Imitation is the highest form of flattery, especially in the form of violently challenging video games.
It’s been only little over a year since Deck13 released its sleeper hit “The Surge,” but that didn’t stop the developer from bringing the “The Surge 2” to this year’s E3. And its more than just a quick turnaround of a sequel. In a closed door, hands-off demo, I got to see exactly what changes to expect in the punishingly hard, sci-fi action game.
If you’re unfamiliar with Deck13, it is one of the most successful studios to ape one of the fundamental goals of the “Dark Souls” series: to reward players with extremely challenging gameplay and lots of dying. The studio first took up the challenge with 2014’s medieval “Lords of the Fallen,” only to refine the dynamic with “The Surge” series. As Adam Hetenyi, head of game design at Deck13, explains it, “‘The Surge 2’ is a hard core action RPG with a focus on tactical combat.”
The upcoming game will take place in a new location, a quarantined city named Jericho. As you would expect, Jericho has walls.
“Nothing’s getting in or out,” Hetenyi said.
In what was once an upper crust paradise, Jericho has turned pretty damn dystopian, with mercenaries scavenging whatever’s left of the once-aristocratic playground. Mercenaries aren’t the only thing roaming the streets of Jericho. There is an enormous, and ominous-looking funnel cloud in the sky that Hetenyi called a “mysterious storm.” And wouldn’t you know it, that mysterious storm is dropping off some terrifying monsters that will probably kill you a lot.
The demo focused only on an early part of the game, traversing through a synthetic forest that’s been overrun by mercenaries. I got to see “The Surge 2’s” limb-targeting combat system at work. The sequel will rely heavily on crafting from schematics and parts acquired from enemies. You get these from targeting limbs off of enemies who stand in your way. Chest armor could carry cloaking devices you can scavenge. Legs can have side arms you can attach to a little drone buddy that can shoot firearms for you, a la “Nier: Automata.”
As with most sequels, “The Surge 2” will be a lot bigger. The landscape will be more open, though not an open world, prompting players to explore for loot, lore, and extra goodies. It’s a deviation from the first game’s tight combat corridors.
“The Surge 2” will have many more weapons than the first. Instead of five weapon types, the new game will have 10, though Hetenyi declined to name them all. The weapon the character used in the demo was one he called “double duty” It was a large, slow, powerful axe, that broke apart into two quick implements of death. It looked similar to “Bloodborne’s” transforming weapons, though without the eldritch horror. There will be a number of firearms, but only your little drone buddy can equip them as a secondary attack.
“We love giving players the option to find their own gameplay style and to give them plenty of weapons to try,” Hetenyi said.
Besides that “The Surge 2” will include new consumables, a new crafting system, new character creation, and lots more enemies. It will also feature a new blocking system. The first game had a high and low block, but the sequel will have directional pushes in all four directions. They act like parries (as also seen in “Dark Souls”) that create the opportunity for powerful counter attacks. It’s a high risk for a higher reward.
The demo was short but compelling. It expanded on the interesting world of “The Surge” and how death can find you anywhere. In the end, what looked like a decorative statue turned into a devastating guardian that the character had to destroy piece by piece. It was a neat bit of world building and looked super fun to play.
As with the studio’s previous two games, Hetenyi said that there would be no difficulty setting. The game is hard because the developers want it to be hard.
“We want this game to be a challenge, and we want the fun to come from the challenge,” he said.
Hetenyi said “The Surge 2” will release sometime in 2019 on PS4, XBOX, and PC.