Strap on some industrial hardware and make limbs fly.
Developer Deck13 is nothing if not tireless. Back in 2014, the German studio made Lords of the Fallen, a derivative soulslike but quite beautiful, perhaps too astounded by From Software’s source material to seriously build its own identity. But with The Surge a few years later, Deck13 began something, introducing brittle separation mechanisms and pushing the context into an industrial sci-fi future reminiscent of the seawalker’s waking nightmare.
With The Surge 2, Deck13’s five-year process in that tough endurance-based battle formula, the corpse runs, and shortcuts go one step further to make themselves real. From the sound of metal on the bone as you chop enemies in half with giant weapons, to the joy of a perfect game, The Surge 2 is a detailed, satisfying action NGOs that Deck13 can actually call its own.
The action is set in The City of Jericho, a future metal metro town besieged by The Defrag, a evil disease caused by a substance called nanite that humans have tried to exploit stupidly through bad science’s usual macguffin. You are an anonymous schmoe with an intricate post-story that has the plane crashing into the middle of this mess, following the network spectral images of a young girl involved in it.
But more or less from the moment I left my first enemy limbs, any obligation I had to pay attention to the story or its characters gave way to more instanter satisfaction in combat and character progression. Like its predecessor, fighting in The Surge 2 is based on observation, fitness and time management. See your enemy’s attack patterns, target specific body parts to find weaknesses, and then use those body parts to build modular devices for your appearance. It’s a very satisfying loop.
The panoramic view of armor and weapons means that there is a lot of flexibility in this system; You can be a rough, ermish brute who looks like a waste transformer, winding with baton swings struggling to scare away enemies that are chasing you. Or perhaps you want to be a fleet vacuum fugitive, rushing in with balletic spearhead attacks before breaking your complex to jump away again.
XP in the form of scrap technology, which you use to upgrade or make equipment or to upgrade and upgrade your health, stamina and battery efficiency (used to perform end-to-end and use enhancers called injecters). Battery power is earned by attacking enemies, so to heal yourself or increase strength in a short time, you need to be aggressive. This is a variant of the face-to-face fighting style seen in Bloodborne and enjoys a game that is faster and more aggressive than its predecessors.
The good news is that you don’t need to worry about confusing RPG stats and have the option of redistributing your basic stats at any time, you don’t need to wait for a new game run to test different builds.
When you have tired a sufficient genus, you can perform slow motion end moves to cut it off.
The weapons — from the squeaky electric gloves to the angular metal blocks that look like crane parts — are so rough and powerful that you want to play with all of them, and the game does a great job of motivating you to do so by confronting you with a variety of enemies with different types of attacks and weaknesses. There will be a bit of farming needed to collect the pieces needed for upgrading new armor and weapons, but it’s a reasonable price to completely change your gameplay in the middle of the game.
The system implants food into this malleableness. As you level up, you’ll have more positions to fill up implants that increase certain indicators or give you ‘injectors’, use your battery cells to replenish your health or provide small index rewards for damage, defense, etc. These implants can stack up in interesting ways, such as giving you the energy to deal damage or providing you with multiple boosts to break up successfully. You can cut and change them at any time, helping you really refine your build and gameplay.
Like the original game, you can lock targets individually from enemies, targeting unsuversed parts for faster destruction or armored parts if you want to get metal alloys used to make armor. The likelihood of you hitting a certain genus depends on whether you use a vertical or horizontal swing, and once you have lowered one branch enough, you can perform a slow-motion finish to cut off that branch.
Even after performing these finishing blows – hundreds of times, the variety of animations for each weapon and the elegant flow between combat and finishing means it’s never old. Taking down a particularly fastened enemy by kicking circles in their heads or making them at the waist with an equipped hacksaw is one of the most exciting gaming mechanisms of 2019 for me.
