The Surge 2: A Look At The Revamped Combat System

A lot of well-executed ideas that left me wanting more.
Heads and limbs will fly in this revamped and improved combat for The Surge 2.
Heads and limbs will fly in this revamped and improved combat for The Surge 2. Focus Home Interactive

The Surge 2 is out in two months’ time, and I was lucky enough to get a chance to play an early beta build of the game which showcased its new setting, revamped combat and gameplay mechanics, as well as its other new plethora of features. If you’re looking for some thoughts on how the game plays and compares to the original, as well as a rundown of what to expect, check out my in-depth here.

For this piece, let’s take a closer look at the revamped combat system, which is, in my opinion, one of the strongest aspects of The Surge 2. It still follows pretty closely to the spirit of the original, but with everything streamlined to provide a smoother and somewhat easier experience. Now, I know some people may take offense with the term “easier,” but there is still room for a challenge.

If you’re unfamiliar with how combat worked in The Surge, it worked on a limb-based system, where you target specific limbs to attack. It’s very unlikely that you’ll ever find yourself attacking without locking-on first, as you get no bonuses from doing so. The limb-based system, however, is good for two things:

  • Attacking unarmored limbs (marked by a blue marker) makes enemies more likely to stagger and more prone to damage, as those are their weak points.
  • Attacking armored limbs (marked by a yellow marker), and dismembering them, gets you the gear schematic and materials for the gear in that specific limb.

After putting enough damage to a limb, you will get the chance to dismember it, which will kill the enemy instantly. If there’s a gear or a weapon in said limb, you also get materials needed to craft that gear, or the weapon the enemy wields. In general, attacking unarmored limbs makes your life easier, as those are the enemy weak points and they’re bound to die quicker if you do so. However, if you want new and much more powerful gear, then it’s better to focus on those armored parts, depending on which limb you want the gear for.

Need a helm? Then aim for the head. Need that cool-looking weapon? Then go for the arms. The Surge 2 incentivizes you to always aim for armored parts as they’re always going to make you stronger in the end. If you’re looking to play it safe, though, then there’s always the option go for unarmored limbs in order to make your life easier.

Dismemberment is key to mastering the limb-based system, as it’s integral to know when to stop attacking so that you don’t accidentally kill an enemy before cutting off the limb. The trick is to not mash the attacks and instead wait for them to chain together. The attack animations are very well-done, and can be cancelled with a quick block (LB) in order to stop it before it connects.

This leads into one of the bigger improvements I noticed while playing The Surge 2, which was its distinct polish when it came to attack animations. When attacking, you should always strive to follow up immediately after the preceding strike connects, in order to achieve a combo chain. These combos consume less stamina, and can stagger enemies even while attacking their armored limbs – they can also be chained into new ones, or be followed by a quick dash away in order to recover.

Dodging also felt smoother overall, although there is still some very heavy tracking that comes along with some of the enemies’ attacks. It’s always important to reserve your dodges at the very last fraction of a second, as you’ll find that some enemy attacks can still hit you even after dodging away from it thanks to the tracking.

The block is also much more forgiving in terms of its window. Blocking in The Surge 2 is pretty much a preemptive version of the deflect in Sekiro; instead of blocking once the attack lands, you block once the animation is about to hit. I’d say it’s pretty close to the original Dark Souls parry in terms of timing, but there is a much bigger window for the press and hold mechanic. If you’re having trouble blocking attacks perfectly, then you can just press and hold as soon as the enemy’s attack animation begins. You will either take a lot of stamina damage, take a small amount of damage, or have the block connect perfectly and stagger the enemy; either way, it’s better than missing the timing altogether.

The biggest change though, comes from a new directional blocking mechanic, which allows for some pretty slick follow-ups. If you’ve ever played For Honor or Mordhau, then this works on the same premise, except it’s a bit simpler and much more forgiving in terms of timing. Basically, this new mechanic allows you to block enemy attacks from four different directions – top, bottom, left and right – and stagger them completely if it hits. You do this by pressing and holding the block button (LB) briefly and pushing the right joystick in the direction where the enemy attack is coming from.

While directional blocking may sound a bit complicated and hard to pull off, early on you can get an implant which shows where the enemy attack will be coming from, plus a small prompt which shows you when the best time to block is. The implant costs a lot of power, so it’s actually better to remove it once you get used to enemy patterns. The mechanic itself is pretty neat, and its implementation very solid. Timing will be very different for different enemies, though, so if you’re bad at timing moves then I suggest just blocking altogether.

This directional blocking mechanic is great for those looking for a high-risk, high-reward kind of play, as it can annihilate enemies with a few perfect blocks if you can time them properly. What I loved most about it, though, is that it didn’t completely antiquate the regular blocking and dodging mechanic, which is something I think newer players will stick to because of how much easier it is.

Overall, these changes have made The Surge 2 a nice runner-up to my current GOTY Sekiro in terms of combat mechanics, purely due to how fun and rewarding it is to play. It mixes actual skill with a bit of handholding, plus some very cool animations in order to feel like a very deliberate and genuine attempt to make combat something to look forward to in the game, instead of just running away from enemies.

Check out my entire coverage of this initial build of The Surge 2 here, as well as my in-depth of the character creation and multiplayer elements here.

The Surge 2 will be released on the PlayStation 4, Xbox One and PC on September 24.

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