Launched back in 2017, The Surge was something of a surprise. Developed by Deck13 — developers of Lords of the Fallen — I called The Surge excellent in my review, though criticised its boss fights for being too easy and too few and its combat for being too sluggish. While clearly inspired by Dark Souls, The Surge managed to stand apart from FromSoftware’s series.
So what’s changed in the past two years? What does The Surge 2 bring to the table that the first one didn’t and what makes The Surge 2 a game worth playing?
Let’s take a look.
The Surge 2
The first game was set at the headquarters of CREO, a company working to “save” the world. CREO’s headquarters was a sprawling, interconnected place, though not like the worlds in Souls or Bloodborne. Instead, The Surge featured hubs that were connected by loading screens.
Part of what makes these action-RPGs so good is the connected nature of the overworld, the shortcuts you unlock and you’re eventual knowledge of the layout.
In The Surge 2, Deck13 has worked to make the world more like this. More connected, seamless and interesting. I spoke with Deck13 Founder, Owner and The Surge 2 Director Jan Klose about the game. He told me that in creating Jericho City (The Surge 2’s setting) he and his team wanted to “give the players more choice.”
Jericho City is unlike the CREO headquarters in many ones. Chiefly, the first game took place in an industrial/factory setting whereas in The Surge 2, the action takes place in a city.
Klose told me “We are in an urban environment. We have a more diverse environment on the one hand but on the other hand, when you think of a city you already expect there are several different paths you can go and it’s not that linear.
“That’s what we tried to add. Much more nonlinearity to really suit different play styles and different ways of exploring the game,” he explained.
Klose also told me that developing linear experiences is much easier but that it requires more “staging.” “You need to keep the player entertained instead of player caring for his own entertainment by the way they choose to play,” he explained. In creating The Surge 2 and Jericho City, Deck13 wants to be able to offer something to all players.
“Maybe some person is more into exploring. Then we want to give them some advantages when they do that. But they should not have more advantages to someone who’s a good fighter.”
Klose also told me about the difficulties in moving a game like this into a more open setting. Especially when it comes to signposting for players. In an open environment, the developer needs to give guidance to the player about where they can go and where they should go, Klose said. “It’s a difficult balance,” he said.
To solve the issue, Klose and his team “have one clear main path” but have also incentivised the player to look for secrets, crossroads and other areas. That way, players will learn that in The Surge 2, going off the beaten path can and will yield rewards.
The idea was that we tried to lure you away from the main path, but not too much so that you still know what you’re supposed to do.
Obviously, this will not always work for every player, but we hope that for the majority they know their main goal and they know, “Oh, this is also something interesting I could do now.
Maybe I should.
It’s not just about finding secrets or exploring either. As Klose explained to me, often in these types of games, you may come to a point on the critical path where you’re unable to proceed.
“Maybe a boss fight or a boss that just feels too hard for you, then you should feel that you’re allowed to turn back and to look for other clues.
“Maybe to look for better weapons, to do some more levelling up. Maybe solve some more side quests and then return stronger and say, “Okay, now this should be easier for me,'” he added.
In creating the open-world of Jericho City, Deck13 has also crafted a much larger game world than that in The Surge. While Klose couldn’t give me an exact measurement of the size of Jericho City he did tell me that it was much large.
However, he mentioned that those players who just push through the main path will have a shorter experience than the first game. To get the most out of The Surge 2, players will need to explore.
One inspiration in designing Jericho City for Deck13 was Batman: Arkham Knight. Another was Blade Runner. Jericho City isn’t complete science fiction and it has a grounding in reality, however, after everything that’s happened in this city, it looks and feels unique.
In the first game, the main character was Warren, who arrived at CREO for his first day of work. In The Surge 2, the narrative continues, however, players are now able to create their own characters.
“This time we have a character creator at the beginning of the game. You can choose your character and choose as a male or female character and the looks of the character,” Klose said. “By that design, of course, you are not the same hero as in the first one.
“You’re not Warren.”
He did hint that Warren may appear in The Surge 2 he just won’t be playable. Klose teased that this is a new story after the events of the first game but you’ll gain insight into what happened, what the outcome has been and what your role is in this world.
It’s impossible to avoid the comparisons of The Surge to Dark Souls so I asked Klose about it. How he felt about the comparisons and what he thought separates The Surge.
I would say there are some basic mechanics in this genre that people like and that we don’t want to throw overboard all of them.
But we really try to go our own way. For us, maybe it’s a little bit more the action focused game play.
For some people it might be a bit less about stats and a bit more about taking care of what’s happening on the screen.
Klose emphasised again that in The Surge 2 it all comes down to player choice. “Whatever you do in the game, you should have the choice of how you do it.”
“There shouldn’t be this one version of doing it, but there should be your own ideas and your own skills coming into play,” he continued adding, “This is what we tried to emphasise, even more with the second part of The Surge, to just give you more options on how you play the game.”
We tried to make the whole experience even more fluid, so we tried to give you as much control over your character and your actions as ever possible without totally breaking the feeling of a real fighting.
Also, we did some more range combat in there, so we really tried to expand on all the fields and have the player be the ones who mix it together in the end to get their experience. I would say, that for me is the biggest difference.
When it comes to combat, players can expect to face off against a huge range of enemies in The Surge 2. Klose is excited when he talks about the variety of enemies this time around.
He tells me that there will be human-sized bosses and others that will be on a gigantic scale. There will also be far more boss encounters than in the first game.
“We’ve also tried to soften the definition of the boss fight a little bit. There are many things that you can be drawn into that feel like a very, very strong, powerful fight.”
Unlike the first game where it was largely undead guys in exo-armour, The Surge 2 is throwing way more at you. It’s doing a lot of world-building through its enemies too. In The Surge 2 there are a number of factions within Jericho City which is under quarantine.
Klose says that most of the “normal” people have left the city. The streets are patrolled by people and machines, like a police force, but there are also resistance fighters and a strange electro cult.
Zombies do return, but Klose assures me they’re more interesting. “The overall angle is that the enemies are more intelligent this time because they’re not just brain-dead monsters. They can team up, they can use lifts and can jump over gaps, and they can react more to what the player is doing.”
When Klose touched on the electro cult, I asked him if The Surge 2 would have some religious themes and he couldn’t talk much about it, but he did say that the team wanted to look at what the future would look like if The Surge was real.
I cannot tell too much about that right now, but we really tried to emphasise the lore of the world a little bit more and try to figure out a little bit, if we would have this world in the future where the future does not look so bright, what would people turn to?
What would their new gods be? What would their ideas of salvation be? We came up with a faction that really believes in technology but in a sort of religious way.
Each of the factions will be distinct from one another too. They’ll wear different armour and carry different weapons, which makes equipping your character all the more interesting. Like in The Surge, in The Surge 2 players will be able to target specific body parts and dismember enemies.
Doing so will allow you to collect the enemies’ weapons and armour and use them for yourself.
“You can target body parts and you can chop them up, and then you can take the materials and craft something for yourself.
“You can acquire all of the gear your enemies are wearing. Everything you see on enemies, you can take and you can use for yourself,” Klose explains.
Overall, The Surge 2 is going to be a bigger, better and bloodier game. Klose and Deck13 have been working on development ever since The Surge was released and is now, nearing release.
From my chat with Jan Klose, it was clear that he is incredibly passionate and dedicated, especially in giving players choice and freedom as they explore Jericho City and The Surge 2.
From everything we’ve seen so far, he looks to have succeeded.
Thanks to Jan Klose for his time.
The Surge 2 will be available for PC, PS4 and Xbox One on September 24, 2019.