From Software has inspired a whole slew of imitators since the launch of the original Dark Souls. While Demon’s Souls was the originator, the multiplatform release re-acclimated players to the idea that it’s okay to be truly challenged, to be forced to think about an attack before taking it in an action RPG setting. Deck 13 took this idea and ran with it during the creation of Lords of the Fallen. While they introduced an interesting mechanic around banking experience points and gave players a storyline that didn’t need to be unearthed through a frightening amount of dedication, it also wore its inspiration on its sleeve, with bright flashing lights and a few air horns (didn’t mean that it wasn’t good).
The developer truly came into their own with The Surge. Taking the meticulous approach to combat that they practiced with Lords of the Fallen and marrying it to a mechanical science fiction future, The Surge had a flavor of its own while still adhering to a gameplay style that just doesn’t get old. Knowing when they had a good thing, Deck 13 quickly began work on The Surge 2. Based on what they’ve shown off, the primary design document for this sequel is to take what they’ve already accomplished and just layer on more. More options, more weapons, a larger map, more everything. This strategy appears to be paying off.
One of the first things players will notice is that they’ll be able to create their own character. No more will we be saddled with a generic dude. This might seem like a small change, considering player created characters are common in these games, but it’s a welcome first step, indicating that the developers are opening the door to more player agency.
The more philosophy extends to the map. In their previous titles, Deck 13 stuck primarily to linear areas with a few secrets. Exploration wasn’t really needed as the path forward was basically a straight line. The Surge 2‘s city of Jericho, however, is larger and folds in over itself to a more satisfying degree. Players will be able to find all sorts of new areas with hidden rewards, fresh tactical options, such as perches to launch a “death from above” attack, and various environmental types, each with their own challenges.
The fights themselves are more focused on control. Enemies still have abilities that they’ll love to use against the player, and the player will be able to carve pieces off of the baddies and claim the equipment for their own. This time, though, these abilities can be shut down mid battle. The best example shown was the mercenaries that loved to use hit and run tactics while using a cloaking device. Now, the shimmer can still be seen, and they will disturb tall grass and such, giving their location away, but the whole invisibility thing can get old. To put a stop to it, the player can concentrate their attacks on this piece of equipment on the enemy’s armor, disabling it and leaving them exposed.
Further enhancing the player’s combat options is a new directional block system. When enemies attack, players with a keen eye and quick reflexes can gauge the direction of the attack and specifically block that direction. Pulling this off successfully will stagger the opponent, leaving them wide open for a merciless counterattack. It’s almost like Dead or Alive’s counter system made sweet love with the parrying of Dark Souls and Bloodborne to spawn a fair, but challenging battle option.
Deck 13 also took the time to show off one of the new boss fights. While exploring a garden in one of Jericho’s public parks, an area that is forbidden for all but the most privileged citizens, we came across a statue of the Goddess Helena. Sensing that we didn’t belong, it sprang up and attacked. At first, fighting was slow going, with little damage noticeable on the machine’s health bar. Through concentrated attacks, though, the armor on its legs was knocked off, exposing the more fragile pieces underneath. Taking advantage of this opening, the boss was soon downed. It didn’t seem easy, but it was doable. The dedication that Deck 13 is devoting to fleshing out The Surge 2 is sure to pay dividends. The environments shown were lush and detailed, and the combat system, along with the ability to earn new equipment by cutting it the heck off of an enemy, is just as cool as ever. It’s still not going to win any awards for originality, but that’s okay. The Surge 2 is happy with tweaking and expanding on an established formula, nipping at the heels of From Software’s juggernaut. The end result will please players looking for more of the thoughtful action RPG games and push the genre forward through careful iteration.