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The Surge 2 (PS4) Review

October 14, 2019 | Posted by Marc Morrison
The Surge 2
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The Surge 2 (PS4) Review  

I’ll admit I didn’t quite like the first Surge game. While the idea of a scifi Dark Souls-like game is immensely appealing, the execution of that particular game wasn’t superb. The biggest issues were the combat and the blandness of the environment. Everything felt like it was in some robotic factory and/or warehouse and it was very “bleh”. While this game does fix these two issues, it still left me wanting a bit more.

The Surge 2, quite obviously, is the sequel to the first Surge game. This time, the game takes place in Jericho City, after things have gone to hell. You play a person who survived an airplane crash a month ago, and you wake up in a prison sickbay. After donning the robot exosuit, you bust out of prison and then go forth among the chaotic city trying to figure out what happened to you, what caused the city to become this way, and the curious fate of a little girl who was also on the plane with you.

As a general set up, it’s perfectly serviceable. The big thing here is “Jericho City”. Unlike the first game, this game takes place in an actual city with different districts and different environments. There’s the main downtown area, a seaport, a nature preserve and so on. Each area has a different look to it, and different enemies to contend with. It helps make the city feel like a more vital place than the last game.

Speaking of the last game, combat is about 90% of the same, for good and for bad. You still attack foes with the R1 and R2 buttons, still have a stamina bar and battery charges to contend with, still target different limbs of enemies to hack off for blueprints and materials, and so on. Most of this stuff is fairly old-hat for a Dark Souls player but a few specifics, both new and old bear getting into detail.

To start with, “Yes”, you do hack off a lot of enemy limbs. Arms, legs, chest and heads are all able to be cut off with weapons that you are using. The trick is, you need at least one battery charge and the limb has to be damaged enough to actually do the attack. While you can occasionally find battery charges in the environment, you almost always have to attack enemies which causes the power to build up in your battery. This create a push and pull thing where you’ll want to attack enemies to build up battery power, but attacking them causes them to attack you (duh) so you have to judge whether or not it is worth it. Hacking off limbs and such is the only real way to gain new blueprints for parts for your suit, be it arm armor, leg armor, etc., so you kind of need to do this a lot in order to get anywhere.

You also use battery charges to power your medical implant, or Estus Flask, if you want to draw a Dark Souls parallel. You can either use it immediately, or you can have the charge dissipate, which can allow storage of a few health charges but you can upgrade the amount of HP restored or number of charges stored, if you get a new implant or upgrade your current one.

The Stamina system is used to sprint, dodge or block (and hopefully parry). Parries are something new, if you are blocking you will have an indicator in which direction the enemy is going to strike from. If you time it right, you can press the right analogue stick in the direction of the attack. This parry system is highly dependent on timing and knowing how an enemy attacks, so I mostly would either mis-time it completely, or get it to barely work. For me, it was much easier and safer to just dodge out of an attack because that always worked, as opposed to a finicky parry move.

There is also the usual “Bloodstain where you die” thing from Dark Souls, but here it is the unprocessed materials that you have collected. It works in the same way though, you’ll have a limited amount of time to try and run back to your defeated corpse and pick up what you dropped. The catch is, if you die on the run back, then the old tech scrap pile is gone and your new death will have whatever mats you collected running back. This is all pretty old hat.

A small element of a Metroidvania is in this game, at least to a degree. You’ll sometimes come across doors that can only be opened with a specific drone weapon, or grappling hook points that will let you move around a lot easier, but you actually have to find the drone part or grappling hook to be able to use them. This brings up a good and bad issue.

For all the good of a distinctive city setting, actually getting around Jericho city can become a HUGE pain. Each district has a Medical Bay, which is where you actually level up your exosuit/player. The basic routine is that you go out exploring, maybe fight some enemies, and then you will find some alley way or path back to your Medical Bay. It really starts to feel like you are walking around in circles after a while, because all roads either end up leaving to another area or back to the medical bay.

Another issue, and this isn’t related to The Surge 2 but all of these games: I hate not having any direction or (real) map of where to go. I don’t need a huge arrow going “HEY, GO HERE IDIOT!”, but *any* kind of direction would be nice. There is a quasi-map in the Surge 2 where you can see the different districts, but that is it. It would be extremely nice if the more you explored, the more it actually filled out an in-game map for you to annotate or check. There are the usual messages (icons in this game) that other players can lay down, warning you about stuff, but it’s not the same thing. I do realize this is hearsay to fans of this particular sub-genre, but it’s something that sticks out to me.

The real biggest problem with the Surge 2 is a problem in almost all of these games. I really hate playing these Dark Souls-like games when forced to only use a melee weapon. The Surge 2, Bloodborne and Nioh do have some ranged options but you can’t solely use ranged weapons for all the game. I don’t like having to run up on a guy with a spinning saw as a weapon, and he being able to hit me for a quarter of my health. This is why the only one of these games I’ve actually liked playing, that my Dark Souls-obsessed friend hated, was Remnant: From the Ashes. That is, for all intents and purposes, a ranged shooter, and you really only use melee weapons in specific circumstances. If you try to melee every enemy you come across, you won’t make it past the first level.

I bring this up because while I recognize that The Surge 2 is a well-made game, I just couldn’t get into the combat much because of this. It took me about 30 or 40 tries to defeat one boss, a guy in a Doctor Octopus inspired mech-suit, because you can only really attack at range and he could wipe out my health in about 4 hits.

Again, I don’t blame The Surge 2, combat works about as well as one of these games allows for it. I just can’t personally get into it because to do well, you either need the speed of a humming bird, or else you need to just endlessly grind in an area which can get boring.

One last thing I’ll mention is there is some bizarre texture errors/pop-in occurring. It doesn’t happen all the time, but sometimes a sign on the ground, or your exosuit will look great and legible and other times it will look more blurry than a N64 game. It’s really weird because there doesn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to it.

The final score: review Very Good
The 411
For as much as I couldn’t get into parts of The Surge 2, I recognize that it is still a well-made game and fans of the Dark Souls games should have a lot of time exploring the city and hacking off limbs. It’s nice that there are different environments now and just finding new ways around buildings (or sometimes on top of them) is fun. I was able to stick with this game a lot longer than I thought I would, which helps proves the adage that science fiction is better than fantasy.

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The Surge 2, Marc Morrison