Better than the original in almost every way.
The Surge 2

A weird thing happens when you have just a weekend to play a game and write a review for said game. I literally got my code Friday morning but could not begin until late Friday night. Sometimes that game ends up being longer than you anticipated. Sometimes that time that you could spend playing the game is spent instead with a weird thing called "life." And while "life" does have a tremendous framerate, it doesn't help me to write reviews. And sometimes there are some issues where there is another game that you are trying to play (also for a review) that is a massive RPG. Trying to juggle two big games for reviews and life is just a recipe for disaster at times.

One of those times is right now. The embargo for The Surge 2 lifted at 6PM (ET) (on Monday, September 23) and as you can clearly see, I don't have a review done! I am still actually playing the game. It's fun! It's also a lot longer than I expected it to be. I'm about ten hours in and maybe over a third of the way through the total boss count.

Consider this a little pre-review of The Surge 2. Deck13 and Focus Home Interactive were kind enough to give me a copy of the game ahead of release for review. I've been playing it as much as I can this weekend and generally having a good time with it. If I happen to drastically change my tune after finishing the game, I'll be sure to update this appropriately. Until then, here is where I currently stand on the latest action-RPG to hit the PC, PlayStation 4, and Xbox One.

Right from the start, you will notice that The Surge 2 now offers a character creator. No longer are you stuck being just one character that the devs dictate you should be. Unfortunately, outside of changing your physical appearance, I really haven't noticed if the game changes any mechanic or even dialogue based on the type of character you make. It does not seem like it matters if you create a male or a female at the very least, with some NPC dialogue still using "he" and "him" even though you created a female character. In addition, your starting "role" seems to determine what your clothes look like. Much like your gender, your role selection doesn't seem to matter too much, especially when you start covering up your clothes with armor.

The fights and random encounters in The Surge 2 are intense, though some of the boss battles do fall a bit short of the mark. Thankfully, the "regular" enemies more than make up for it. In fact, it's the regular sized enemies that really make the game's combat for me. Bosses often have some sort of a gimmick to them that you need to exploit in order to defeat them. The regular enemies are just like you. The "even playing field" that these rank and file foes offer make for a more engaging experience overall.

The Surge 2

Just like the first game, you can still cut limbs off. In fact, it's pretty much required that you do so if you want to make progress. You first need to whittle down a specific limb by hitting it until its own miniature "health" bar is depleted, at which point you will be able to lop that limb off with a flashy combat move. Doing so will often net you some nice scrap and crafting materials that you can use to enhance your own gear. Scrap is this game's currency that is used for everything from leveling up your character and their stats, building new armor, to upgrading all of your existing gear, and to buying things in shops. If you really need this comparison made: You can think of "Scrap" as this game's equivalent of "Souls" from Dark Souls. There, I said it.

You can also build your own armor by cutting off new pieces from foes that are wearing something you don't have. If you don't want to hit armored limbs for scrap, you can always try to find a limb that isn't armored in order to take down an enemy faster. This limb targeting system is a core mechanic to the combat and upgrade system in The Surge 2. Without singling out specific limbs, you will lock yourself out of being able to upgrade parts of your own armor. Given that each piece of gear can be leveled up to ten times, you'll want to diversify your limb slicing portfolio quite often.

This system is also very useful for when you want to acquire schematics to make full armor sets. Set bonuses come in to play for armor when you are wearing three pieces of the same armor type and again when you have a full set on. For example, three pieces of a set may allow you to deal more damage after a backstab on an enemy. If you get all six pieces, you may end up with a nice passive heal over time. This system of earning schematics really takes out a layer of RNG that other games focus too heavily on. It's honestly quite nice to realize that I have control over when I earn a new armor schematic. ​​Like the weapon types, there are a wide-variety of armor sets that you can find and craft. You can either be big, bulky, and well protected, but consume a lot of stamina swinging a weapon, or you can wear light armor that provides less protection but allows you to be more agile. You can either put on a full set of one armor type for a full set bonus or live dangerously with a fashionable mix-and-match design.

