dictated by the items which you manage to pilfer off of downed foes. You see, in combat, The Surge 2 allows players to target specific areas or limbs. And those with certain armour pieces or weapons can be chopped off entirely to see you then earn that specific weapon or armour piece. This ensures that there is nearly always a continuous opportunity to build and strengthen your character.
Fortunately, the combat and equipment building is enough to see most players want to fight through to the end, as if it was down to the story alone, The Surge 2 wouldn’t be quite so memorable. It’s nice to fight in a sci-fi universe with a Dark Souls feel to things once more, but it all feels a lot more scaled back this time, especially when compared to what was found in the original outing. With your pursuit of the young female survivor who joined you in the plane crash being the only real reason to continue on, The Surge 2 feels a lot less focused on the world.
There is a little more than just the main story to follow this time around though, with side quests also filling up your adventure time. For the most part these feel a little bit like a drain when the NPCs involved are so bland and uninteresting. That’s not to say you won’t want to bother with them as through completion of everything in a given area, you can often find yourself introduced to shortcuts to areas you’ve already accessed, proving helpful later on. But with NPCs coming across as dull, and rewards for finishing each task proving fairly fruitless, there aren’t likely to be many wanting to hunt down and make the most of every single one.
Of course, visuals and narrative aren’t everything though and thankfully there is major praise needed in terms of the sound design. From the thump of each attack – which only brings even more to the already fantastic combat experience – to the mechanical workings of the friends of foes that populate the apocalyptic world, there is rarely a moment that goes by in which the sound design of The Surge 2 doesn’t feel well crafted or out of place. In fact, it is this which really brings this sci-fi experience to life.
Overall though and if you’re a fan of the original outing in The Surge universe and have been craving more of that futuristic Dark Souls feel, then The Surge 2 on Xbox One isn’t a bad way to get your fill. Whilst the story isn’t the strongest showing, the combat is truly exceptional and for those who like a risk/reward feel to their gameplay, preferring not to rush, this is certainly a game that will force you to wait in the shadows to make each and every attack count. It’s not revolutionary and it’s not really anything new for the genre, but it is an enjoyable experience and is well worth a look if you’re a Soulsborne fan – or even if you’re not.