It’s shocking just how incoherent The Surge 2 is. What starts as a promising update to Deck13’s dismemberment-centric Souls-like series steadily devolves into an unfinished, incomprehensible mess. 

Rather than settle for one type of third-person melee combat, The Surge 2 crams them all in. One moment, it’s a proper Souls-like with slow encounters against one or two opponents. Then it’s a spectacle fighter like Devil May Cry with a secondary pistol weapon and gigantic fighting arenas. Then it’s an action RPG like Diablo where stats matter more than actually understanding your opponents.

The camera breaks in boss fights and often struggles in tighter environments, wildly zooming in and out. Enemies don’t pose nearly enough of a threat unless they’ve got a clear statistical advantage. Later on, not even stats stopped me from beating significantly higher-level opponents. That’s not me bragging, but a serious concern about how The Surge 2’s own health system is balanced.

The Surge 2 Is Bug-Riddled, Unbalanced, and Incoherent

Characters earn medical injections (aka health packs) by generating battery charges, which are initially earned by striking enemies. In both Surge games, you have access to modular upgrades you can swap out on the fly, called implants. Several of The Surge 2’s early implants allow you to also earn battery energy for being hit or dismembering enemies. Another implant grants health regeneration for building up batteries. This means you are constantly feeding yourself more health, to the point the health bar becomes irrelevant. After this point, death mostly comes from stun-locking enemies rather than player error. This appears to be a balancing oversight that made me feel like I was cheating.

The progression system further rewards sticking with your first pieces of gear rather than changing things up. You just repeatedly upgrade your favorite items by cutting corresponding limbs off opponents. Shops rarely sell anything of value, and there’s little benefit in selling items to them for a meager amount of experience points. You can always earn more experience by culling an area for five minutes, which is made easy by an early-game dual-rigged nanite weapon that melts opponents so fast I legitimately wondered if I’d found endgame gear by mistake.

After I acquired this nanite weapon, every other implement in the game became useless. Pairing it with a suit of armor that removed the cost of battery energy for executing enemies meant I never needed to look at my gear tab ever again. Once you have enough of each upgrade material, you can stop dismembering enemies until you face an opponent of a new rank, meaning you’ll spend plenty of time ignoring the game’s central mechanic.

The Surge 2 Is Bug-Riddled, Unbalanced, and Incoherent

The Surge 2 is nowhere near pleasant enough to warrant engaging with it. The story offers almost no motivation to keep going. Some sidequests at least pose a unique challenge, such as racing against the clock to recover vital medicine from an enemy camp. But most devolve into questionable tropes like a crazed southern woman who chews people up for meat she sells Sweeney Todd-style.

Your mute, customizable protagonist is equally bland. Almost anything you do, even with good intentions, makes the world worse. It paints your efforts as so nihilistically pointless; you just can’t care about the story or your choices. A young girl you track down is the real center of attention, but we have no reason to care about her either. After you both survive a plane crash, your character starts having visions of the girl’s journey in the form of “echoes,” temporal imprints on the world that only you can see. Everyone speaks vaguely about how the girl’s important, but there’s no real hook. It’s like the worst of J.J. Abrams’ mystery box storytelling, without the benefit of decent actors to carry the plot along.

There are glimmers of a better game here. You can find secrets, including bonus loot caches and shortcuts that substantially cut down on travel time. The ability to leave spray-painted messages for other players is much more useful than the vague warnings in Dark Souls. Your drone companion is wonderfully versatile too, serving you well in combat and exploration, especially after an early upgrade. There are a handful of other charming characters, such as an adorable robot gardener and a sentient vending machine. You can also find unique fights if you pay attention, but they’re few and far between.

The Surge 2 Is Bug-Riddled, Unbalanced, and Incoherent

The Surge 2 is riddled with bugs as well. Textures flicker, AI locks in place, and the lighting engine refuses to work. I actually missed the route to the first boss’s arena because the walkway was pitch black. It’s also possible to accidentally untarget limbs by moving your mouse to shift the camera angle. This is a single-player game that barely incorporates online elements, yet it freezes when it loses internet connection for a second. The only way to avoid this is to permanently play in offline mode, which means you won’t spot the hints from other players. Some glitches at launch are understandable, but The Surge 2 clearly should have been delayed.

