You know a game left a mark when you hear a single word and it tells you what to expect from it. Souls-like. It is something used to describe when a game is difficult, challenging, unfair, has a great level design, impressive bosses and good replay value. It’s also used when a reviewer is lacking imagination so there was a short period when almost every game where you die once or twice was now souls-like and hard like Dark Souls. After the DS series came to an end, there were many copycats and games that tried to heal that scar left by Slave Knight Gael. Everyone wanted to be the next Dark Souls or a game worthy of a souls-like medal. And in all that sea of worthy and unworthy contenders, there was one game succeeding in building its own identity and welcoming all the residents of Anor Londo with open arms. Enter The Surge and its sequel.
The story expands on what we know (and survived through) in the previous game. This time around, we are still in and around the Jericho city although our arrival isn’t as pleasant like in the first The Surge. On our way to Jericho City, our plane was shot down by a mysterious storm and crashed on the outskirts. You wake up a few weeks later in the detention center, fight your way out of it and find yourself in a city overrun with armored soldiers, humanoids and deadly drones – all eager to get a piece of you. And you’ll want to get a piece of them too. All of the pieces. More pieces mean more armor sets and that is pretty much the selling point of The Surge 2.
As I said – pieces. The Surge 2 does plenty of cool things and how you earn armor/armor sets is just one of them. The combat is souls-like (heh) with emphasis on blocking, evading, parrying, proper timing on attacks and stamina management. But it’s not that simple to kill enemies, fight your way through bosses and eventually to the end of the game. Where is the fun in that? I mean, yes, you can continue upgrading your initial armor until it is maxed out and call it a day but you would be missing out on a great customization system in The Surge 2. Anyway, almost all of the enemies in the game have armored and unarmored parts. You can select which bits of them to attack (arms, legs, head, and body) and if you focus on the unarmored bit, the enemy will take more damage and go down faster. However, focusing on the armored bits and killing an enemy that way has a chance for them to drop a piece of the armor they were wearing. Do that a couple of more times by collecting arms, legs, body and a head and you got yourself a brand new armor set (this sounds like some twisted version of Pokemon). Armor can vary in the level of defense that they provide and each of them come with bonuses for having a full set. Sometimes it might be faster healing, better resistance to poison or bonus damage with certain weapons. Speaking of weapons, we now have new types of damage introduced (think of it like some elemental damage from other games except with a “cyber flair” here) and our personal drone companion! Yup, we now have a deadly mechanical pet that saved me from clutches of death more than I could count.
This here is a tricky bit. I have a fairly powerful rig and while you can play The Surge 2 just fine with average requirements – you won’t like it. To put it simply, the game looks absolutely amazing on high settings and like trash on anything below high. There is no middle ground. I had no issues running everything on high but for someone with an average rig, this could be a problem. Other than that, the level design is an improvement compared to the previous game. Everything in Jericho City (and its surroundings) is so damn well interconnected that it managed to bring a smile to my face once or twice. Here I was, working for 3-4 hours to escape from one area and move onto the other and just when I do it, I open a simple door in a new area which now connects me to the one I just escaped from. Impressive. The whole level design of The Surge 2 is like one clever beehive. It’s so easy to go from one area to another in a short time through a series of cleverly placed shortcuts.
While the audio segment isn’t much upgraded during your regular exploring (and dying) of the game, boss fights are where it really shines. To be fair, there are not that many boss fights throughout the game but each of them comes with a specific track. It is something made to pump up your adrenaline, make you anxious, with sweaty palms and finally give you that sense of pride and accomplishment (shout out to EA) once you finally take them down. For sound effects, some things are improved now, notably the former desolate life of Jericho City. You can hear robots and humanoids fighting between each other in the distance, prerecordings of military personnel on various city billboards and many robots talking to each other in that beepy R2D2 language.
The Surge 2 is a clear step up from the previous game. Improved level design, better visuals (but only if you can run it on max), deep customization system, more implants, more enemies, more of everything. It is a good example of how to improve the game with new stuff while not sacrificing anything that’s already there. It’s hard to make a decent game with souls-like (hah, I said it again) mechanics that doesn’t devolve into being too grindy and repetitive but The Surge 2 is anything but decent. It is an improvement in every way and a lesson on how to do the sequel right.
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