By Ashley Ring / January 16th, 2017
Metroidvania style games are something I always adore playing due to their heavy emphasis on exploration and finding your way once you obtain new abilities. From the very moment I laid eyes on Sundered I knew it was going to be awesome. Little did I know that it would dramatically exceed my expectations. I was lucky enough to spend a little bit over 4 hours with the second stage of Sundered and I can safely say that this is one of my most anticipated games of 2017.
One thing that immediately stuck out to me was just how beautiful the game looked. Very smooth hand drawn animations blended perfectly with the detailed otherworldly backgrounds I explored. While searching through the level I was thrown into, I was impressed with just how foreign everything felt. Tentacles would appear and disappear randomly on platforms, the backgrounds of the stage would glow yellow, strange purple waterfalls would push you downward, and everything about this world gave off an eerie vibe that I was really into. It also helps that the sound design is equally eerie. The ambient music helps set an unsettling mood that helps convey the atmosphere, while the almost painful sounding screams of the enemies you’ll be fighting can be heard in the distance. As you get closer to them, however, their screams go from sounding like they’re in pain to sounding like more like a sinister monster that wants to kill you.
The one level that was available in the build I played was massive, and really scratched an itch I had for this kind of exploration. The whole experience was mostly nonlinear and allowed me to go almost anywhere I wanted to, save for a few sections that required finding a power up at first. Tons of branching paths led to all sorts of goodies like extra abilities, skill tree perks and even some very dangerous enemy ambushes. One of my favorite parts of the level was finding all the different shortcuts to earlier areas after running around for a long time, which made backtracking following death so much simpler.
The combat in Sundered is a very satisfying hack and slash. You have your melee attack to slash through the weird tentacle enemies you’ll fight, as well as a gun weapon with limited ammo. The melee attacks are fast and feel great, and never grew stale or boring in my 4 hours spent with the game. It especially felt great when the game throws hordes of enemies at you, which gets really intense. Whenever the game throws a horde at you, they really mean a horde. There were times when I was fighting what felt like 20 or more enemies at once, which can be difficult, but once you get good with dodging and mixing the melee attack with your gun, it just felt so satisfying. The gun weapon is powerful, but uses your stamina bar, and has a great amount of recoil. There were times where I was careless and used the gun and was pushed back in to a thorn bush and lost a lot of health, so being careful and actually thinking about what’s behind you is very important. The only complaint I can really think of is that fighting flying enemies can be annoying as they constantly would go inside the ceiling or floor, making it impossible to attack them, but they could attack me. This is pre-alpha though, so I assume this stuff will be worked out in the final release!
There were two special abilities that I found in the demo, the empowered attack and the power dash. The empowered attack allows you to charge your melee attack to do more damage, and also destroy purple barriers that block your path. The power dash, once found, replaces your regular dodge roll with a very fast dash attack. This dash attack can also be used in succession to extend your jumps over large gaps, leading you into some new areas. Both abilities felt familiar and great to use, especially the speed dash. Nothing felt more satisfying than dashing around and fighting enemies when they would attack in hordes.
The way your health works in Sundered is you have a set amount of health represented by the red parts of your health bar, and a shield that regenerates over time that’s represented by a blue bar that overlaps your health. The shield is a very welcome addition, as I think battling hordes of enemies may be a little too tricky without it. It also added a layer of adrenaline to battling enemies when I had almost no health left. There was just something really exciting about having almost no health left and using the super dash to frantically maneuver around while hoping my shield would regenerate in time before dying. Luckily the continue system was very generous and allowed me to start back at the beginning of the area with everything I had collected before dying.
There also is a skill tree at the beginning area of the stage where you can purchase upgrades with gems that enemies drop for things like your health, shield and attack power, as well as being able to equip perks that you find hidden throughout the stage. Perks add a lot of useful abilities to your character, things like being able to be revived with a tiny bit of health after death, greater attack power, holding more ammo for your gun and so on. The perks don’t come without any strings attached, though. Some, but not all, come with a disadvantage to your stats as well. Some of the perks I found had disadvantages of enemies dropping 20% less gems, 50% less gems and so on. By far the most useful perk that I found was the one that makes enemies drop more health regenerating items. It really helped my travels a lot, especially when hordes of enemies were attacking and I was on the verge of death.
The demo ended with a huge, memorable boss fight. The battle started off easy enough, jumping around on platforms the boss makes, attacking its weak spots. As it goes on it becomes more and more difficult as more turrets start to spawn on its body, and those purple waterfalls that push you down also start making an appearance to hinder the jumps you need to make to attack the weak points. My initial reaction to it was that it felt really overwhelming at first, as the turrets can get really insane if you let them continue to spawn without killing any. The camera also zoomed out during portions of the boss fight which I wasn’t expecting, and I actually lost track of my position. This only happened the very first time however, as I quickly got used to it. Once I continued practicing the battle, it becomes a lot more manageable, while still maintaining a great challenge.
For being just a pre-alpha demo, there sure was a lot of polish and excitement to be had with the time I got to play with the game. I’m eager to see more of Sundered between now and when it’s completed. If you’re a fan of the developers’ previous work on Jotun, or are just looking for a solid Metroidvania style game, then I highly recommend putting Sundered on your radar. Sundered will release on PC, MAC, Linux, and PlayStation 4 in July of this year.
JotunLinuxMacPlayStation 4SteamSunderedThunder Lotus Games