The design is so warped that core lessons of the Souls-like genre like blocking, countering, and strategic positioning are often discouraged wholesale. I spent most of The Surge 2 as a rogue who could tank thousands of hits. That’s something I’d expect from God of War, not Dark Souls.

The Surge 2 is a mostly playable wreck. It might whet the appetite of Souls-like fans, but it’s likely to leave you wanting. Many of the game’s major gameplay hooks don’t fully come together or feel redundant. I can’t even tell you what the point of The Surge 2 is. There are a mountain of potential threads it could choose to focus on, but instead, it spreads itself out to the point of irrelevance. Rather than being a bigger and better version of The Surge, The Surge 2 swallows the series’s potential.

I had a different conclusion in mind for my closing thoughts on The Surge 2 until I looked up the game’s intro on YouTube to refresh my memory. That’s when I saw a critical narrative introduction that I never had the chance to play. You wander around on a plane and meet the young girl, Athena, learning why you’re supposed to care about her. This didn’t make sense. Had I remembered things wrong? No. The Surge 2 just didn’t play this for me due to another glitch.

There’s more that I could talk about like the game’s tedious tacked-on spiritual themes or bosses with wildly inconsistent hitboxes, but what’s the point? At its very best, The Surge 2 is little more than a time sink that doesn’t stand out in the sea of open world games. I appreciate what Deck13 is aiming for, but they have to narrow their focus with their projects. Do yourself a favor, and skip The Surge 2.

Elijah Beahm
Elijah’s your Guy Friday for all things strange and awesome in obscure gaming. He spends way too much time talking about such things on Twitter @UnabridgedGamer and his YouTube channel The Unabridged Gamer.

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45 Comments

  1. Minor request to EiC et al.: can the title for all reviews henceforth please be preceded by a “Review:” indicator so as to tell what the link is about even before clicking it? Helps sort out types of articles at a glance, through RSS indexers and other tools. Cheers.

    1. Can do, we wanted to keep “review” out of the title since it’s an in-progress review and we’re trying reviews a little differently going forward. You’ll always find the indicator in the Category tag though.

  2. didnt care for the first one after putting in a few hours and this dosent like like anreason to try the next one out

    1. THANK U NEXT

  3. And that’s three for three when it comes to Deck13’s attempts at Dark Souls. So far the only Souls-like I feel has worked is Nioh which ramped up the combat options and did its own thing with the formula.

    1. That’s the key point for Nioh. They couldn’t really compete in regards to the world-building or atmosphere… So Team Ninja drew upon their strengths as a ‘character action’ and all around fighting developer to tune the combat up to 11 in most regards. Then they added in a touch of ‘Diablo’ with their loot system to further diversify characters and always ensure that there was hardly ever one ‘best-ever’ bit of gear like… say… how the Dark Sword was in Dark Souls 3–which was a broken monster before they toned it down, especially if you put it through the Balanced path on a 50/50 build (least in my experience for that last bit).

      1. Nah, the atmosphere brought across war torn Japan really well and, let’s be real here, “world-building” in the Souls franchise has always amounted to “FromSoft just making stuff up” so it’s NOT a high bar to clear. Hell, Miyazaki had admitted as much

    2. Ashen is definitely worth a try if you haven’t played that yet. Not as challenging, but the world is awesome and the boss fights are pretty creative.

        1. You really should… it’s a super gorgeous game with far better design and execution.

          1. If it’s because of EGS, it’s also coming to PS4 and already out on Xbox One. Plus a Steam release in early 2020.

          2. You really should try it out.

    3. Fuck Dark Souls. And Nioh is not a “souls-like”

      Surge 2 is a great game but full of bugs.

      1. There are certainly performance issues but I have barely encountered anything I’d consider to be a bug.

  4. Yeah… Nobody should be surprised by this.

    Deck13 is like a cheap man’s Spiders. Whereas Spiders produced games that play almost 1-to-1 like every single one of their preceding games, Deck13 has made multiple stinkers before they found the tiniest sliver of success in the unbalanced slog of a mess that was Lords of the Fallen–And they only managed that by aping hard on Dark Souls. And The Surge only did as well as it did, despite that, because we still have yet to see a good ‘Soulsborne’ game in a Sci-Fi setting.

