After around five hours with The Surge 2, I can safely say this technological action/adventure game is more than the titles it draws inspiration from. Developer Focus Home Interactive has done a remarkable job expanding upon the Dark Souls-esc design, offering a mix of unique mechanics and quality of life changes. Despite a few non-bug related issues, The Surge 2 was a generally entertaining, if brutal experience.
(Author’s Note: The PC preview build of The Surge 2 was supplied by the publisher.)
Upon first glance, The Surge 2 may seem like nothing more than a science-fiction variation of Dark Souls. The levels are intricately woven mazes, cutscenes are minimal, dying causing you to lose your in-game currency, and combat is especially punishing. Battles with foes typically breakdown to memorizing attack patterns, exploiting weaknesses, and dodging powerful attacks. Yet, instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, Focus Home Interactive decides to slap some rims on that sucker.
This isn’t a bad thing, as The Surge 2’s moment to moment gameplay is quite engaging. Instead of just hacking away at foes, you can target specific limbs or their torso once locked on. Since some enemies are armored, you can focus on body parts that aren’t covered. This inflicts additional damage, ending in a stylish, but gory finisher. It’s a nice system that forces you to plan ahead, especially if you’re taking on multiple foes. Hacking off limbs also acts as a way to obtain specific gear or armor pieces.
Players also have access to a drone or mounted gun that can be triggered at any time. Not only can the drone do damage, but crafty users can lure enemies away from groups with it. Despite having access to a limited amount of upgrades, we did get to experiment with a few different drone weapons. My personal favorite was a shoulder-mounted cannon that launched an explosive round which set enemies ablaze.
If you do die, which is inevitable given the game’s difficulty, you’ll have two and a half minutes to recover your Tech Scraps. This is the game’s currency, used in both leveling up and purchasing items from vendors. The catch is, the spot where you died will act as a passive healing station until it vanishes. Clever players can use this to their advantage, making their next fight slightly easier. You can also grab the Tech Scraps and instantly heal yourself, serving as a free way to instantly turn the tide of a tricky fight.
It’s a nice system, but the short-timer can be a bit frustrating since it encourages recklessly running through the map. Given how critical Tech Scraps are, forcing players into a mad dash to recover them seems a bit too punishing. You can extend the timer by 20 seconds per kill, but users will need to through caution to the wind if they have to cover a lot of ground.
Having never played the original, I was surprised at the level of customization The Surge 2 offered. Outside of dumping experience into stamina, health, and batteries (this game’s version of mana), players can also upgrade, forge, and build gear. Not only does this allow you to do more damage, but there are entire builds available. Armor is more than just light or heavy, with multiple pieces giving additional bonuses if you find ones in the set.
Players can also equip implants, which are both passive and activated abilities. These can be as simple as displaying the health bars of opponents or triggering rapid stamina regeneration. Each implant costs Power and there’s a finite amount your exo-suit can use. This appears to be upgradable, but I appreciate the deeper level of personalization Focus Home is offering.
Visually, The Surge 2 boasts some great level design, but the animations for both your character and the enemies are pretty wonky. Lips rarely sync up with people you’re talking to and all of the motions seem stiff and rigid. I also came across quite a few bugs, but Focus Home is aware of these. Despite the engaging combat system, The Surge 2 needs a pretty hefty amount of polish. There’s a lot of potential in this futuristic title, so it will be intriguing to see what, if anything, has changed when it releases on September 25.