I had the pleasure to play The Surge 2 closed beta and came away very impressed. It’s hard not to draw comparisons to Dark Souls, but The Surge 2 manages to do its own thing enough that it doesn’t feel derivative. However, From Software’s fanbase will likely be attracted to the tough as nails combat, even if that’s one of the only things The Surge and Dark Souls franchises have in common.
When the beta opens, I got a chance to create my character. There are six backstories to choose from. I’m not sure if they’re there just to flesh out your character or if they have an effect on gameplay or story, but in the beta, I didn’t notice anything. I went with my typical old man build and launched into the game.
The inciting action isn’t too important. You’re on a plane; it crashes, you wake up in a prison infirmary. Unfortunately, the event renders you an amnesiac, so who knows what crazy shenanigans you got into. You don’t have much time to ponder on it either. You barely have time to get off the hospital bed when you realize the prison is under attack and all hell is breaking loose.
During your escape from jail, you catch a few glimpses of massive, cybernetic looking beasts, which appear to be behind the assault on the building. You have to fight inmates and guards alike as you attempt to flee the carnage, and this segment also serves as a tutorial for the game’s myriad systems.
Combat is much like that of Dark Souls. You’re really squishy, so you can’t take many hits. So, fighting is about knowing when to guard, when to attack, and when to evade. You start off by strapping two futuristic defibrillators to your hands, and those prove weapon enough to get you past the first few scrub prisoners. However, when you arrive at the armory, you’ll get your first weapon and get your introduction to the game’s limb targeting system.
When you lock onto an enemy in The Surge 2, you can just target their general body, or you can lock onto their individual parts. An enemy’s arms, legs, torso, and head all have an HP bar separate from their overall health. When you cause enough damage to a body part, you’ll be prompted to hold a button, and if you successfully fill the bar, you’ll execute them by cutting that part off. In the armory, I met a prisoner with a spear, and by concentrating my attacks on the arm holding it, I was able to cut it from their body. When you perform a cut, you receive whatever item was equipped to the body part you severed in return.
Armed with my new spear, I was then tasked with fighting a criminal who has taken control of a police rig. Exo-Rigs are a mechanical exoskeleton that fuses with a wearer’s nervous system to enhance their physical power greatly. As you don’t have one, the fight against the criminal is very methodical. This is the first challenging combat in the game, and you learn how to pick out weak points on enemies. If a body part you highlight is yellow, that means its armored and will take reduced damage. If it’s blue, then it’s weak, and you don’t have to worry about wasted effort dinging off their armor.
After defeating the rig-wearing prisoner, I’m able to take control of the rig and access the medbay in the next room. This automated device is basically the bonfire of The Surge 2, and lets you upgrade your rig, craft new armor, upgrade weapons, and all that good stuff. The medbay also saves your game and heals you, but it’s a bit of a double-edged sword. By using a medbay, you also regenerate all the regular enemies in the game.
From there, I made my way to the exit of the prison, where a guard waited to take me on. This dude made the criminal with the rig look like a puppy dog as he peppered me with incendiary grenades and attacked me with a drone. This fight showed the importance of using the environment to your advantage. By positioning the pillars in the room between myself and the guard, I could avoid being tracked by his drone, and the fire grenades would bounce off of it. When he got close, I was able to pop around the corner and hit him in the arm where he was weak.
After that fight, I was free to leave the prison and head into Jericho City. The City is a lot different than the industrial warehouses of the first game, and the change of scenary is much welcomed. There’s more verticality as well, as there are paths leading over the streets that you can make your way to.
The beta only had a bit of story, but let you explore a good-sized chunk of Jericho City. You’re given the objective to make it to an octopus-shaped building and left to your own devices. The gameplay loop seems to mainly consist of fighting enemies and gathering scrap so you can power up your rig, and cutting enemies limbs off to gain more powerful weapons and blueprints for crafting armor. I found it satisfying as you tend to move in a radius around the closest medbay, taking down enemies and then returning to the medbay to heal, craft, and level up.
The Surge 2 could be summed up as a cyberpunk Dark Souls, but it’s got its own thing going on. It’s not as harsh of a game for one, and I never found myself in a position where I felt like the odds were stacked against me. I had a great time playing the beta, and I can’t wait to check out the full game when The Surge 2 comes out on September 24, 2019.