STAFF REVIEW of Surge 2, The (Xbox One)

Monday, November 4, 2019.
by Brent Roberts

Surge 2, The Box art When game sequels come out, I'm always cautious as to how the developer took the input from the community to build the latest release. I will openly admit upfront that I never played the original Surge before so jumping into The Surge 2, so I wondered if I was going to be confused or if there was some type of backstory that I needed to brush up on first. Thankfully, this sequel has nothing to do with the first game, so if you're like me and haven't played the first game, then don't worry. In this sequel, developer Deck 13 doesn't try to reinvent the wheel, but rather deliver a more robust experience to create an entirely new and enjoyable experience. How do they do that? Well, let me explain.

The Surge 2 starts you off by selecting and customizing your character. In the previous Surge you took control of a character named Warren, but rather than continue a story that ended on a cliffhanger, Deck 13 lets you customize your character. This new hero awakens after a crash into a place called Jericho City, where you have no idea as to what is going on, but yet for some reason, you're directed by a sort of phantom little girl. The main story behind The Surge 2 opens up throughout the game with more of the mystery being unveiled, but your choices will determine the outcome of the ending.

The Surge 2 follows along the "Souls" style of gameplay where your ability to block, dodge and parry will become your saving grace. Along from the previous entry returns the dismemberment system that, some could say, is the entire crux of the gameplay system. In The Surge 2, you're able to auto lock on an enemy by pressing in the Right Stick, then you can move the stick to target various parts of your assailant (head, left or right arm, chest, etc..). Now when you select the various targets you may see a blue circle or a yellow shield, which represent either armored sections or not. While you may be correct that a non-armored section of the enemy is weaker than an armored section, if you want the gear, you got to break the armor.

When you are fighting an enemy you may see the 'X' button appear during your fight, and it's at this point that if you hold the 'X' button down, a killing sequence will occur and you stand a chance to gain blueprints for gear that you can craft using the scrap. So, let's say you see someone wielding a plasma cutting torch and you want that weapon. You press in the 'RS' to lock onto the enemy and slide the stick to the left to select the opponent's right arm (remember you're looking at them, so your selection would be reversed). Then you proceed to attack, and during your combos you see and press the 'X' prompt and now your character goes into a sequence that dismembers the arm off the body and kills the enemy. Your spoils for this fight? Why your own plasma cutting torch that you can craft and then upgrade throughout the game.

This is how the game essentially functions and this is also how grinding should be. Case in point; when I first started out, I worked on my blocking, dodging and parrying skills in the very early moments on weaker opponents. Once I got my defensive skills down to where I was comfortable, I would progress onward to the next medical station (think of these as your "checkpoints") where I would spend my scrap to upgrade what I could, construct what I could and level up my character, and then I went back to the grind.

I would go back through my earlier areas, as the enemies respawn every time you enter a medical chamber (much like a Dark Souls bonfire), and in doing so, target other pieces of the enemy. If I got a weapon one time, I'd go for the chest and try and get an armor blueprint, or I'd go for the head and go for an implant blueprint. I would literally work on these types of cycles in an area, and once I had the blueprints, I would then go back through the cycles some more and go for upgrade parts and more scrap. As I said before, this is what is regarded as the currency of the game and is used for basically everything.

When you spend scrap to level up your character you can upgrade your health so you can take more damage, or you can upgrade your stamina so you can do more attacks, or you can upgrade your battery charge capabilities for your exoskeleton so you can hold more charges for health (like a health potion that essentially charges based on combat, so the more you fight the more you can heal yourself). Upgrading your character also allows you to equip more implants that your character can use to improve themselves. One of the implants that I have grown fond of is one that allows you target any "area" of an enemy and no matter the angle at which you attack, so that you will always hit that designated spot. This is invaluable because if you target the right arm, but swing and hit the left, then you'll just damage the enemy, but you won't hit your target.

Scrap is also used to construct items from blueprints. At medical stations you can make any item from blueprints so long as you have enough scrap to make them. Scrap is also used in part to upgrade your items, but the main ingredient for that would be an "item specific" scrap. What do I mean by that? Certain scrap from level 1 items, level 2, etc. This is what I was gaining by grinding these cycles over and over again. Now, as you level up an item, you obviously have no more use for the certain level scrap, so you move onto the next area. Should you die though, your scrap remains where you perished, and you respawn back at the nearest medical station along with all the enemies between you and your scrap. As you fight your way back, and acquiring more scrap along the way, you'll notice your scrap is on a timer, which when expires, will vanish. Should you die again as well on your way, you will lose that scrap. Plan wisely.

This scrap, as you progress, will become your most challenging balancing act, because as you increase in levels, so does the cost of scrap. Meaning you'll be finding yourself taking bigger risks thinking that you can stretch yourself just a little further, and that's when you'll usually expire. While it may seem a bit overwhelming at times, early on in the game you'll come into contact with your new best friend; your combat drone. This little guy can be dispatched by pressing the 'Y' button and then pressing the button again to fire. Whatever you have locked and targeted (for example, and enemy's head) the drone will shoot at. You can find ammo scattered throughout, but the real fun comes when you start upgrading the weapons on the drone. That's when The Surge 2 really has you feel like you're an unstoppable force and the game really kicks into gear.

There are a few downsides however, but they aren't game breakers by any means. The first drawback has to deal with the graphics. When you're on the Xbox One X and trying to bang away at 4k resolution, the game doesn't look that smooth and the character modeling doesn't seem to be at current gen levels. To compensate though, the game does offer some very nice effects and a new RPG choice system in your dialogue that will affect the outcome. I'm OK with that. There are some other points to note as well. Graffiti makes a return and throughout the game you can place tags around and rate them, point towards hidden items, etc. Also, just because you may be alone, doesn't mean that you're alone on the network. Whenever you see an enemy that's designated a Revenge Enemy, that is an enemy that has killed another Xbox player in their game. Should you kill it, you'll gain bonus materials. I'm sure I've already got an army out there for people to vanquish.

When you have a fairly well-done RPG element, story choice, character upgrades and development, smooth combat and a gameplay system that allows for a fluid experience, you have The Surge 2. If you're a fan of "Souls" style gaming, then Deck 13 has a very solid title for you to experience. It may not be on the same level as other "Souls" style games, but what it does deliver is amazing amounts of entertainment and fun. Bring on the sequel.

Overall: 8.0 / 10
Gameplay: 8.0 / 10
Visuals: 8.0 / 10
Sound: 8.0 / 10


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