The Surge 2 Review - Ripping And Tearing Machinations
Publisher: Focus Home Interactive
Platform: PS4, XB1, PC
Genre: Hack n Slash RPG
Souls-like games these days have it rough. When you're constantly making a game with a major influence from any From Software titles, it starts to get noticeably tiresome. But then Sekiro happened and Souls-like game becomes more interesting once more. As if that's not enough, they're releasing Elden Ring later with George R R Martin's story supervision.
I honestly thought the first Surge was fun and it did introduce new concepts that distinguish itself from other Souls clones. But for the most part, it lacked polish within the mechanics and I was worn out after playing several hours. The sequel however deviated from that with big life improvements as well as new additions that added a new flow to my playstyle. With so many weapons to experiment with and finally getting the best use of drones.
Now this game I'll admit isn't as hard as I expected it to be nor to have more accessibility than its predecessor, I had spent hours playing obsessively for finding high tier items as well as saving up some good ol' scraps. But alas, good game such as this has terrible issues that drag it down as well and let's get to why that is.
You start off 6 months after the events of the first Surge. Enter Jericho City, which is in martial law because of the cataclysmic event that put the entire city in disarray. Fortunately, you're in good hands, as a girl with potent powers is helping you by guiding you through the city as you uncover the whereabouts of her presence and the causes that lead to the events of the game.
Some aspects of the game's story are determined based on what's your customized character's origin story. Though this adds little to the main narrative which isn't interesting to be invested in as much as most of the one-note characters. The game overblows itself when it comes to high stakes making you try to superfluously feel like your actions matter when you're just following breadcrumbs leading you to your main objectives.
The premise, story beats, and plotlines are palatable but are subjectively also by the numbers. Though that doesn't mean you won't have fun with some of the characters aside from the rest as they divulge about their ridiculous antics.
While the story has little incentive, the gameplay, however, steals the show. There are a lot of changes from the previous game, like the parry system. Instead of countering your enemies, you parry their attacks regardless of how you term it. Mastering it is difficult but is more worth it as you stagger enemies and easily land hard blows on the limbs you'd target. Once that is done, you dismember them. Your configuration is light attack and heavy attack, you can dodge attacks or block them, though blocking will cost stamina.
It's important to hit the enemies where it hurts, specifically areas of their bodies that aren't protected by armor. But attacking ones that are, requires that you keep hitting them until they're damaged before you dismember that part and then receive gear schematics and components based on the rank of the enemy and the kind of armor they're wearing.
Surge 2 makes it easier to sustain yourself after prolong hours without banking your scraps. Using a default medication implant that is filled up with battery(meaning you have to dish out hits to charge) to keep you going, though it does well to save up once in a while as there will be crazy surprises that you'll stumble upon. But the other best part, there's no scrap multiplier for how many kills you get. For that bonus, you'll have to install an implant for it instead. As I've said before, the game is easier and accessible especially for newcomers for Souls-like titles.
You start off choosing a preset backstory before making facial changes to your new character. Though not deep as you expect from an RPG, it has enough adequate options to choose your suitable appeal. Once done, you're introduced to a cutscene of a ship coming from CREO, crash lands near Jericho City. You play as one of the survivors. The problem with the settings of the character creator is that the devs also use the lackluster tool to make their NPCs and it comes off to look a little unoriginal.
As usual, leveling up your rig allows you access to more implants to use. This is a little convoluted structure, to say the least, but some of these implants are so interesting they make up for it. You can even insert one that displays the direction of which enemies are attacking which makes it easier for you to parry them. Several more that provides resistance to toxins, boost up your defense as a consumable implant requiring batteries, increases your rig power level and so on.
And then there are the drones. There are various mods to use. From the start, you have one that just fires rounds on your targets, another searches for loot within the vicinity, next one launches an EMP shot onto a mechanism which unlocks a door or shocks your enemies and then there's another that launches a Molotov. As you continuously play, you find and collect more of these scattered around. Just be careful about using the recall mod which returns you to the last med station you used, as it'll take all the scraps you have. Just find one under the bridge of Seaside Court where you leave beacons for other players, which is the only online feature that is even though it's the same Dark Souls had before it.
Another huge thing this game improves upon is both the level design and updating your gears. There's no map for your character but there are map boards laid out in few areas to help you trek through your journey. The level paths are so well laced out, you mostly know what to expect going through them. Of course, there's this obvious Metroidvania-esque thing going on but it's well designed and rarely did I ever get lost exploring. Upgrading your gears is easy since all you need are scraps and components. Don't have Mk.II components for your Mk.II upgrade? Just breakdown a Mk.III component and you're good to go. It's just that simple. It's also important that you find out which weapon best suits your playstyle and which set of gears along with it. In fact, if you wear all 6 parts of your gears of the same model, you unlock full set bonus stats, wearing 3 of them unlocks the partial bonus. All the RPG stats factor in for how you approach combat. Either use a beefed-up gear set with heavy defense stat or something much more flexible.
Did I have any flaws to point out? Well not quite, I mean besides the fact that if you level up your rig, you can select to increase health, stamina and battery efficiency. Though the problem with that is, every upgrade gets you 2 module points after spending expensively amount of scraps even though you can reset the stats.
Besides that, I loved playing the game. Am in awe of it being an easy entry of the Surge series. That being said, it has serious flaws elsewhere and this is where I segway to the production aspect.
Surge 2 is a beautiful looking game, tailored with Deck13's in-house game engine. However, there are visual blemishes that can be found if you look close enough. From character models, visual flares to water effects. It certainly seems as if the game made its focus on the environment that's closely related to its themes yet left other parts of it undiminishing.
Though that's just scratching the surface, the PC port of the game is botched because of terrible optimization. The game runs in Vulkan API only but there has been word circulating around that it is only a single-core dependant game. I've barely gotten to play the game without using the resolution scale to tone down the visual fidelity to its uglier look. I've also experienced various bugs and glitches, including game crashes randomly. Some of the my video recording app doesn't work well with the Vulkan API and that just creates more frustration. Having the option of using DX11 would have been more helpful but not because Vulkan is bad, on the contrary. Vulkan makes it easier for any GPUs to run games with, including AMD GPUs which are known to use more CPU overhead.
Sound and music is very similar to what you've heard from the first Surge. Though with minutiae of differences for certain objects that you interact with. The noise you hear from objects clashing with each other is the same as well. The music is composed by the same guy who've worked on Risen 3, Anno 2070 and the first Surge game. As for the voice acting in this game, it's pretty good. So much so that I was invested in listening to the dialogues even though the characters lack depth at times or their written dialogues weren't much interesting.
I can forego the underwhelming aspects of the game because they aren't anything noticeable enough to hinder my experience. However, it needs to be said that this game looks butt ugly on the console ports yet runs immaculately there whereas the PC version has its obtuse share of problems with optimization.
Maybe some time till the new updates irons out the issues will be needed before purchasing the game. But if you own a console, I'd recommend giving it a go. This is purely one of the most fun I've had from a Souls clone after Nioh, Lords of the Fallen and that's actually saying something.
Visually, it looks stunning when you really crank up the settings. But then again, depending on your rig, it often might not run that well either.