The Surge 2

The Surge 2 also again makes use of an implant system. You pick up implant modules that can alter various aspects about your character. One implant may give you better poison resistance. Another one allows you to see what direction an enemy is attacking so that you can parry them. Another module allows you to convert energy into healing. And so on. You can swap these around at will on your character, provided you stay within a limited power budget. You get more of a power budget as you level up. This budget is for both your equipped armor and these modules. This means that in the early game, you may have to remove a heavy piece of armor if you really want to use a specific module or vice-versa. You can also roll with lighter armor that doesn't protect as much, but will allow you to equip higher level implant modules. This freedom to choose is really nice to have.

The parrying system in The Surge 2 offers more skilled players an opportunity to mitigate any incoming damage while also looking super fly in the process. The Surge 2 offers a directional parrying system. If an attack is coming in from the right, you need to hold block and tap the stick to the right at the correct time to parry the attack and set your enemy up for a counter. You can also attempt to block without this directional parry, but there is a good chance you will still take some damage as a result. Attacks are either vertical or horizontal, based on which button you press, but given the different weapon types and button sequences pressed, the combat can look downright dazzling at times.

Every weapon type can parry, and none seems to be better or worse at parrying than any other type. When it comes to weapon types, there is a little something for everyone in The Surge 2. Like to pack a punch and don't mind a slow attack speed? Hammers will be your best friend. They can dish out a ton of damage but their slow attack speed can leave you open for damage. Spears are for those that prefer to put a little space between themselves and an enemy. They're faster than hammers but don't pack nearly as big of a punch per hit. Some bladed weapons are shorter, don't hit as hard, but they allow you to attack rapidly and still have stamina remaining to dash away before your enemy can retaliate. There are even some weapons that can alternate between a heavy, two-handed attack and break apart mid-attack combo into two one-handed weapons that provide a bit of added speed at the cost of less damage per impact. All weapons have a certain flourish for almost every situation. Every weapon type has its own look and feel. Every weapon type also has their own unique running attacks.

Though the focus of the game is on melee combat, you can outfit your always-handy drone with some ranged abilities. A drone can become a semi-auto pistol that can take out enemy turrets in one or two hits. They can become a stationary turret that will provide some covering fire in a small area in front of them. They can also become grenade launchers, allowing you to hit an unaware enemy with a powerful blast before you run in with your melee attacks. Outside of combat, this drone is also used to unlock various doors and help you traverse the environment. Of course, not all of these abilities are given to you at the start. Just like with most things, you will have to find the appropriate components before you can outfit your drone with them.

Both weapons and drone abilities work on a "favorites" system for easy swapping. While you can hop into a menu to select a weapon to use or a drone ability, you can more easily assign your most used weapons and drone abilities to a "favorites" list. This will allow you to quickly tap your controller's d-pad and fast swap between your favorites without digging through menus. You would be surprised at how often you may end up wanting to swap quickly between weapon types throughout the game.

The Surge 2

Visually, the game probably won't be taking home any awards. For the most part, it is a decent looking title, but there really isn't anything that makes it stand out against the competition. Texture work and modeling are fine. There was some clipping of environmental objects here and there, but nothing game breaking. Some animations can certainly look a little weird at times. This is especially true when the game does a slow-motion focus on your character cutting off an enemy's limb. There are times where the terrain kind of messes with the positioning of the characters and your character is levitating a foot in the air while the animation plays out. It's stuff like that. It's not a major issue, but it is an issue.

There is one very glaring issues I came across as it pertains the game's overall visual fidelity: The lack of screen space reflections in large reflective surfaces like puddles. The game seems to make use of cubemaps for reflections. This means that the scenes reflected in wet or reflective surfaces are often low resolution looking and are often fairly inaccurate. Environmental and dynamic objects, including the character model, are also not shown in these reflections. Cube mapped reflections are still commonly used in a wide variety of games, but it's not often that you will see them be the only reflection method employed by a game released in 2019 as you do here.

While the game's visuals won't necessarily impress, the game's level designs probably will. In certain games, it's always a nice feature when a developer incorporates a shortcut. These shortcuts could be something like in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim where the final area of a dungeon will often have a "secret" way back to where the dungeon began. Or, they can be like Dark Souls, where the level design is so thoroughly planned out that multiple pathways and routes open up as you play to reveal that they are cleverly designed shortcuts allowing you to quickly return to areas you've been exploring.

