REVIEW: The Surge 2 - A Bigger, More Ambitious RPG than the First One

October 27, 2019
REVIEW: The Surge 2 - A Bigger, More Ambitious RPG than the First One

In 2014, after more than a decade of working on smaller games, German video game development studio Deck13 Interactive tried to break into the much stronger competition of AA games on PC and consoles with their first more serious game, Lords of the Fallen, with which they tried to emulate the success of the now legendary Souls games from FROM Software Studio.

Although the international public didn’t respond to the game so well, its core was of quality, which helped the developers make a completely new roguelike action RPG game The Surge, after just three years, in 2017. With this game, they were finally able to create a package that was very interesting from the start, and their innovative system of aiming at specific parts of the opponent's body has made this game distinct from similar games from the Souls genre. Two years later, the time for the first sequel came.

The Surge 2 is a sequel to the great dark action RPG game of 2017. In that game, we first became acquainted with a nano-virus that a huge Creo corporation lost control over as it took over the computer systems of many workers wearing integrated EXO robotic suits, which went on a rampage around the main player who was, for some reason, immune to this virus.

Two years later, the sequel moves outside the walls of this corporation to the city of Jericho, which is destroyed by the crash of an unknown aircraft and the impending rampage of nano-viruses that destroyed police forces. This brought to light several technological sects and criminal organizations fighting for dominance among the city’s ruins. The game’s main character is one of the passengers from that mysterious aircraft, who wakes up from a coma a few weeks later and faces the destroyed city around him.

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In the game’s first tutorial (which happens in the destroyed police station where prisoners are now in charge) you will immediately encounter the first gameplay changes this game has to offer. Instead of very slow and tactical gameplay, the sequel allows for a bit more freedom, faster movement, and more options when playing. The faster tempo is mostly backed by the feeling that your strokes do not end with long periods of break and recovery, giving you a chance to move faster. At the end of the tutorial, you will need to become familiar with the new system that helps you block your opponent.

The new "directional" block is the central and most important move that you need to master in Surge 2. With it, you will clearly see which side the opponent's hit is coming from, and you have to hold the block and the direction of the player's movement (the right analog mushroom) so that you can block him on that side. Successful timing will give you a chance to do a very useful parry hit, and if your timing is not so good, you will be able to block the stroke if you have enough stamina. With this lesson learned, you will leave the station and enter the ruined city of Jericho. You start to search for the mysterious girl who was with you before the crash, and along the way, you will find enough reasons to accept additional quests which will lead you to many locations in this city.

One of the most pleasant novelties in the sequel is the new system that was used to design the city and the presence of many more NPC characters you can talk to, pick up quests from, buy additional fighting gear, and learn more about what's happening around you. Jericho is a semi-open exploration area, and since you are no longer bound to the fixed levels from the first Surge that eventually hid the big boss, you now have the freedom to go for walks, discover many secret locations and shortcuts, and to explore the three big zones of Jericho at your own pace. Within these large zones, there are numerous mini-sites, where you can rest or buy new equipment, find difficult combat challenges, or even fight more than 10 bosses.

All this makes The Surge 2 a lot different from the first Surge and gives the game a much better atmosphere and a sense of freedom.

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Since The Surge 2 is an action RPG, it's time to move on to analyzing the fight and progress systems. The fights with the opponents are now faster and more dynamic due to more fluid animation of hits, more responsive opponents, and because of the presence of the directional block that can enable you to attack freely in a second when you hit the Parry block. The weapons, which in this game are divided into 9 basic categories (everything from a fight with mechanized gloves to heavy hammers) also contribute to the good feel of the combat. Also, there are several weapons within each category that have their special features, speed of use and special combos.

The player's equipment itself is divided into four categories - armor, weapons, implants (injectables and boosters) and drones. Just be aware that for armor and implants you need to keep an eye on your Power Consumption stat that grows with each of your levels. This stat determines how much equipment and how much powerful equipment you can wear on you at one time.

