The Surge 2 is a deep combat action game heavily inspired by the Souls series, and it offers a brutally difficult but rewarding experience.
The Surge 2 is an action game that takes the formula of the Dark Souls series and transplants it into a science fiction setting. The combat system in The Surge 2 has a steep learning curve and the game can be brutally difficult at times, but there is a rewarding experience awaiting the players with the patience to master its mechanics.
The Surge 2 is set in the futuristic Jericho City, which has fallen into anarchy after a nanite disease has caused all of the robots to go on a rampage. The protagonist is the survivor of a plane crash, who wakes up strapped to a bed in the middle of the chaos. The main character discovers that they are not the only survivor of the crash, as they keep having visions of a mysterious young girl named Athena who was taken by the military. Jericho City quickly falls into ruin as different factions fight for control of the region, including opportunistic scavengers, the heavily-armed military, and a mysterious cult of machine worshipers. It won't take players long to realize that the gameplay of The Surge 2 is heavily inspired by the Dark Souls series, with Tech Scraps acting as Souls and the healing Implant working in a similar way to Estus Flasks. The Surge 2 has altered the way in which many of these concepts work, such as Tech Scraps only remaining on the field for a limited time after death and the health Implant needing to be charged by striking enemies, but they should still be familiar to fans of the Souls series.
The Surge 2 has a focus on gear that is attached to each of the player's limbs and the reason for this is due to a mechanic where the player can dismember enemies in order to steal their equipment. When the player targets the enemy, they can use the right stick to select a different body part in order to focus their attacks. Once the player has done enough damage, they can perform a finishing move that involves tearing the limb off and keeping it as an earned a piece of gear, a schematic to build the gear, or materials that can be used for crafting. This system is the backbone of The Surge 2 and players can grind powerful enemies in order to steal all of their equipment. The finishing moves in The Surge 2 are incredibly satisfying to pull off and they remain one of the highlights of the game throughout its run, especially when it nets the player a useful piece of loot.
The combat in The Surge 2 is actually closer to games like Bloodborne or Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice rather than Dark Souls, as evasion and parrying are the most important aspects in battle. The main character can only take a couple of hits before dying, which means that dodging is more important than blocking. It's possible to parry attacks if the player blocks in the direction of the blow as it hits and an Implant that the player can find near the start of the game will give helpful indicators to make this easier. This means that combat is a game of agility, as spamming the block button will result in the player running out of stamina and being unable to defend themselves. The combat system has a steep learning curve and the game can feel frustrating and unforgiving during the early portions of the story, but the players who are willing to master the system and be patient in their approach will soon find themselves carving through hordes of enemies.
One of the biggest complaints about The Surge was its boring world and linear structure. The Surge 2 seems as if it's following the same pattern at the start, as the early portions of Jericho City involve bland city streets and only a few travel destinations. As the game progresses, Jericho City opens itself up in terms of diverse environments and giving the player different locations to explore, including wildlife reservations that are filled with mercenaries and robotic statutes, a power plant that is overflowing with toxic materials that can kill the player if they fall off a ledge, and overrun evacuation zones that have been abandoned mid-battle and left to the machines. The Surge 2 uses a Metroidvania style approach with its individual levels, with each zone featuring a Medbay (the game's equivalent to the Bonfires of Dark Souls) that they can use to heal and spend their Tech Scraps. As they explore the stage, they will unlock shortcuts that lead back to the safety of the Medbay. The player doesn't unlock the ability to fast travel until the late in the game, which can lead to some tedious running around when completing quests that involve multiple areas, but the shortcut system keeps the player engaged with individual short-term goals when entering new areas, as they slowly work out the best way to progress through Jericho City.
The Surge 2 starts the player out against human opponents who use mismatched gear. The human scavenger enemies are the main opponents throughout The Surge 2 and the game leans on them a bit too heavily. There are some great opponents that play with the rules of the combat system, including robots that can survive the loss of multiple limbs and nanite-infused monstrosities that split into smaller creatures upon death, but these don't show up nearly enough. The boss monsters have some great (if not totally original) designs and they provide an incredible amount of challenge, especially for the player who has yet to master parrying.
Fights against the The Surge 2's bosses shine a light on the biggest issue with the game's combat system and it's in regards to enemy movement. When the player makes a move or jumps, then they are committing to an action that they cannot cancel out of, while enemies possess built-in tracking abilities. If the enemy attacks or jumps, then they can change their movement after it begins to make sure that they land a hit on you, leading to some frustrating battles against gameplay mechanics. The majority of the enemies in the game have a wide area of effect with their attacks (regardless of the weapon they are using) and can leap across the room like Spider-Man, which means that the pressure is always on the player. The supreme agility and homing abilities of the enemies mean that the faster weapon-types are more effective for the player than the slower ones, as combat can quickly devolve into hit and run attacks in order to survive. Gamers who think that Sekiro needs an easy mode will find no succor in The Surge 2. The difficulty of the game becomes a bit more manageable when the player earns the EMP drone (which is necessary for progression), as it can stun enemies for a few seconds, but getting to this point can be very difficult.
The Surge 2 has some annoying bugs at launch, which include a consistent issue with texture pop-in that happens every time the player pauses the game or opens their inventory. The game also crashed several times during our playthrough, though the auto-save feature always means that the player doesn't lose much progression, but it happened enough times that it bears mentioning. The developers are aiming for a day one patch that has yet to be made available as of the time of this review, which may resolve these issues.
The combat system in The Surge 2 can be unforgiving and players who rush in without thinking will find themselves losing each time, but the fights soon become exhilarating once everything starts to click. Hunting down opponents and skillfully dismembering them for their gear never stops being fun, so long as the player is willing to master a combat system based on patience and timing. The Surge 2 won't be winning any awards for originality for either its gameplay or story, but it still offers a fun experience for gamers who desire a challenging experience in the vein of the Souls series.
The Surge 2 releases September 24, 2019 for PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One. A digital code for the PlayStation 4 version of the game was provided to Screen Rant for the purposes of this review.