Both this and Code Vein are worthy purchases, albeit for very different reasons, which game is your cup of tea will depend heavily on personal preference, I’ll go into that below.
The Surge 2 Story
In the contest between this and Code Vein, the winner of the Soulslike contest is… Both of them!
The Surge 2 follows up as a direct sequel to the original, and storywise assumes that you modified the payload that goes up into space with the USB stick that you get from the good doctor about midway through the first game. This has the net result of preventing the worst of the Utopia launch, namely killing everyone very quickly, but also results in the nanites picking up elements of the boss you fight at the very end of the first game. I’m trying to avoid too many named spoilers but covering this element of the story is important because it sets the stage for the world you enter in the second game.
This time around, instead of playing as Warren, you get to create your own character, with a choice of background (which has a minor narrative impact), and you can set your gender, customise your looks, and much like any souls game, set everything up to your liking, before you’re thrust into the game proper. Enter pandemonium, you start off in a prison hospital where everything is currently falling apart, with rioting in the cell blocks, and something very big and ugly ripping the structure and guards a new one.
The Surge 2 Gameplay
Map design in the second game is best described as knotty, the number of shortcuts and loopbacks in each given area is impressive, and you’re never far away from a path back to a medbay to bank your tech scrap, or field an upgrade to your power core. This does come at the tradeoff that the maps are more dense, instead of being expansive horizontally, they compensate in being more intricate and expansive vertically, in some places this works exceptionally well such as downtown Jericho, in Port Nixon however it ends up making the area feel somewhat bland and lacking in identity (the port really could have done with being more sweeping).
This map design gets remixed at the half way stage once you defeat a specific boss, and the story essentially moves forward in a very permanent way, this refreshes the maps and prevents things from getting boring, but then opens up one of my more definite criticisms of the game.
The nanite enemies make a very unwelcome return, and in force, and boy do they annoy the timber out of you. In the first game they were gimmicky, the gimmick here seems to have gone for the most part, replaced instead by absurdly fast, sweeping blow mobs that can, even with heavy armour, four or five shot you. You’re going to want to invest in armour upgrades in a big way once the midway point kicks in, and ensure your weapons are up to scratch, because the difficulty jumps significantly.
The Surge 2 has made several very welcome improvements, the drone now works using an ammo pool that can be refilled by killing enemies, and extra ammo can be banked at a medbay (in fact you end up drowning in the stuff even if you drain the clip of the drone regularly), the much maligned weapon skill grind has gone, which given the sheer variety of weapon types has climbed significantly, again, is really welcome.
Implants are now all treated as hot swap types, so you can experiment with different build types, also welcome (though the seeming lack of exo-rig upgrades to this point is annoying, the first game allowed for 16 implants max, this looks to top at 12). I’ve not *finished* the game, so if there is an exo-rig upgrade for more implants, let me know.
Less welcome is the directional parry system, which adds a needless bit of fiddling to what is a simple concept, if you block at the exact right moment, you should be rewarded, now instead you have to use the right stick to match the direction of the attack at the right time whilst holding the block button. This is fiddly and with some enemies, a real pain as their attack patterns are too unpredictable to make this work properly. The original parry system worked -fine-, this feels like adding a third wheel to the bicycle.
The other complaint is that whilst you can now upgrade implants that provide injections such as heals, you cannot upgrade other implants, this seems like a massive oversight, because that would allow you to fine tune your build. Perhaps they can fix this particular issue, because being able to upgrade one set of implants but not another feels really arbitrary.
The Surge 2 Final Verdict
If you loved The Surge, this is a no brainer. If you love soulslikes, this is a no brainer. The combat is very much of the Dark Souls vein, albeit with a voice of it’s own and enough added on top to feel interesting (the original game is still one of my top recommendations for people looking for a change from Dark Souls itself), if you’re fresh to the Souls genre as a whole, I’d *slightly* recommend starting with the original, and then moving up to this one once you’ve mastered the original. It’ll make the learning curve a lot easier. But that really is personal preference.
Oh, and obviously, if you like your souls with Anime, Code Vein is also there for you. But that review is elsewhere.
What do you think? Did Cuphead exceed your expectations? Or was the challenge too much to bear? As always, we welcome all views. So, feel free to air your stance in the comments.