By Ashley Ring / July 28th, 2017
|Developer||Thunder Lotus Games|
|Publisher||Thunder Lotus Games|
|Release Date||July 28th, 2017|
|Platform||PC, PlayStation 4, Mac, Linux|
When I first got the opportunity to do a preview for Sundered, I was really excited. The game was shaping up to be a fantastic looking procedural Metroidvania style adventure with some fantastic artwork. After playing the preview builds, I knew this game was going to be something special, and I was anxiously awaiting the full release. Now that Sundered has released, did the full game live up to my expectations?
In Sundered you play as Eshe, who finds herself wandering the desert when she is suddenly surrounded by giant hands and tentacles as they drag her away. After a short tutorial explaining rhe basic controls, Eshe meets a glowing shard named the Shining Trapezohedron. He goes on to tell Eshe that the area she finds herself in is what remains of his home. He also tells Eshe that he will lend her his power so she can fight against the monsters now inhabiting his former home.
The story overall is told very sparsely through glowing orbs that you find in specific rooms in each area which are marked on your map with a crystal. In these rooms, the Shining Trapezohedron will tell you a bit more about what happened in the area, and how it became the way it is now. These messages also give some insight to the boss of each area that you will eventually face off against. It’s a decent minimalistic story that I feel does exactly what it needs to do, giving a setup and background to keep you moving forward and never taking you out of the gameplay while delivering the story.
At its core, Sundered is very much a Metroidvania title, having you explore large maps while gaining several different power ups that open up new ways to maneuver around and revealing new areas. You’ll explore large areas and will run into plenty of roadblocks along the way, forcing you to find new routes and abilities. Sundered has a nice flow to its exploration, as it’s nonlinear. It allows you to explore as much as you want with plenty of different paths to go down as you have the means to reach where you want to go. One of my favorite parts of the exploration is that there was always a shortcut to unlock to make backtracking after death far less tedious. Throughout your journey you’ll also find power ups that allow you to do things like double jump, perform dashes in the air, a grapple hook that allows you to swing around specific areas, and a few others.
What sets Sundered apart though is its power up corruption mechanic. Eshe can corrupt her powers at the shrine she obtained each one from as long as she has what’s called an Elder Shard, which can be obtained by beating mini bosses and stage bosses. Each time you corrupt a power, it brings so much more flexibility to how you’re able to travel around each area. For example, corrupting the double jump ability will allow you to transform into a winged monster and glide over an area, and the shield corruption will reflect damage back at enemies randomly. My favorite corrupted power has to be the corrupted propulsion engine, which turns your air dash into a really cool multidirectional air dodge mechanic, as well as a really great way to traverse levels! By the end of my first playthrough, I had so many different super cool looking corrupted powers that it made the way I travel more convenient.
Another feature that Sundered has to offer is that enemies will often attack in hordes. These seem to occur randomly as you’re exploring. Whenever a horde of enemies is coming at you, you’ll be facing off against what feels like an overwhelming battle against a whole army of enemies. Sometimes there are even what feels like more than 20 enemies on screen at once. It can get really hectic, but it’s also incredibly fun and feels so good managing to finish off a mini army and being able to continue moving forward. There are even special areas in each zone that have never ending hordes, which end up being fantastic for grinding shards that you’ll need to level up your character.
At the center of all your exploration is the main hub, which allows you to travel to each area, as well as upgrade your characters stats and abilities. The character upgrading is done via a skill tree where you’ll spend shards that enemies drop to upgrade things like your health, damage, defense, and your shield’s power. You can also unlock abilities like being able to hold more health elixirs and ammo. Lastly, you can also equip perks here. Perks are abilities that have both advantages and disadvantages. For example, there is a perk that allows you to hold two extra healing elixirs, but they will no longer heal your health, but your shield instead. This might sound underwhelming at first, but if you pair it with say, a perk that makes your max HP only 1, but increases your shield so much that it won’t even be a problem, having those elixirs heal your shield instead suddenly seems like a pretty good battle plan. This tactic got me through some of the games tougher moments, and I really appreciated the thought that went behind combining different perk advantages and disadvantages to make something that felt beneficial to my survival.
The combat in Sundered is very solid. You’ll hack and slash enemies, which feels great enough on its own. Thanks to all of the powers and their corrupted counterparts, you have quite a few very cool and satisfying ways to attack the dozens of enemies you’ll fight. Things like a charged multidirectional thrust, and a massive gun called the Valkyrie cannon that pierces through enemies and which is great for crowd control.
One of my favorite combat abilities though is a hidden one that is easy to miss that allows you to dodge roll and thrust your blade during the dodge. This attack looks and feels so cool, and it does quite a bit of damage as well. My favorite thing to do in combat however, is to use the double jump ability and attack an enemy in the air. Every time you press the attack button, the double jump resets, allowing you to endlessly keep yourself in the air as long as you don’t get hit. This feels so good to pull off, especially on bosses that have multiple body parts that require a bit of climbing to reach.
The bosses themselves are all very massive and fairly challenging. Each of the areas you’ll explore has three mini bosses, and one final boss. The mini bosses can range from anything like a bigger, more powerful version of an enemy you’ve already fought against to completely new enemies that can put up a decent fight. For the most part, the mini bosses aren’t too difficult, but some of them will call on a bunch of minions that can easily make things more difficult for you.
The stage bosses on the other hand are huge, intimidating and tough. Each one is devastating in their own way. The first boss has attacks that can take up the entire screen and do massive damage if you don’t dodge properly, as well as summoning plenty of minions. The second boss has very nasty turrets that fire relentlessly at you. One thing that really does take getting used to during these battles is that, depending on the attack the boss is using, the camera might zoom out to give much better perspective of the attack. It’s very easy to lose track of your character in the heat of battle when these zoom outs occur. It’s nothing detrimental to the fights overall, but it can be disorienting for a moment until you find where you are on screen.
Sundered isn’t just a fantastic game, it’s also a beautiful game. Beautifully hand drawn characters and enemies really stand out as they all animate so well. The way Eshe attacks with her weapon, to the animations that play out when using her power ups, it all just looks so cool and well done. The backgrounds and environments you’ll explore are also very good looking. From laboratories hidden in an underground forest, to creepy otherworldly caverns with an eerie yellow glow in the background, all of it is highly detailed and looks great. I did notice a few instances where the levels felt a little same-y, getting a feeling that I had seen this exact same room and layout earlier, but it doesn’t detract too much from the overall enjoyment of the visual presentation.
The audio in Sundered is great, with plenty of ambient music and sounds playing in the background to help carry the games atmosphere. Enemies all have creepy high-pitched yells that can be heard before you even see them, always letting you know that something is lurking around and coming for you. The music itself is fairly minimalist and quiet, and for the most part I didn’t find it to be all that memorable. There are some stand out tracks to me, which are the hub worlds theme as well as the final battle.
Overall Sundered is a fantastic Metroidvania style game that offers plenty of challenge, cool power ups, and fantastic exploration. The game lasted me about 14 hours before I finished it, and I’m already itching to do a second playthrough. Sundered is absolutely worth its asking price of $19.99, and is something that I would recommend to anyone that enjoys fun action games or Metroidvania style games.
Review copy provided by publisher
Indie gameMetroidvaniaSunderedThunder Lotus Games