Rage 2 is a sequel to the underappreciated 2011 cult classic, and features numerous plot threads and character connections with that original game. When Rage first launched in 2011, it was praised for its graphics and tight shooting mechanics, but was criticized for its lackluster storytelling and sudden ending, with the tale finishing just when things started to get interesting.
In some ways, Rage 2 is similar to the original game, since it prioritizes non-stop shooting action in lieu of telling a sweeping tale of survival and revenge. The story in Rage 2 takes a backseat to sandbox adventuring, and it ultimately works for the game. That being said, the story isn't entirely non-existent and contains numerous ties to the first game, many of which will go unnoticed by all but the most seasoned Rage veterans.
It's absolutely possible to enjoy Rage 2 without playing the first game. There's really no need to brush up on the series' lore; as previously mentioned, Rage 2 is all about fast-paced shooting and killing nameless enemies with over-the-top superpowers. Rage 2 wastes very little time before tossing players into the open world, and context for the story must be picked up over the course of the game. Some of the key plot points, however, are barely mentioned in Rage 2, and can instead be found in its predecessor.
Rage 1 Recap
The setting of Rage is a post-apocalyptic wasteland. The end of the world was brought about by an asteroid hitting Earth, instead of the go-to nuclear fallout. The main character in the first Rage is an Ark survivor. Arks are top secret underground shelters which carry soldiers and scientists alike, frozen in stasis, to be awakened untold years after the apocalypse with the hope of rebuilding society. However, the Ark system was sabotaged from the inside by General Cross.
General Cross goes unseen in the first Rage, but emerges as the main antagonist of Rage 2. He rigged the Ark program so that only selected pods would open properly, while the rest would remain locked forever. The player's Ark only opens due to an unexpected malfunction. Cross and his cronies form The Authority, a ruthless military group who will stop at nothing to dominate the wasteland and shape it in their own image.
During the ending of Rage, the player-character assaults The Authority's main base and overrides their control over the Arks. The player opens up every single Ark, waking an army who will help drive back The Authority. Then, the game suddenly ends.
The Ending Of Rage Ties Directly Into Rage 2
Rage 2 picks up thirty years after the abrupt ending of the first game. In the intervening years, the combined forces of the awakened Ark soldiers, alongside the resistance within the untamed wasteland, drove back Cross' faction in the aptly named Authority War. After the war, for better or worse, the Ark survivors withdrew into their own forts, leaving the wasteland to fend for itself. There are worthwhile political implications in a benevolent force beating back a fascistic faction and then refusing to take responsibility for the region it has liberated, but from a gameplay perspective, it serves to allow Rage 2 to begin with the new player character as the last surviving Ranger who must gather allies to take down General Cross, once and for all.
The three allies Ranger Walker must recruit are all familiar faces from the first Rage. First, there's John Marshall, one of the main resistance figures who played a key role in giving out missions in the first game. Loosum Hagar is the Mayor of Wellsprings (a town which has grown since its appearance in the first game) and daughter of Dan Hagar. Sadly, Dan is nowhere to be seen and is said to have died in between the events of Rage and Rage 2. Finally, Dr. Kvasir, an Authority defector, rounds out the cast as the resident "morally ambiguous mad scientist" character. Rage 2 doesn't require players to have experienced the first game, but it certainly helps flesh out the game's admittedly meager storytelling. Between Rage and Rage 2, there's still not a lot to sink one's teeth into, but the two games manage to complement one another nicely.