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The Surge 2 is a challenging action-RPG sequel developed by Deck13 and published by Focus Home Interactive. Standing on the shoulders of FromSoftware's Dark Souls series, The Surge 2 does its best to carve out its own niche within the Souls-like sub-genre of action-RPGs, and in my opinion, it succeeds at doing so. And if you'd like to know why, you should keep reading.
The Aftermath of Utopia
The original The Surge ends with Warren, the game's protagonist, sabotaging the launch of a Project Utopia rocket but failing to stop it completely. As a result, instead of wiping out the majority of life on Earth, the rocket crashes inside Jericho City and leaves behind an ominous-looking cloud of self-aware nanites and a deadly Defrag disease that no one knows what to do with. And it just so happens that the plane carrying our new custom protagonist to Jericho City collides with that rocket and conveniently sets The Surge 2's events into motion.
Which means that this time around we get to create our own characters. This includes choosing the character's background that serves as their origin story. These backgrounds are mostly cosmetic, but they do open up some unique dialogue options here and there.
The plane crash takes our character out of commission for a few months and when they regain consciousness in a prison hospital, the city is surrounded by a wall and overrun by looters, cultists, opportunistic mercs, and various nanite-based lifeforms. The game will then task you with busting out of prison and finding a mysterious little girl who may or may not hold the key to Jericho City's nanite problems. While looking for the girl you'll get to explore Jericho City and its various districts and that's pretty much all the main story is good for - getting you from point A to point B. Naturally, there are some twists and sudden revelations there, but it's all quite forgettable.
However, during the final act the story takes a bit of a turn and becomes quite engaging. Without going into too much detail, you basically get to pursue a certain unstoppable character all across Jericho City and witness the wake of destruction he leaves in his path. In a way, this reminded me of Diablo II's story but much more zoomed in. Still, it's just a minor part of The Surge 2 and by the time you get there, chances are you've already checked out and don't care about anything that happens in the story.
And while the main story may be forgettable, when it comes to side content, The Surge 2 elevates the genre to a new level. You see, as opposed to something like Dark Souls, The Surge 2 is structured like a proper RPG with real quests and even a journal. No longer do you have to follow cryptic clues and perform minor tasks for NPCs without knowing whether what you're doing is a quest or just a waste of time.
The quests are varied and range from simple tasks, like obtaining a particular armor set, to the one where you storm a cultist compound together with a washed up actor wearing the armor of the series' mascot, Iron Maus, and yelling cheesy one-liners at you. These quests offer you a certain degree of freedom with how you tackle them, and while none of them are particularly intricate or groundbreaking, by action-RPG standards they can be considered quite exceptional.
Even the seemingly mindless armor fetch quests aren't there to give you some busy work. Instead they serve as a nudge in a particular direction and an indicator that maybe those enemies that seemed unbeatable earlier, yeah, you are now strong enough to fight them and get their stuff. Pair that with the fact that NPCs actually react to your actions throughout the game, and you start realizing that there might be more to The Surge 2 than it initially appears.
For whatever reason when a studio other than FromSoftware attempts to create a Dark Souls-style game, they always seem perfectly fine with just making Dark Souls, but worse. Dark Souls has challenging combat? We'll have challenging combat. Dark Souls has a gloomy atmosphere? We'll have that as well. Dark Souls has a story that's intentionally difficult to understand? Well our story is so obtuse even we don't know what half of it means!
The Surge 2 moves away from that and attempts to create its own identity and offer some unique twists on the formula instead of just being content with a trite pastiche that has no chance of ever surpassing the original.
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