    So it’s not exactly shocking that their sequel to the game can’t even measure up to the same bar as the first. Like I said, Spiders makes pretty much the same game over and over, but you know what? It’s a decent system mechanically, and they don’t tend to repeat themselves too hard. Imagine if they made exclusively Fantasy games, you likely couldn’t handle more than another after Bound By Flame before they all started to meld into one giant gelatinous cube. So they hop about with settings, try to differentiate one game from another…

    Deck13, meanwhile, sits in their tub of malignant mediocrity and think it is still fresh water. That they haven’t even realized the ‘timer’ they tossed in to try and make some desperate play to avoid completely aping Dark Souls adds literally nothing to the experience shows how little they’ve grown. Their only addition is messages, which From had nailed from Day 1 on Game 1. And, mechanically speaking, all of the issues listed for 2 existed in the original. Once you had specific armor bits, you had zero reason to switch them out afterwards. Hammers were pretty much the nigh-only weapon worth using because of the Stagger and Energy generation were broken on them. And as long as you had energy, you could spam Shield drones–which if you’re using a hammer, you’ll always have energy.

    I got the platinum for the game in one rental period (7 days), The first playthrough was a mediocre if alright game of run-and-stop as bosses were either boringly simple or utterly broken in damage. The second? Just bland. Once you have the ‘right’ gear, everything just turns into a mashing simulator interspersed with enemies that are blatantly set to a higher level than you for the sole purpose of actually adding a modicum of challenge to the game. They really don’t though.

    1. This game is fantastic and the reviewer clearly has a chip on his shoulder for some odd reason. Deck13 are a great AA developer it makes me sick when I see people act like they’re too good for developers who don’t have 100 million dollar budgets. What they achieved in this game with what they have is beyond incredible. The combat in this game is fantastic.

      1. You do understand that a bad review doesn’t mean the author has a “chip on his shoulder”…right? You may not be experiencing bugs now because they have released patches, which is great.

        If you’re enjoying the game, great! But there’s no point in acting like the reviewer has an agenda to push against the game, he played it, he reviewed it, he found issues with it and that’s it.

        1. Yes, but we can have issues with the fact that he has issues with it. Its called a discussion.

          1. Didn’t say anywhere you couldn’t discuss it. I just said don’t assume an author has an agenda against a game that they gave a bad review on.

          2. “gave a bad review to”
            Little edit there.

      2. That’s cute of you, spamming a week+ old review to ‘defend’ some poor game from all those mean ole’ reviewers. Good old brown-nosed knight in cheap armor, you are.

        I said it’s mediocre. Other individuals have said its mediocre. And it’s not that I’m too good for games with explosive budgets (though that is absolutely childishly precious of you to assume so), it’s that I’m too good for games not worth my time. I’ve got Blasphemous to enjoy right now, and that is worth far more than The Surge 2 can say for me.

        But keep on truckin’ on!

    2. Can you get tubs of malignant mediocrity on Amazon?

  5. I don’t like any of the Dark/Demon Souls games that I’ve played to date. Surge 1 was one of my favorite titles….I wonder where I sit…

  6. I came around to the first one, but you had to only play one way to have a really viable character, and that’s fast and quick hitting. Once I did that and dropped all massive stuff that locked you in long drawn out combos, the game became more playable. I think the first one also had really poor level design, not helped by the sameness of most corridors. I’ve heard Jim Sterling say this is better than the first, but I take Jim’s opinions with more a grain of salt these days.

  7. What in the hell game did this guy play??? I’ve been playing the surge 2 for 8 hours now and have not encountered any major bugs, no bugs at all if I remember

    1. There’s a lot of graphic bugs.. the TXAA ruined my character and NPC’s with a fucking blur, the vsync didn’t work at all, the map looks BAD, the lightning looks bad…

      1. I have not noticed any bugs, the start of the game the graphics are very blah, but once you get into it more the graphics actually improve big time, some beautiful areas

        1. If you are on PC you probably wont have any. But consoles are having some serious issues.

        2. Yeah I am 10 hours in playing at 4k max settings motion blur and chromatic abboration off with SMAA and I think the game is absolutely fantastic and haven’t had a single bug or drop below 60 fps

      2. if you are playing this on pc with graphics issues you may need a new pc or an upgrade… lol

  8. I’m now 15 hours in and no bugs…. They did do several day 1 patches tho…. I don’t understand this review. I’m a souls fan, and actual playable souls games may come once a year. This year we had sekiro and surge 2. Does this reviewer really have better souls games to play this time of year? What a terrible misleading review. Great game. I give a 8.5/10.

