A few months ago, I had the awesome opportunity to preview the latest project from Thunder Lotus Games, Sundered. During my preview, I felt the game was an incredibly fun and compelling metroidvania style game, with a great focus on atmosphere and a fair challenge. Now I’ve been given the sweet opportunity to preview a more recent build, and let me just say, it’s still shaping up to be an incredible game that you should absolutely keep on your radar!
Unlike the first preview build, which took place in the second area of the game, this one takes place in the first area. Instead of creepy otherworldly looking caves, this time we have a more natural looking cavern with lots of pretty waterfalls and plant life growing all over the place. As I started exploring the area, I started finding some cool looking industrial areas with broken test tubes everywhere that are stained with a mysterious black substance. There were messes of wires hanging in the background and foreground, as well as the slow screeching of old industrial fans that came together to create a nice, but eerie atmosphere. I really enjoyed exploring this area, even if it was far less otherworldly then the area I got to explore in the first preview. I found it to be a lot more interesting visually.
Much like the first preview build, there was no story or context in this build, I was just thrown right into the beginning of the game after selecting a new file. I was fine with no story context since this was a preview build that focused primarily on showing off the gameplay, but I must admit I am pretty intrigued about just what is going on in here. After a brief tutorial that told me the controls, I was thrown right into the real meat of Sundered, the exploration and action.
The action hasn’t changed much since the first preview build, and that’s actually a very good thing, as I felt it was one of the best parts of the game. Hacking and slashing enemies feels great still, and the attack animations are fluid and extremely well animated. Unlike the first build however, you do not start out with the Valkyrie Cannon or the deflecting shield. The Valkyrie Cannon is a useful projectile weapon that shoots a giant beam that pierces through enemies and does some decent damage, but I could live without having that for a little bit. The deflecting shield however, is an extremely important powerup that basically acts as a shield that will deplete and regenerate before your maximum health will drain. Not having the deflecting shield at the start made me a little worried, as I wasn’t as well protected as I was used to and this game can be very difficult. Luckily, you find it shortly after the start!
One of the things I really preferred over this second build is that I found the enemies more interesting and varied compared to the first build. The main enemy types you’ll be fighting in the first area are small gremlin looking creatures called Aranea. These little guys love to surround you and move very fast while emitting an electric charge. These guys can be pretty tricky, especially when the game throws a ton of them at you, but thankfully the dodge roll is very effective for outsmarting these guys, and they go down fairly quickly too.
Accompanying the Aranea’s as mainstay enemies in this stage are the Meteroids and the Wurm. The Meteoroids like to charge up and spin around and then come crashing towards you. These guys can be tricky to dodge at first, as they charge at you pretty fast, but you can also interrupt their charge by simply attacking them. The Wurms can also be a bit tricky, as they like to leap into the air and slam back down, leaving traces of electricity around them to damage you. Attacking them can be tough, since they move around a lot and like to burrow underground. Once you get the Valkyrie Cannon upgrade however, these guys are no problem!
Probably the most interesting and dangerous enemy in the preview build is the Hunter. These guys are absolutely relentless and love to hide around the stage and snipe you with their laser rifle. You’ll always know when they’re around as you’ll see the laser pointer of their rifle. Dealing with one Hunter isn’t so bad, it’s just a matter of dodging their shots until you find them. Dealing with 2 or more, however, is another story, especially while having to deal with other enemies at the same time. One of my favorite moments in the preview build was frantically running through an industrial area with 5 or 6 Hunter lasers constantly aiming at me. This was such a heart pounding but exciting moment for me. I had made a lot of progress exploring, and was very close to unlocking an important shortcut. Intense moments like these are where Sundered really shines.
It’s that frantic adrenaline rush feeling that makes Sundered such a great and fun game. There are tons of moments where the game just throws hordes of enemies at you, and it really does get challenging. The best thing about the challenge though, is it’s always fair. It never felt like I was against something that I couldn’t conquer. It’s all a matter of adjusting to your enemies, as well as building your character through the skill tree that is gradually unlocked as you find more power ups.
In addition to the good enemy variety, there were also 3 mini bosses, as well as 1 final boss to fight in the area. The mini bosses mainly consisted of more powerful versions of enemies you’re used to fighting, like a giant Meteoroid that summons smaller ones as well. However, the last of the 3 mini bosses was pretty difficult. There were 3 tentacle monsters that would constantly shoot out their thorn covered tentacles and really do some damage. Maneuvering around this fight while also trying to take them out was probably the most difficult part of the stage for me, but felt so rewarding once I finally cleared it. Each mini boss also drops a perk that you can equip to your skill tree, which gives several advantages as well as disadvantages. For example, one of the perks will increase your Valkyrie Cannon ammo capacity, but reduces the damage it does by 40%. My favorite perk to use was the one where your shield is constantly regenerating all the time, but it also reduces the regeneration rate by a lot and increases how much damage it takes.
The boss, however, was a lot less challenging than the one in the first build. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a very exciting and fun battle, and can be slightly challenging at first. The stage boss likes to summon fists through a bunch of portals that track you as you run around the arena, but dodging them is fairly simple as the dodge roll gives pretty generous invincibility frames. Towards the end of the battle, the fight does get a bit more difficult, as the boss summons a ton of enemies to assist him, but learning to work around this took far less time compared to the boss of the first beta build. Though this is technically the first boss of the game, so it’s understandable that it’s not as difficult.
Sundered is a game that intrigued me from the very moment I first laid eyes on it. It impressed me a lot in the first preview build, and it impressed me even more in the second preview build. It’s shaping up to be an incredible game that I feel absolutely deserves to be on your radar if you like metroidvania style games, or just fun action games in general. Sundered will be launching on Windows, Mac, Linux and PlayStation 4 in July 2017!