The environmental layouts in The Surge 2 are very much akin to the Souls environments. During your time playing the game, you will unlock and discover so many hidden nooks and crannies that leads to quick travel routes to and from where you've been and where you are. And while I'm sure we have all played games that had these sorts of shortcuts before, there haven't been many that have done it as well as The Surge 2 does it. It's just so damn gratifying opening up a new shortcut back to a safe area after you've been fighting your way through a particularly challenging section.

The Surge 2

Sadly, there is no real multiplayer in The Surge 2. Jolly cooperation was just never in the cards as this is strictly a single-player title. However, you can leave in-game "graffiti" symbols for other players to find. These can be used to help or hinder other players that come across them. There is also a "revenge" system in the game. Sometimes you will come across an enemy that killed another player. Killing this enemy will tell you that the player can now rest in peace in addition to giving you some rather useful loot. I don't actually know if the avenged player gets anything or not. I can safely say that I don't recall a single notification telling me that I have been avenged after I died.

You can also leave "banners" around in the environment (see the last image under "Additional Media" below for an example). These "banners" are little holographic projections of your own character model. If you hide them well enough, you will be rewarded with about 5,000 scrap after a period of one hour. You will earn less scrap the more people that find your banner in their game. I found that setting a banner in a corner worked well to passively earn some scrap while playing. It even works if you're quitting the game, so be sure to leave your banner before you're done with your play session. You could return to a nice little scrap bonus later.

While I am very much enjoying my time with The Surge 2, it won't necessarily appeal to everyone. If you outright hated the first game, I don't believe there is enough different here to suggest you check the sequel out. Is this offering far more refined and fleshed out compared to the first title? Absolutely. However, the core is still pretty much left intact. It's just surrounded now by more refined outer layers than what we saw previously.

Perhaps I'll have additional thoughts on the game once I'm finished. However, unless this game falls apart hard in the second half, I feel quite comfortable assigning the following score to it right now. Feel free to leave any questions in the comments below and I'll address them as best as I can.

Update on September 28, 2019: This is largely a repost of the original review that went up on Monday, September 23. It's being reposted because of an issue we had with the site that resulted in this review being "lost" for a while. Since I'm taking the time to repost this, I will expand a bit on my thoughts, some of which were incorporated in the main review above.

Overall, my impressions from what was written above have not changed in the four days since this originally went up. I have progressed much further in the game and have reached the end. Though I encountered some performance issues, more so in the second half of the game, I still stand by the score I submitted below. Everything about this game just feels like a good step in the right direction. The combat feels so much better than the first game, as do the upgrade mechanics, movement, and even level design.

I still assert that if you liked the first game, even a little, you will like this one as it has improved upon its core systems in every possible way.

The Surge 2 - 4 out of 5

Additional Information
The Surge 2 - Developed by Deck13, Published by Focus Home Interactive
Game was reviewed on - PC (also available on PlayStation 4 and Xbox One)
Price - Starting at $49.99 (USD)
This game was provided to Total Gaming Network for review purposes.

Additional Media
Click image for larger version  Name:	644830_20190920185536_1.jpg Views:	0 Size:	120.9 KB ID:	3497737Click image for larger version  Name:	644830_20190920205445_1.jpg Views:	0 Size:	378.0 KB ID:	3497738Click image for larger version  Name:	644830_20190920190510_1.jpg Views:	0 Size:	229.2 KB ID:	3497739Click image for larger version  Name:	644830_20190922174049_1.jpg Views:	0 Size:	226.5 KB ID:	3497740Click image for larger version  Name:	644830_20190920194808_1.jpg Views:	0 Size:	328.4 KB ID:	3497741Click image for larger version  Name:	644830_20190920210726_1.jpg Views:	0 Size:	301.6 KB ID:	3497742Click image for larger version  Name:	644830_20190922171822_1.jpg Views:	0 Size:	336.3 KB ID:	3497743Click image for larger version  Name:	644830_20190922163921_1.jpg Views:	0 Size:	419.6 KB ID:	3497744Click image for larger version  Name:	644830_20190922174430_1.jpg Views:	0 Size:	285.7 KB ID:	3497745Click image for larger version  Name:	644830_20190923152913_1.jpg Views:	0 Size:	441.7 KB ID:	3497746