German developers Deck13 are back with another crack at their transhumanist bloodbath series with The Surge 2. Our preview of the game lasted around four hours – so, did it rip and tear, or blow a fuse?
After the sheer domination of the action-RPG genre that games such as Dark Souls, Bloodborne and this year’s Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice accomplished, something of a side-genre cropped up – ‘Souls-like’ games that weren’t made by the developers of Dark Souls, FromSoftware.
2017’s The Surge fit itself snugly into that mould, its unique ‘limb-targeting’ combat system setting it above other, lazier attempts to ape the winning Souls formula.
If there was one issue that critics had with the original The Surge (outside of complaints about difficulty), it was that it was a tad lifeless, a tad… grey. Setting your action-RPG in a dark enclosed space with gunmetal and blood the most common colours will grate on anyone after a while, especially when you’re contending with deadly enemies that are all too happy to send you back to a respawn point.
In the case of The Surge 2, you could deduce that Deck13 have been lurking around the comment sections and review pages of gaming websites, as they’ve applied some changes that indicate lessons learned from the series’ first entry.
Set in the quarantined, nanomachine infested Jericho City, The Surge 2 introduces an entirely new player-created character. Working through the customisation options at the outset, you’ll even get the chance to choose a backstory for your character, whether that be as a former super-corporation employee, or a reformed gun smuggler.
Whether or not these choices play into the story weren’t obvious from our time with the game, but they add a bit of life to your character, as was the case with our disgruntled, world-weary, near-retirement forklift operator.
The draw this time around is Jericho City itself. Deck13 have opted to establish the place as a factional tinderbox about to burst.
From the singularity obsessed “Spark” cult to the probably corrupt local government hiding behind an enormous wall for fear of the infection ravaging the burg, Jericho City serves well as a place tearing itself apart, with vultures and maniacs roaming its streets.
Opening during a prison riot, our character navigates their way through the penitentiary’s subterranean complex to emerge above ground with a view stretching across Jericho City. A Spark acolyte who helped you escape implores you to find his leader, Eli. The Surge 2’s renewed focus on story is obvious straight away. Dialogue options are here, and the map of the city is dotted with unique locations.
Combat maintains many of the ideas from the original outing. Limb targeting serves as a nice tightrope between risk/reward combat styles, your choice being whether to focus on higher armoured areas of enemies with a chance to receive that piece of armour, or to increase damage on unarmoured areas, with less chance of a reward. It’s a real ‘what you see is what you get’ approach to combat, with many enemies decked out in all kinds of armour and weapons, just begging to be relieved of it.
So far the polish isn’t quite that of a Souls game – boss encounters especially aren’t as ‘puzzle-boxy’ as the genre has achieved in the past, and we’re left with either big dudes with hammers or big robots that rotate on an unnatural axis. Boss fights in the The Surge had some highs and lows, so here’s hoping that Deck13 can create some unique – and fair – encounters.
The Surge 2 releases for PS4 and Xbox One on September 24.