Deck 13’s The Surge was a surprise hit for me last year. Though I’m a big fan of difficult action-RPGs, I wasn’t very impressed with the team’s first attempt, Lords of The Fallen. Because of this, I went into The Surge expecting little yet receiving a lot. Despite some issues with enemy variety, there was the right amount of dystopian future and distinctive combat mechanics to hold my interest through to the end.
I was even more surprised at the announcement of a sequel to the game. Rather excitedly, I was fortunate enough to see a hands-off demo of The Surge 2 at this years E3. From this short experience, I can already tell Deck 13 has taken the feedback from the first game to heart.
Though connected to the original, The Surge 2 allows you to create your character instead of continuing Warren’s story. The overbearing CREO corporation is back, and with them is the customizable exo-suits for both you and your enemies.
Exo-suits were my favorite part of The Surge, as they play right into the series’ unique dynamic combat system. While intended for work, the mechanical heavy lifters are now the best line of defense against crazed ex-employees and rogue robots. You can customize your exo-suit with either light, medium, or heavy parts found throughout the world. When fighting enemies, you’re able to target their legs, arms, head, chest, or even their weapon. In doing so, you have the chance for a finishing move that removes their body part and provides you with their piece of armor. It’s a fun system that encourages strategic thinking rather than bum-rushing the opponent. Target the unarmored parts for an easy kill, or risk attacking the armor for a chance at a new piece.
The sequel expands this combat system with five new weapon types for a total of 10 to choose from. Also, enemies now have specific modules that change the way you play. Our demo showcased cloaked enemies that came out of nowhere. You can break off their cloaking device for your own use, allowing you to detect invisible enemies.
The Surge gave you a weaponized drone to use mid-combo. The little buddy is back, and you can now upgrade it with traditional parts instead of specialized ones. When used in combination with your regular weapons, you can create weak points in tough enemies to even the fight. To showcase this in the demo, we battled against a towering robot with a massive shield. While dodging attacks, our player got behind the shield and hit its arm hard, removing both parts for good. This sort of “create your own weakness” approach to combat is part of what makes this series unique, and I’m excited to see more variations on the feature.
Enemy A.I. has also seen some significant improvements. The first game often pits you against many foes, but in The Surge 2, enemies will be more aggressive. Adversaries will come to the aid of their partners, interrupting you mid-combo or attacking from behind. You must always be on the move, watching and dodging rival assaults. To help with groups of enemies, your character has a directional block built into their move set. By pointing and blocking in the direction of an attack, you’ll counter it and stun your foe. This move is essential for crowd management, and it’s something you’ll want to master early on.
The Surge took place in an industrialized facility with little change of scenery. Areas could be difficult to tell apart from one another, which got a bit exhausting over time. Fortunately, the sequel changes the setting to an open city where nature has taken over. We didn’t get to see much during the demo, but our player explored a dense forest with all sorts of different pathways and enemy types. I’m looking forward to more varied set pieces this time around.
I really enjoyed the first game, but the story fell off towards the end. Environments were too similar, and there was little in the way of enemy variety. That said, Deck 13 looks to be improving on all of that and more in some unexpected ways. To be fair, my problems with The Surge felt more like budgetary restraints than anything else, and it looks like the sequel has much more money behind it.
The action-RPG genre is relatively crowded, but I believe that The Surge 2 has what it takes to carve its own niche and stand out among the horde. We’ll see if Deck 13 can adequately innovate on its ideas come release next year.