After taking a crack at the Souls-like genre with Lords of the Fallen and finding some success, Deck13 Interactive immediately set to work on yet another game inspired by FromSoftware's ultra-tough franchise with The Surge. The Surge immediately differentiated itself from the franchise that inspired it by ditching the medieval setting in favor of a sci-fi one, featuring a dystopian society, exoskeletons, deadly robots, and more. Now Deck13 has returned to The Surge universe with The Surge 2, a followup that is better than its predecessor, but still falls a bit short of reaching the same heights as the games that inspired it.
The first thing fans of the first Surge will notice when they play The Surge 2 is that the game is much more polished. There are still some bugs, and the character models leave a lot to be desired, but overall, The Surge 2 plays better and looks better. There are no frame rate or performance issues to speak of, which means players can no longer blame any deaths on the game's frame rate.
Being a Souls-like game, The Surge 2 is tough from start to finish. The game starts players off in a prison area with no exoskeleton to speak of, and even forces them to fight a boss without it. We died multiple times in just the tutorial area, so it's apparent right from the get-go that The Surge 2 isn't messing around. The game maintains this high level of difficulty throughout, with some absolutely punishing, multi-phase bosses later on that will push even the most seasoned Souls-like players to their limits.
When it comes to Souls-like games, the developers have to find a balance between extreme challenge and staying fair. The Surge 2 achieves this balance for the most part, and if players ever find themselves stuck on an especially difficult boss, they can always resort to grinding to increase their health and stamina and try again. Checkpoints, which come in the form of medbays, are strategically placed so players can run a path through the area to kill some enemies for scrap (the currency players use to upgrade their rig) and loop back around to deposit it. Players can also experiment with their loadout, and there is actually a great deal of strategy when it comes to deciding what to have equipped and what to leave off.
There are some points in The Surge 2 when just grinding for more health and stamina isn't really the answer, and players need to adjust their loadout. Players are free to equip as much armor and "implants" (essentially perks) as they want, as long as they have enough core power in their rig to sustain everything. Core power increases from leveling, but unless players want to spend an absurd amount of time killing the same enemies over and over again to increase their core power, they will have to remove some things from their exoskeleton to equip something else that may be a little bit more helpful.
There was one boss fight that we were stuck on for quite a long time, and so we removed the perk that lets us see the direction of incoming enemy attacks. The boss moved too quick for us to get the parrying down right anyway, and so we weren't even using the implant, which is otherwise essential to many encounters. We were then able to equip heavier armor with a better defense state that gave us a far better shot at beating the boss, and after a few more tries, we were finally able to defeat them. Moments like these in The Surge 2 are incredibly satisfying, and it's fun to experiment with different builds to figure out what works best for any given situation.
Like the first game, players in The Surge 2 collect new equipment mainly by cutting it off of enemies they encounter in the game world. Virtually any weapon that players see being used by enemies can be obtained, as long as players target that specific body part that's holding it and slice it off in the fight. The same goes for armor, so if players are feeling like their defense isn't quite where it should be, they can go hunting for well-armored foes, attack them, and then cut off their limbs with stylish, brutal executions. By giving players something to collect beyond just scrap, it makes having to kill the same enemies over and over again feel far less tedious than it would be otherwise.
Combat in The Surge 2 is mostly on-point, but it does suffer from an issue that also plagued the first game. As we pointed out in our review of The Surge, lock-on just isn't as reliable as it needs to be, especially when there are multiple enemies around. And in a game where players have to target not just specific enemies but specific limbs as well, it can be frustrating trying to get locked-on properly.
There is one boss fight early in the game that is far more annoying than it needs to be because of the game's lock-on issues. This fight is against an enemy in a machine that's equipped with metal tentacles and also has cooling tanks on its front that players need to destroy. The issue is that instead of cycling through all of the different possible targets (four tentacles and two cooling tanks), each tentacle is treated like its own separate object to lock-on to, with the two cooling tanks grouped in together. This meant that we would often lock-on to a part of the boss that we weren't trying to focus, and we basically just had to run away from it and lock-on and -off until we finally had it how we wanted. Thankfully, most of the bosses don't feature all these moving parts and so the issue isn't as damning as it could be, but it's clear that the lock-on system could still use some work, especially since it's so integral to the combat.
The jump button is also finicky and likes to just not work sometimes, though jumping is only used rarely in exploration. Getting stuck on objects in the environment is also an issue, especially when fighting enemies in enclosed spaces, and there's a bug we encountered that kept some side quests from completing. But even with these bugs, The Surge 2 is still a more polished overall package than the original game.
Another area where The Surge 2 exceeds the original is with the level variety and exploration in general. Jericho City is full of secrets and it's rewarding to explore. While out exploring, players can often find shortcuts that lead back to the medbay, and it's always a relief to find these, as they make it easier to progress further and cut out a lot of unnecessary backtracking. Some of the areas are a bit too maze-like in their design, but players should get a handle on things after looping through the area a few times while chopping up enemies for extra scrap.
Exploration has some Metroidvania elements to it as well. Players will find an area they can't reach, and later they will fight a boss that gives them the gadget they need to explore further. This encourages revisiting previously visited areas to find piles of scrap and other hidden items, and it also makes each boss fight a little more exciting since players know they're likely to get some new toy to play with once they finally conquer them.
The Surge 2's improved exploration and performance go a long way in making it better than its predecessor, though it's held back somewhat from the unreliable lock-on and bugs. Anyone that liked the first game will have a blast with the sequel, and while there are Souls-like games out there that feel less derivative of its inspiration (like the co-op focused Remnant: From the Ashes, for instance) The Surge 2 is sure to please anyone looking for more Dark Souls-style action.
The Surge 2 launches on September 24 for PC, PS4, and Xbox One. Game Rant was provided a PC code for this review.