The four armor pieces (head, arms, legs, and chest) come in five possible types (Scavenger, SPARK Aspirant, SPARK Defender, VULTR and AID NIghtfall), and if you collect half or full sets, you will receive special bonuses that will help you fight. Collecting the equipment parts and upgrading is very easy and intuitive. If you see an opponent with a glove that you have not collected so far, lock his or her arm and cut it off at the end of the fight. This will give you a blueprint that can be traded using XP (scrap) points.

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Upgrading the armor parts is also easy - cut off three more gloves of the same strength (the game has support for 10 levels of equipment), and with a few coins you can level up that glove. Each upgrade crafting item you collect is "generic", which means that if you collect 6 copies of upgrade equipment for a Mark V power helmet, you can then upgrade two separate IV power helmets to the V power. With this simple system, the game passively forces you to choose which part of your opponent's body you aim at in almost every fight, though I certainly suggest that if you are low in health you always choose the "unarmored" part of the opponent's body.

Implants are very useful passive and active accessories that can greatly change your combat tactics. Your hero unlocks a new slot every 10 levels, and all implants can be upgraded separately to get stronger. When you start the game, you will receive a few free implants that give you the ability to see the health status of opponents, the directions of their attacks (very useful for learning directional block), and of course a health implant that uses energy bars for refilling. Later when you collect the extra implants, you can remove the initial ones and make the offensive/defensive implant build as you wish. In the implant section, you also have a useful loadout selector, with which you can quickly switch from one implant configuration to another.

Finally, drones are not only helpful during battles (for combative drones you must collect bullets from defeated opponents, or buy ammunition from vendors), but also serve you for online interactions with other players. The game primarily supports a graffiti throwing system on the ground (simple arrows and various icons indicating opponents, danger, resources, etc.) that you can immediately praise or condemn with your personal rating.

Also, there is a special drone that throws your banner in the world. This banner works unexpectedly - it will appear in other players' worlds, but your goal is for it to stay hidden. If your banner stays hidden for a certain period of time, you will receive a small cash prize. The game does not support any active multiplayer or co-op, it all comes down to graffiti and hidden banners.

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Perhaps the worst element of the game is its visual representation. Although The Surge 1 was praised for its interesting graphics, environment, and atmosphere at its small and detailed levels, the sequel is still a much larger game with a much larger playing surface and unique zones. This has led to a decline in the quality of objects around the player, with slimy (sometimes slightly non-existent) textures, low polygon counts, and often elements that don’t look good and are just scattered around.

Opponents are well designed but without much variation that we are used to in this genre, but the layout of zones in which one moves is still appealing, giving players the chance to explore and find new paths and shortcuts to their goals or previously visited zones.

I played the game on the PS4 Pro console, which offers two rendering modes - higher resolution with 30fps gameplay that I, of course, don't recommend for this genre, and 1080p 60fps mode that sometimes knows to be laggy in zones with many opponents (but not so much that it ever really bothered me). In both modes, the game looks washed out and edgy, so for the best looking graphics I still suggest a stronger gaming PC.

Lastly, I have to admit that The Surge 2 might be a little better than The Surge 1. The fans of the original will definitely have a lot of fun playing because this is the biggest, longest and most ambitious game Deck13 Interactive has made so far, but the passage of time and the competition it's facing, has made me evaluate it more critically. At a time when even smaller teams (Gunfire Games with its surprise hit Remnant: From Ashes) can compete and have the power to bring new innovations to the world of Souls games.

The Surge 2 represents an evolution in comparison to the original, but unfortunately with a worse final production which puts the game visually and audibly far behind FROM Software's hit titles. If you're a fan of the original or you just want to have fun with a very interesting action RPG title, The Surge 2 is a game that won't disappoint you, just don't expect miracles from a team that still doesn't have a big enough budget, manpower and time to create a game without compromising.

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Final impressions

The Surge 2 successfully upgrades the central formula of the original and gives players more reasons to fight using a system of targeting specific parts of the opponent. Although the game is bigger, more ambitious and easier than the first part, the sequel still lags behind the competition in its genre. I played this game on PS4 Pro and I give it 8/10.