By Josh Speer / December 19th, 2018
|Title||Sundered: Eldritch Edition|
|Developer||Thunder Lotus Games|
|Publisher||Thunder Lotus Games|
|Release Date||December 21st, 2018|
|Platform||PC, Nintendo Switch, PS4, XBox One|
|Age Rating||E for Everyone – Fantasy Violence|
Despite being an original backer of Thunder Lotus’ Cthulhu inspired Metroidvania, Sundered, I hadn’t been able to get into the game until just now. Why, you ask? Well, the fault mostly lies with my laptop not being quite up to snuff. I had a lot of fun until I encountered slowdown and lag pretty frequently in the heat of battle. Though the game world was delightful, it was hard to experience myself firsthand. So imagine my excitement when the good folks at Thunder Lotus finally announced Eldritch Edition. Not only was this the latest version of the game, packed with new features and content, but it also finally brought Sundered to my preferred console, the Nintendo Switch! Thus I jumped at the chance to give my take on this latest release.
First, let’s get this out of the way – there is a teeny bit of slowdown that occurs in Sundered: Eldritch Edition, but it’s far more manageable than on PC. Additionally, the developers are fully aware of the issue, and told me they’re already working on fixing this. That said, the slowdown only happens when I transition into a new area or section of a map. It very rarely happened during the increasingly frenetic combat the game is known for. So rest easy if you were worried about how Sundered would handle on Nintendo Switch. For the most part, it runs silky smooth.
With that out of the way, a quick recap for those unfamiliar with the game. Sundered: Eldritch Edition is a rogue Metroidvania that was obviously inspired by the Cthulhu mythos. You play as lone wanderer Eshe, who is captured whilst walking through the desert and dragged down into a subterranean ruin. There, you find the means to empower yourself, both by using the departed energy of foes, called shards, to upgrade yourself via a skill tree, or via finding shrines that grant new abilities. Furthermore, you can choose to Resist or Embrace eldritch powers. If you Resist, you will be taking Elder Shards found from beating bosses and minibosses and grinding them into nothingness at forges. But if you instead choose to Embrace, you’ll get transformed by eldritch power into something more than human. This powers up existing skills to lofty new heights, at the low, low cost of your eternal soul. The game constantly challenges you to choose whether to give in or not, and for my playtime, I went the neutral path, only powering up some of my skills. For those that like getting all the endings though, you’ll need multiple playthroughs to focus on all the available routes.
The base game itself is known for a couple things. First, is the lush and intricately detailed art found in all of Thunder Lotus’ games. Frankly, I love the visual style of the game. It uses the colors of violence like dark purple and red to indicate a world of madness, while the remnants of the Valkyrie’s technology is often portrayed in grays, greens and blues, whereas the Eschaton cult’s insanity is depicted with far darker hues. Each of the main sections of the game has a totally different look, from the claustrophobic caverns to the lofty heights of the Cathedral. This is complemented with a haunting music track. There’s generally a lot of ambient noises, but when things get hectic, the tunes ramp up accordingly. The artistic style found in the art and sound also translates well to the monstrous foes you face. There’s a wide variety, from robotic orbs that try and crash headfirst into you to eldritch foes that defy description and melt your sanity. One of the hallmarks of all the creatures is the liquid quality of how they move. There is no clunkiness to be found in this game. Everything is hauntingly beautiful, most especially the challenging boss fights. Though there is only a handful, all of them are a massive threat, and each is completely different from each other.
The other thing Sundered is known for is the intense combat. Put simply, Sundered: Eldritch Edition is the closest I’ll come to ever playing a Souls-like game. It’s very hard, but it’s also totally fair. The primary reason is you never lose anything by dying. Every time you die, you come back to the HUB sanctuary, where you can spend shards earned from defeating foes to power up Eshe. Here, you can increase everything from your health to your armor to your melee damage, and much more. You can also equip Perks which you unlock from death defying feats in order to get stronger. Each of these has an advantage and disadvantage, but used skillfully, any of the Perks can make or break your experience. I personally tend to generally favor balanced combat options, such as Tough Skin, which increased my Armor and reduced my Cannon damage; or Shield Absorb, which increased my Shield when I kill enemies but decreased the downtime. The game also controls really well on Switch, with all the basic controls mapped to the face and shoulder buttons. My only minor complaint is it’s often hard to do an upward dash once you unlock the Strength Amplifier. Technical points aside, the combat is utterly thrilling in the game. Eshe can move like a whirling dervish, slicing and dicing, leaping through the air, grappling towards foes and basically being a terror to the horrors found in the ruins. You’ll need every ounce of her athletic skills to stand a chance against the gibbering hordes, especially since they always attack you in waves, hoping to put Eshe out of her misery.
While everything I’ve mentioned is completely relevant, you might just be here to discover what’s new in Eldritch Edition. There isn’t a ton of new content, but what they added is pretty great. First, is that the game is now compatible with local co-op for up to 4 players. That’s a great option for more advanced players to partner up with less confident friends and family. I should say I didn’t try that particular feature out, but thankfully I got lots of practice with the other, more relevant new aspect of the game. They added a new quest line that unlocks a special, super hard boss fight against a fiend called the Magnate of the Gong. To reach him, I had to traverse three separate sections with the titular gongs in them. Upon ringing them, you’ll summon tons of angry hordes against you, and will need to beat them in one sitting to prevail. Each time you do, you’ll get a special Perk, and they can be pretty amazing. For example, one makes you immune to being pushed by the wind, which is vital and necessary in the Cathedral area. I wish I could say what you get from beating the Magnate, but frankly he kicked my ass pretty hard. To put it in context, he’s easily more challenging than the final boss of the game, and that’s saying something. But after some research, I can say that beating the Magnate rewards you with even more challenge, leading to upgraded forms of the existing bosses of the game. So if you’re truly a masochist, you’ll love the new features in Eldritch Edition.
I truly am pleased I finally got the opportunity to play Sundered on my Switch. Eldritch Edition is a fantastic version of the game, offering just enough new content to sate the appetite of new players, while offering reasons for existing players to delve back in. For $19.99, you get a lot of adventure to enjoy, full of challenge and a twisted and diabolical story. I spent about 13 hours beating the game once, thoroughly searching out and killing all the optional minibosses and unlocking the Magnate of the Gong fight. After finally playing this, I’m eagerly looking forward to whatever the next project is that Thunder Lotus develops. In the meantime, I’ll be beating the game to get the other 2 endings. If you are looking for a reason to embrace madness and have a great time in the process, Sundered: Eldritch Edition is well worth your time.
Review Copy Provided by Developer
Eldritch Editionnintendo switchoprainfallSunderedThunder Lotus Games