There are also nuances to the battle. The game cleverly eliminates panic button flipping by maintaining your fitness if you time your attacks properly and now has a well-deployed navigation system that can get enemies ready to counterattack. With Sekiro From Software largely moving from the classic Dark Souls combat system, Deck13 succeeded in getting it deeper in The Surge 2, which was an impressive victory.
The Surge 2 punishes complacency, hasty and hesitation. Especially in the early stages, there is not much time to make mistakes because enemy attacks can easily falter and over-resceding on stopping or attacking frantically will leave you lacking in fitness and vulnerable.
But the difficult curve is an uneven line. My first for in breaks into the dock area of Port Nixon and then the lush artificial wilderness of Gideon’s Rock led to dozens of deaths and my keyboard smashes on the nearest soft surface when new enemy types were forced to make serious changes in my combat approach. After that, however, the way I distributed my stats and implants — focusing entirely on battery efficiency, replenishing energy, and health injecters —made me almost unstoppable by the time I reached the final third of the game, draining a lot of motivation mid-match.
The encounters with the boss were initially the right kind of harshness, leading to my healthy death toll, wisdom and ability to master afterwards. But by the later stages, I had plowed through most of the bosses for the first time —without a doubt, my lucky promotion had been helped and the fact that most of the bosses later repeated the higher levels of the previous ones in a tedious way.
The city of Jericho is a wider and wider backdrop than the original game’s factory complex. There are several large areas of the world, containing all sorts of secrets, shortcuts, and branching routes. It’s also more vivid, with different factions scrambling for control of the streets while humanity’s encirclement is concentrated in shopping malls and nightclubs, where you can chat, take missions, trade goods, and hear gossip stories from locals about the surrounding apocalypse.
When you die, you will drop all your un used technology memento and need to go back to that location without dying to retrieve it.
In The City of Jericho, the Campfire of the Soul is replaced by Medbays — sporadic save points where you trade scrap collected for upgrades and levels in exchange for enemies in the revived area. When you die, you will drop all your un used technology memento and need to go back to that location without dying to retrieve it.
It’s a reliable suspense system and in The Surge 2, it never becomes unsusibility. An interesting turning point that Deck13 has been improving in its games is the time limit to regain your souvenirs, which can last by killing enemies. Your scrap heap also heals you when you’re near it, making it a highly profitable tactical support in situations like fighting bosses.
Surge 2 satisfies the itch of opening hidden aisles that connect back to previous areas, and items like zipline hooks and electric nano attacks evoke a Metroidvania feel by allowing you to go back to locked parts of previously visited areas.
However, many shortcuts link areas that are often not related to where you’re going and many areas feel so cluttered and unclear that it’s hard to remember every shortcut you discover. Too often, I find myself scouring several times in the same area to find the next place, before finally encountering an important road with sketchy signs.
Deck13’s previous games often desired atmosphere, artistic direction, and story, all of which tended to be generic. True to form, the City of Jericho is not a place absorbed and enveloped by its mysteries. Side missions are busier work than compelling narrative rabbit holes, and the deeper you dive into the game, the more exciting the feeling becomes, pushing you to the conclusion of the story rather than signaling you to follow unsuthed paths or options.
There’s a great sense of urban chaos in Jericho City, when snipers target you from the rubble and ambush teams lie in wait while dull neon signs ironically rapturously take up the city’s first usteria.
However, it is a world that lacks personality. Surge 2 lacks the sophistication of world-class design and construction that has elevated From Software’s portfolio to masterpieces. But it’s fitting that an overly industrially themed game avoids more artistic qualities in favor of machines. In combat and character systems and open builds around it, The Surge 2 achieves proficiency from the start with the best action games.
The break-up and brutality of the battle made me happy to get through its 20-hour campaign and beyond into New Game+, forcing me to skip the rudimentary world and focus on glorious moments where sparks, limbs and scraps fly with brutal abandon.
Deck13 has come a long way, welding together a solidly structured Soulslike track, skillfully expressing what makes the genre special.