The Surge 2 is a unique entry into the soulslike subgenre of action rpgs in that it is science fiction. The game comes to us from German developer Deck13, who seem to have found a niche audience with The Surge, and have greatly expanded and streamlined their gameplay for the sequel. Most of the normal soulslike pieces are there, but there are twists to the gameplay that keeps me coming back for more even when I’ve already experienced everything the game has to offer.
Allow me to set the stage. The Surge 2 welcomes you to Jericho City, where your plane immediately crashes and you are hospitalized as the only survivor of Flight 221. After waking up, you discover that Jericho is in much worse condition than you are. The city is in shambles, with scavengers, military police, and cultists laying claim to large sections of the city. You’ll also discover and fight nanomachines that have become self-aware, as robots in video games tend to do. Some players might take issue with the cultist faction and the premise of the main antagonist, who embodies a similar theme of forced ascension that Bloodborne focused so heavily on. I took no issue with it myself, and will leave this to personal discretion. Other than that, the story isn’t much to write home about. It felt rather shallow, but not unenjoyable. There are some nice characters, and the plot is very straightforward and self-contained, so don’t worry about playing the first game before jumping into this one. Where The Surge 2 really shines is in the core gameplay.
Combat in The Surge 2 emphasizes aggression over caution, and fights have a high tempo, but they still feel intricate and skillful. To start off, your standard light and heavy attacks have been replaced with horizontal and vertical swings that can each be charged for more damage. To defend yourself, you may backstep away from enemies, or you may attempt to parry attacks. Attacks will come from one of four directions, and you can shift your block in one of those directions to parry. Perfect timing will stagger enemies, granting you the chance to retaliate for bonus damage. There are a plethora of weapons and armor sets to choose from, so you can fine-tune your style however you like. You also have implants that can heal you, grant buffs, or boost your stats. The really interesting part lies in the acquisition of these items.
I say that, some players might be turned off by this part of the game. The Surge 2 can be rather violent at times, not dissimilar to DOOM. If you see that an enemy has a cool weapon, or a nice-looking helmet, you can take it from them. And I don’t mean through random drops. You can guarantee yourself armor parts or upgrade items by attacking different parts of the enemy’s body and then complete a finishing move to sever the limb you want. There are two sides to this coin. On the one hand, you can go into a fight knowing exactly what you want to get and how to get it. This is why vertical and horizontal swings matter, as some attacks will have a better chance of hitting certain limbs. On the other, it’s violent. This is not a game I would let my children play, or watch me play.
Of course, no soulslike is complete without boss fights, and The Surge 2 has some of my favorite boss fights of all time. The perk of being in a scifi setting is that you get to fight giant robots, so one of my favorites is the rogue A.I. CAIN, from the Kraken DLC. Other notable bosses include the nanomachine monster Delver and the crime lord Little Johnny. What’s special about the boss fights here, though, is that there is a unique way to kill each one. Usually this involves breaking a certain part of the boss off before landing the final blow, like a piece of armor, or a weapon. Getting this unique kill will reward you with unique boss loot, and upgraded versions of their weapons. But this challenge isn’t required, and if you’re struggling, you can always just not go for the alternate kill.
The Surge 2 is an extremely fun game. Its combat is tight and polished while retaining enough depth to reward skill. There is plenty of customization available, and I found myself switching my gear around just to see if I could capitalize on certain unique buffs. The story is good, but not the greatest, and it has its moments. The only strike against the game, in my opinion, is its violence. There is a good reason it’s rated M for mature.
Language: Strong language in some NPC dialogue.
Violence: Severing your opponents’ limbs is baked into the core gameplay. Proceed with caution.