The Surge 2

released on Sep 24, 2019

The Surge 2 keeps what fans and critics loved about the original while also expanding greatly upon the formula. The Surge 2 takes place in a brand new environment: a sprawling, devastated city with larger, more ambitious level design and improved engine. Combat is more brutal and tactical than ever, with even more options thanks to an expanded limb targeting system.

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Really solid Souls-like--in fact, probably my favorite of these not made by FromSoftware. Its strength is its level design and enemy placement--the world is essentially four or five Dark Souls style levels where you unlock shortcuts from a single "bonfire," but they're all somewhat large. You rarely feel the danger of "am I going to find the next shortcut/bonfire" that Dark Souls 1 and Bloodborne is really good at evoking; each piece along the way is manageable, and you can challenge yourself not to reset the level as you unlock the shortcut paths. Finding out how the levels fit together (and the various ways you can travel between the different levels) is always satisfying. There is some light Metroid elements as well--you unlock abilities as the game goes on that you can use to unlock more of the level. Besides the required segments of this stuff, going back to explore wasn't always rewarding: some techno-souls points, maybe a weapon or two, or an audio log. I blazed through the main quest without paying too much attention to the side stuff.
The health system sets it apart from other Souls-likes. You choose when to refill your own "flask" by burning "energy" which is a kind of mana bar that refills as you land hits on enemies, which means you can comfortably enter an encounter with zero flasks and come out of it with your flask charges topped off, so long as you're aggressive.
I played this game heavily relying on the directional parries, as opposed to dodging. The parry system can almost be spammed on certain enemy types, but it feels good to feel out the exact timing. The bosses are all pretty easy, especially when using parries, but they're all a lot of fun to fight. I ended up using a codename staff weapon and an angel set build, which essentially increases attack speed, energy gain, and stagger damage when using a "codename" weapon (weapons that begin with the word "codename"). There's some lore reason for that, but I didn't care about the story or world here whatsoever. It's all cool looking enough and can be very goofy. I'm not completely sure if I'm going to do the NG+ yet--if I do, it will purely be for the mechanical pleasure of it since I was never grabbed by the world or story. I'm more inclined to check out the first one.

I got this game on a whim after hearing the first major boss theme and it's honestly well worth the time I put into it. The gameplay, while it took me a bit to get used to as this was my first souls-like game, eventually felt really smooth. Progression felt fairly natural throughout the game and the level design and difficult enemy placement would consistently encourage me to go along a path to the next objective.
The bosses were fun to fight for the most part, each having well telegraphed attacks that, if you didn't learn how to deal with them, would heavily punish you for your mistakes. The only one I would say wasn't great would be the Metal Armor fight.
The OST, while not mind-blowing, served well to enhance the atmosphere of each area and fight. A few themes do stand out, such as CIT and the Matriarch fight.
While it may be well out of my comfort zone in terms of gameplay, I had a lot of fun.

A significant improvement on the first game. The devs at Deck13 seem to have finally learned their lesson about varying up their environments so the player doesn’t get bored or lost (the fatal flaw of both Lords of the Fallen and the first Surge). It’s not like the urban landscape is particularly riveting as a set piece, but at very least the environments are clearly delineated and differentiated from one another - I always had a good sense of where I was and where I needed to go next. Not exactly glowing praise, but it’s a step forward at least.
The mechanical changes from the original game also tend to be in this game’s favor. In the first game, it was easy to spam dismemberments and end up with a lot of unneeded vendor trash, but here slashing off limbs is tied to battery power, the same resource that you use to heal. So, the game creates an interesting choice - dismember the enemy for parts or hold on to the battery power for a potential future heal. Adding onto to the complexity of this system is the fact that you refill your battery power by attacking. This encourages aggression in a way that reminded me a little bit of Bloodborne’s rally system. Indeed, considering that this is also a much faster game than its predecessor, the shift from the stodginess of Dark Souls to the nimble ballet of Bloodborne is a rather apt analogy for the relationship between the original Surge and its sequel.
Except that Dark Souls and Bloodborne are packed to the gills with weird and evocative concepts and ineffable set pieces, while The Surge…well, it’s sci-fi gobbledygook in the worst way. Genuinely, I admire how the devs at Deck13 have clearly improved since they got into the Soulslike business with Lords of the Fallen. But the one thing that has never changed, whether in Lords of the Fallen, The Surge 1, or here, is that their narratives are so bereft of inspiration, their writing so bland, that my eyes glaze over as soon as the characters open their mouths. I really hope my experience changes with their future games, but I’m not hopeful. The narrative here centers around trying to find a little girl with nanite powers (yep, not joking) before a petulant, snot-nosed cult leader named Eli can steal the aforementioned powers for himself. Transhumanism, worship of technology, corporate malfeasance - all of your typical sci-fi cliches are incorporated here, if only half-heartedly.
I didn’t care one iota for the story, as you might have guessed, but I won’t deny that the actual act of playing this game is pretty damn fun. So, it’s empty calories. But what would life be without an indulgent little snack every once in awhile?

Dropped it after getting too frustrated with a certain boss. The combat is better than the first, but it lacks in atmosphere and level design compared to the first. Weapons are fun and there's plenty of different types to experiment with. You can try out different builds fairly easily as upgrade materials aren't hard to come by. Some areas are exceedingly difficult to the point of frustrating. Overall in some ways it's superior to the first, and in some ways inferior. This series is probably the best Souls style game not made by From in my opinion, and might be the closest we'll ever get to "wouldn't it be cool if From made a futuristic sci-fi Souls?"