When Deck13 and Focus Home Interactive released The Surge in 2017, it divided player opinion. Some felt that the game tried to imitate the likes of Dark Souls too closely. Yet, there was plenty in the original game that was ripe for improvement, making The Surge 2 an exciting prospect. After all, if the developers could address the original’s issues, the sequel has the potential to be a great game. Of course, if they get it wrong for a second time, this is a franchise that would probably fade away permanently. So, how does The Surge 2 fare?
The most notable change with the story is that you are no longer given a character. Instead, you create your very own protagonist using a creation tool. Don’t expect a substantial system but there are enough options to make your own distinctive individual. While proper characters can help a story have more development and emotional depth, this approach works for The Surge 2. It lets you get invested in the hero and feel directly attached to their actions in the world.
In the first game, the story was a bit of a mess. There was no clear direction and it seemed to drift between each important moment. The Surge 2 takes a different route. This time around, the plot is presented to you in a more direct way. You are not left to fill in the blanks as in Dark Souls either. Although the plot can still be underwhelming and rather obvious at times, it generally holds up well.
Even if the story is not quite the thrilling narrative experience you might want, it does have some redeeming features. Chief among them is the wide cast of supporting characters. Almost every location will have some interesting and charming NPCs to talk to. Learning about their backstories and what motivates them is very enjoyable. I found myself constantly wanting to talk to everyone I met, knowing it would always be worthwhile.
At first glance, you might think that not much has changed with the gameplay of The Surge 2. The developers have certainly chosen an evolutionary rather than a revolutionary approach to improving the sequel. In that sense, the basic mechanics of playing the game are much the same as they were in 2017.
That isn’t to say that there have been no refinements. The Surge 2 is a lot more fun to play than its predecessor, for starters. Combat is now a faster, more flowing system where you can quickly switch between targeting different parts of your enemies. Everything feels far more responsive than in the original title as well. No longer does fighting seem like a cumbersome experience, but rather a polished and balanced affair.
Furthermore, enemies are not quite as frustrating to fight either. This is especially true of bosses, which have been designed to engage the player in a fairer way. Thankfully for those who enjoy a challenge, the game is still brutally difficult. The only difference is that you now feel responsible for failure rather than blaming the game’s awkward design. You are also actively encouraged to switch up your approach and change your playstyle. All these elements help to keep things fresh.
One major issue in The Surge was the camera. In a game that requires careful timing and an awareness of your surroundings, the camera is vital. Unfortunately, this has not been properly addressed in the sequel. It can still be incredibly difficult to lock onto a target. You’ll often end up looking in completely the wrong direction through no fault of your own. If anything, the camera is actually worse in The Surge 2.
A great example of an improvement in this sequel over its predecessor is the brilliant environmental design. Each location has its own distinctive look and characteristics. They are a joy to explore and have some gorgeous vistas to take in as you journey around the in-game world. More impressive is the variety in the landscapes, with everything from built-up cities to dense jungles.
The sequel also feels like it has found an identity with its art style. It is instantly recognizable once you load up the game. Conversely, the audio elements don’t quite stand up. The voice acting is great but the musical score falls flat and is utterly forgettable.
Technical issues are also too frequent. At launch, there were a large number of bugs and graphical glitches. Textures would fail to load and the game could often crash. While several patches have solved some of these problems, others persist to this day. Despite not being eradicated completely, they don’t frustrate gameplay quite so much.
The Surge 2 was always going to struggle to match the classic games that inspired it. However, few people will approach it expecting a fine-tuned experience in the same mold as Dark Souls. What the developers achieve is a definite improvement in comparison to their first attempt. The sequel is more enjoyable to play and doesn’t have anywhere near as many faults as its predecessor. Recommending the series is simply far easier this time around, especially now that it makes the most of its sci-fi setting.