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The game is set in a city that just months ago was bustling with life. As a result, you get bright colors, varied urban environments and plentiful signs of life. Most of the enemies you're facing are actual people. Their moral fiber may be questionable, but they're no mindless zombies. They chat with one another, they sometimes mock you, and they have their own plans for Jericho City.
Once in a while, if you're careful, you can even sneak up on your enemies and listen in on their conversations. Then, during a particular section of the game, you can activate some holographic projectors and use them to distract your enemies and avoid fighting them altogether. These moments are few and far between in The Surge 2 but they do exist.
And if we ever see The Surge 3, I really hope the developers keep moving in this direction. Add more quest reactivity, create dynamic faction interactions instead of scripted ones, offer more branching quests. Keep the combat system, maybe tweak it a little, but move the game closer to something like Deus Ex. Now that would be a sight to behold. Still, even in its current iteration, The Surge 2 isn't a game you should skip if you're a fan of Dark Souls and are interested in playing something similar but at the same time unique.
It's the Journey not the Destination
While the story in The Surge 2 isn't exactly its strongest suit, it does a decent job of enabling exploration, and that's where the main meat of the game lies. Jericho City is separated into several distinct interconnected districts, and each of those can offer hours of engaging content. You'll be traversing the downtown areas, exploring a power plant turned into a church by a bunch of cultists, dealing with backstabbing hunters in a grassy park area, and exploring the dark tunnels running underneath the city.
Each of these areas can be considered a master class of level design. The Surge already had great levels that offered countless side passages, shortcuts, and secrets, and The Surge 2 ups the ante by introducing even more variety, verticality and large open spaces into the mix. And if that wasn't enough, it also features some “metroidvania” elements. What this means is, initially certain paths are unavailable to you, but as you progress through the game you get access to new traversal tools, which you can then use to explore those previously unavailable areas.
The game does a very good job of seeming larger than it actually is. During the first few hours, it really feels like you can just pick a direction and go. You will invariably find new stuff, new challenges, and new story threads.
As you explore, you will encounter numerous NPCs, and contrary to what you might expect from a Dark Souls-style game, these aren't all traumatized warriors on the brink of insanity. The Surge 2's NPCs tend to be colorful, memorable, and covered in cheese. Maybe it's just my sense of humor, but I couldn't help but chuckle when a shady back alley doctor proudly proclaimed that he swears the hypocritical oath every day in a thick Russian accent.
You also get to meet some of the characters from the first game and learn more about them. And in general, The Surge 2 continues to build up this dystopian world where apocalyptic dangers go side by side with a healthy dose of gallows humor. The game's setting wouldn't be out of place in some 1980's action movie. What started off as just a single somewhat boring futuristic factory is at this point a full blown sci-fi world with its own lore, quirks, and identity that asks its audience such tough and thought-provoking questions like “are you a man or a mouse?” And I wouldn't have it any other way.
The Surge 2 also introduces countless quality of life improvements that make the overall gameplay experience much more enjoyable. It's hard to list every single one of these improvements, but think of everything that annoyed you while you were playing the first game and chances are, The Surge 2 fixed it. The UI is much clearer and you can actually see your active implants. You can disassemble high-level upgrade materials and use them to upgrade your low-level equipment instead of farming early enemies for no good reason. The list goes on.
And just to top things off, the game offers at least two endings and the New Game+ mode that provides new challenges and surprises for those of you who can't get enough of The Surge 2.