    1. Very much agree, this guy is either elitist or delusional. Its a good game, no bugs for me except once or twice when an enemy happens to get stuck in a wall upon execution, which did nothing besides make me chuckle.
      Some people have standards high enough to scale a skyscraper… This review is going above and beyond to try and drag this game into the dirt and I dont really see why. Game is fun, definitely not perfect… but these days if youre looking for perfect you’ll be looking for a while.

      1. Wow what a fanboys.. The game is great but is full of bugs (mostly graphical bugs) the lightning doesn’t work correctly, the textures load very bad, TSAA ruins the map, the TXAA ruined my character and npcs with a blur…

        1. Stop being an idiot. Game plays great and even with the shit seemingly not working at times AA and with lighting issues its so much fucking better then countless other games particularly the “aaa” coming out looking uglier then a fat mans asshole and even without bugs plays like trash with lootboxes sprinkled on top. They’ve already patched what would have taken something like ea or bungle a month or more to do. Better the game looks a little ugly then have massive game breaking issues

    2. Agreed. The game is fantastic

  9. “spent most of The Surge 2 as a rogue who could tank thousands of hits. ” If this is true you need to make a character build page. Cuz 15 hours in. I can’t take more that 2-3 hits from the weakest enemies before retreating and healing.

    1. You can heal during combat and the best way to get better defense is to push through to stronger enemies taking pieces of their armor because higher level enemies arent as bad as you might think. Most of the time stagger enemies or deal electric damage before they can get too many hits off onto me. early on you can always just destroy unarmored parts to farm enemies for scrap till you get your core leveled up for more energy and stamina which are more important than health.

  10. This review is straight trash. This is a super fun game, and has nowhere nearly the number of problems this reviewer implies. I’ve encountered no bugs at all. A few crashes to desktop on area transitions, but that’s not a big deal and will be patched. Do yourself a favor and ignore this review.

    1. Game is full that’s a fact but.. There’s a lot of graphic bugs.. the TXAA ruined my character and NPC’s with a fucking blur, the vsync didn’t work at all, the map looks BAD, the lightning looks bad…

      1. Haven’t had a single bug yet. Maybe use SMAA? Looks better anyways. I’m playing at 4k max settings (no blur or abboration) with SMAA and 60 fps locked no bugs whatsoever.

  11. This review is very accurate. I loved The Surge 1 and was very hyped for sequel since The Surge 1 copied Dark Souls extremely well. I was very dissapointed when I noticed this game doesn’t have that mysterious Souls-athmosphere, instead there is uninteresting plot and boring NPC’s. I guess story is just badly told since in paper everything could sound interesting, but when playing it’s boring right at the start of the game. Many useless scripted events, action after every corner, many useless NPC’s when you play forward…

    Btw, I loved Surge 1 NPC’s and was happy everytime I met one! They were so interesting with good story lines. Remember those two guys who come at medbay and accuse other for being a liar, that Indian looking guy who advertises CREO in TV (and finally you meet him), engineer father with missing child (and finally you meet the child), woman on hologram who gives you advises (and finally you meet her), etc. Story of first game was also awesome with plot twists! After beating the game you’d go to youtube to watch lore videos, but not after you beat The Surge 2. What the yell happened to Deck13?! Did some corporate guy force they to water the game down, or was it just one genius on Deck13 who made The Surge 1 happen but he got fired or left? Either way this game is not that good. Combat is fun, but nearly everything else is so meh it makes me angry since Deck13 already proved them selfs in The Surge 1. They can make a very good game, but this is not even near it.

  12. Which game did the guy even play? Because boorish way the review has been written here, I don’t think he played surge 2

  13. An analysis rubbish for such a good game. If you didn’t like the game just stop playing, don’t post your frustrations trying to demerit the game itself.

  14. 😀 so what i just read is that you whining because its not a Souls game… Bro its a souls LIKE game not the same. What is the reason to play with this game? Well maybe its the atmosphere how it feels or its catches you better than dark souls i mean it looks fantastic. When i got into the game i stopped and listened to the music like 3-4 times and it just put me into the right mood to start the game. I didnt see any bugs about textures… and yeah it switches target sometimes well you need ot focus 😮 this review was just full of whining and whinging about something that is irrelevant. You can choose to put on an armor and weapon that you really like the looks of it and it makes the game that much harder to beat. Or put on something that makes it easier the choice is yours. I enjoy playing with it really much. peace

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