If one thing is good, then we need a thousand of them! That’s how the video game industry works. You know it, I know it, we all know it. There’s not necessarily anything wrong with that – I love Battle Royale games, for instance, so that fad was a big hit so far as I’m concerned. One trend that’s showed up and never really gone away was the stream of games that would like to be Dark Souls. The Surge 2 and its contemporary Code Vein are the latest wave of these and we’re going to be taking a look at the former.
So without getting too far into the plot of the first Surge, let’s just say that things went really poorly and leave it at that. Now there’s a nanomachine menace on the loose. You’ve got monsters, you’ve got disease, it’s all bad news – and it’s bad news you’re caught in the middle of when you wake up in the police station in Jericho City. Why were you there? What did you do? Who even are you? You’re going to have to explore Jericho City to find out, but that’s going to mean getting geared up and ready to defend yourself, because the city’s not in great shape these days.
The Surge 2 is essentially what the first game wanted to be. That’s a sci-fi take on the Souls series, if you’re just joining us, so if you’re into that sort of unforgiving, precise gameplay then you’re going to feel right at home here. Everything you know and love about those games is here – there’s surprise ambushes, plenty of panicked dodge rolling and a constant struggle for survival against brutal odds.
As in the first game, your character fights by wearing a powered exoskeleton called a Rig and whatever weapons and armor they can scavenge up. Sometimes you’ll find this stuff in the environment, but the majority of your gear is going to come from enemies. I don’t mean item drops when I say that – well, I do, but not in the way you mean. By targeting your attacks to hit certain parts of an enemy and then slicing off those parts with gruesome fatality moves, you can obtain the parts that the enemy was using. This can be their weapon if you chop their arms, their cybernetic implants if you behead them, their armor if you aim for their armored bits and even new attachments for your drone partner if they’re using firearms.
This lends an element of excitement to exploring new areas and a thrill to fighting new foes, especially when it becomes clear that you won’t get a second shot at every enemy – so if you want that nice weapon, you’d better not mess up. Speaking of weapons, pretty much everything from the first game returns, so if you had a favorite it’s going to be back and it’s going to feel better to use. New to the sequel are double-duty weapons, which are super-cool implements of destruction that can be used as heavy arms or split apart for dual wielding purposes. They’re great and I suspect plenty of players are going to want to use them.
Combat and exploration play out as you’d expect from a Souls-style game. There’s goodies hidden pretty much everywhere, sometimes taking the form of a new enemy type with cool gear to steal. Additionally, while multiplayer isn’t really a “thing” in The Surge 2, there’s some cute nods to the fact that others are also playing the game. My favorite is the Banner, a drone attachment that you’re meant to hide in the environment. The longer it lasts, the more currency you’ll get, encouraging you to search for the most crafty hiding places possible. It’s all good fun. If I had a complaint, it would be that the bosses can be a little too healthy and tedious to defeat, but that’s minor in the face of a solid Souls-style experience.
The Surge 2 stands out from a presentation perspective as well. Look, I don’t know how many times I’m going to have to write that a nice PC makes modern games look really nice, but it’s true yet again. You really ought to invest in a nice PC. Sell some organs if you have to. Console performance, meanwhile…you’ll probably just want to play on PC.
It’s interesting that we’re seeing two Souls-style games in Code Vein and The Surge 2 showing up around the same time, but you won’t see me complaining about it. The Surge 2 is probably the stronger of the two, able to stand as one of the strongest examples of the subgenre around. Patient players who can deal with plenty of death should apply immediately.