In all honesty, the first meeting with The Surge 2, which took place at the last E3 in hands-off mode, did not particularly surprise us: the demo chosen by the developers did not seem compelling, the level design had not made us crazy, and we had not caught a real leap forward compared to the first chapter. And instead we were wrong, and big, too. Basically because, as with all souls like, seeing it played and facing it firsthand are two extremely different things.
Deck 13 is setting up an extremely hardcore action-RPG, full of interesting mechanics and with a particular rhythm . The developers seem to have followed the advice of the community, correcting the errors and weaknesses of the debut title, thus managing to refine the formula and at the same time give it a decidedly pleasant profile. However, we want to take it easy, as there is still a lot of information missing (such as the plot and longevity), but after an hour of hands-on, held at the last Focus Home Interactive event, we can claim to be remained quite satisfied (and also quite bruised).
Jericho City, terminus
Last summer we were a bit disappointed with the setting shown to us during the hand-off of The Surge 2: the location a kind of roof garden, with a few glass surfaces here and there and metal inserts around the map. It was also an area too small to have an idea of the general goodness of the work, to the point that even the technique could not stand out.
Finally we managed to better understand the work of Deck 13, thanks to a piloted demonstration and a test with a hand that was granted to us, and guess what? Now the game has taken a very different turn. Graphically speaking, The Surge 2 looks more than good : the polygonal mass is very high, shaders and textures are well cared for and the color palette with cold tones gives that Sci-Fi touch perfectly in line with nature of production.
The animations are fluid, although occasionally some " junction frame " is missing, and to be honest there are also small interpenetrations that come up every now and then. Nevertheless it is absolutely not the case to worry: in purely technical terms, the general yield is more than remarkable, especially if we dare the comparison with the titles From Software.
Remaining on this front, obviously, the artistic direction cannot compete with the excellence of a Bloodborne, but maybe it is also a question of setting.
Besides, it often happens that futuristic scenarios are deliberately on the edge of anonymity. However, this is not the case with The Surge 2, because even if the design does not shine particularly well, perhaps due to a repetitiveness that is not exactly elegant, what we have seen so far is not at all displeased. We laid our eyes on a handful of locations that make up the city of Jericho, from the urban to the artificial nature that sometimes overlooks civilization, and in some moments we were surprised by the intuitions that moved the artists. Among other things, the look of armor and weapons is very pleasant, although perhaps it is the level of detail reserved for enemies that strikes the most: therefore, we believe that if the quantity reaches quality, it could be a full center. Unfortunately, talking about the plot or the narrative is impossible, since we still know little or nothing: the beginning sees our protagonist fall to the outskirts of the aforementioned city, to wake up only a long time later, imprisoned, threatened by court martial, by out of control robots and a strange storm looming over the horizon. Will all this be enough to make the digital fresco signed by Deck 13 alive and interesting?
Smembrami, but gracefully
How can "expand" the combat system of a Souls Like? Easy: insert a dismemberment system with rewards, offensive companion style drones, the directional parade and then it speeds up the mobility of the character, just enough to make everything more hectic.
This is, in very large lines, what the guys at Deck 13 have tried to do with their creature, and the result is certainly satisfying, punitive as never before. And yet there is more: the difficulty of a title like Dark Souls is that the logic of approach to combat is many and all complex; there are numerous combinations of micro-patterns that are often difficult to read, which require very high and constant attention, and also a great deal of reflexes.
In The Surge 2 all this is, but to a lesser extent, since the attack sequences of enemies are sometimes simpler. The damage inflicted is still high, as well as the intransigence that regulates the so-called "action windows".
Rather than copying the From system into the trunk, the developers added other variables, turning the experience into something faithful to the paradigm and also quite different.
And this, of course, is something we really enjoyed. The blue energy bar immediately leaps to the eye, and is in practice a kind of kinetic force that accumulates by fighting, necessary to activate some specific skills such as care. Even the glorious parry is fundamental since it allows to unbalance the enemy gaining a real advantage, not to mention the stamina, which imposes the rhythm of each fight and so on.
In any case, perhaps more than all the rest, the central (and unpublished) element is the directional parade. Basically we will have four directions to choose from with the lever, so as to accommodate the incoming blow with the correct posture and avoid the impact. Observing the animations and understanding the times will be vital, since some details are intentionally ambiguous, designed to deceive our guard.
The idea of dismemberment, on the other hand, is doubly brilliant: once exhausted an opponent we can choose to aim the decisive blow at a specific limb, which however will have a more or less high resistance depending on the degree of armor. Once the destination is decided, a mini-cutscene will start, which will see us violently sever the "piece" of the enemy.
The point is that every limb brings with it a specific drop, necessary for character upgrades, so we must also consider this variation: understanding what we need and insisting or not (sometimes even extending battle times) to bring it to us home. Besides being fun and "new", this approach is inextricably linked to the mechanics of progression (and farming).
It goes without saying that all this is inextricably linked to the dynamics of crafting: the menu is vast and articulated, and is divided into several categories, among which the one of the plants stands out, perhaps even more important than the traditional section "statistics ". From the enemies in fact you can collect not only materials, weapons or objects, but also projects, to be used to create a wide range of physical improvements: it is a feature that represents the very core of the gameplay, and for now it has seemed remarkably multifaceted and stimulating.
In all this, however, it must be said that the behavior of the adversaries has not always proved satisfactory ; the individual's AI certainly does not excel, and at times it seemed to us that they detected our presence almost automatically, as if they were equipped with a super-view. In addition, the damage is very high and some gunshots seem impossible to block. Moreover, and this has really bothered us, the parade posture cannot be superimposed on the dodging movement, a limit that renders the fight unnecessarily woody.
Here, we would like the difficulty of the game to be well calibrated, and to do without these expedients, focusing more on the facets of the already excellent mechanics inserted. We hope that Deck 13 has the opportunity to retouch these and other small smears, which are also present in the old title, because if this were so The Surge 2 could finally explain its glass and metal wings and be noticed by the general public.