Review of Sundered, the Metroid-Vania inspired video game developed by Thunder Lotus Games just went live. Now available for Playstation 4, Windows, Mac, and Linux.
Below is a transcript of the video review of Sundered.
Hey, how’s it going, internetz? Nathan from ThisAndThatTech.com.
Today we are taking a look at Sundered, which is a Metroid-vania inspired game developed by Thunder Lotus Games, who are also the creators of Jotun. And it’s currently available for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Playstation 4.
The game immediately introduces you to its main protagonist, Eshe, as she’s wandering through this apocalyptic world where once two warring groups fought over a mysterious stone to gain more power. Now, as this war converged, a rift in reality caused eldritch energy to spill into these caverns, whereby all the inhabitants turned into monsters.
Eshe finds herself trapped in the caverns and meets a mysterious force who guides her along the way while she chooses to “resist” or “embrace” corruption in attempts to free herself from the caverns back into the world above.
As far as controls and elements, Sundered is built upon trial and error. As you’re exploring the map you’re gonna gain new abilities to unlock different portions of the map as well as defeat randomly spawning enemies to collect these shards, which is Sundered’s currency for upgrades.
Eventually, you’ll come across swarms of enemies that become insurmountable, so they’re going to be filling the entire screen, and it’s gonna create way too much chaos, so you’re forced to either meet your demise or warp back to the Sanctuary, where you can level up your stats and abilities using your shards that you collected on a skill tree. Then you just start all over and explore again. It’s very much rogue-like because you die often, which is expected for a game like this. I should note that there is no permadeath or loss of shards, so you should get continually stronger as time goes on.
The upgrade system at first glance seems gargantuan, like it’s gonna offer you limitless customization, but you will find that you need almost every upgrade on your first playthrough, so there’s not one path you can heavily invest in while forgetting about the rest of the skill tree.
In fact, I even found a good farming spot at one point, so I decided to spend a bit of time to radically upgrade Eshe all at once. That proved to be a good plan, albeit less useful than I had hoped, considering how the last region was devastatingly difficult to me.
Sundered also features perks, which are equippable bonuses that you find throughout the game. You’ve experienced perks if you’ve played any other first person shooter, for example. They offer damage mitigation, an increase in shard drops, extra damage, et cetera. Sometimes negative effects as well, along with the positive effects.
Then we have the last enhancements, elder shards. Now, elder shards are dropped by mini-bosses and main bosses, some of which have epic battle sequences, by the way. And after you collect a certain amount, Eshe can then use them to either “embrace” or “resist” the dark powers hidden within. This influences the types of abilities you can receive and simultaneously affects the end-game storyline.
There are three regions to explore and all of them have a pretty sizable map that can be easily accessed with the left trigger on your controller. You’ll notice that the overall map and locations seem to always stay the same, but there are gray areas that are randomly generated every time you die or return to the Sanctuary. These randomly generated areas don’t drastically change much for the player, but can confuse you if you’re going off memory.
Speaking of the map, one big issue I have with it is the inability to zoom in to plan out your routes better. Seems like something that could be integrated with a patch, though, so I’m hoping they fix that because it can be frustrating at times.
Movement in battle is fluid and from the very start you feel capable. Even taking on a large amount of monsters seems plausible because of the speed in which Eshe moves. You’ll find yourself using the dodge feature constantly, which essentially makes Eshe invincible for a few seconds while she quickly rolls out of danger for a brief moment. This can only be used a finite amount of times, however, as it’s linked to her energy bar. Speaking of the HUD, along with health and ammo, you also have a shield gauge that refreshes to mitigate damage.
At the same time, this is one of the first problems I have with Sundered. The reason that dodge button is there is because there are hordes and hordes of enemies invading the screen at any given time. The game essentially becomes a “bullet hell” of chaos and there were plenty of times where I couldn’t see anything on-screen at all, which can be really frustrating, of course. Couple that with a floating camera perspective that sometimes moves a little bit behind and get ready to have your senses overloaded. It’s certainly not game-breaking, but you really do have to prioritize enemies to slay in anticipation of the screen being too overloaded with baddies.
Graphically-speaking, Sundered is gorgeous. From the hand-drawn art animations integrated with the music, it’s just an intense experience. And this is gonna date me a little bit, but it reminds me of two games we put a lot of quarters in at the arcade called Space Ace and Dragon’s Lair.
And the reason everybody wanted to play those games is because they were so cartoon and lifelike. And that’s exactly what you see here in Sundered, from the animations of the tentacle creatures moving around to even the death sequences with Eshe, it’s just a sight to behold and I really hope that we get to see more developers pursue this art style because I just love it.
Sundered throws you right in, which is appreciated in a day where a game can be very plodding at first. However, the difficulty spikes can be frustrating and seemingly pop up out of nowhere, which means you may die a lot. You couple that with the inclusion of shortcuts, but complete lack of fast travel and you have a recipe for replayability, but in a bad way. It’s odd they don’t feature fast travel either, as they give you a method in the last region that makes it much more agreeable to move around. So to me this just seems like a mistake. They might patch it. It’d be great if they did, but I wouldn’t hold your breath.
Upgrades are entertaining and useful, but a lot of them show up quite late in the game, which left me wanting more in terms of being able to utilize them. Feels like maybe there should be one more region to play through.
One of the things that Sundered touts is that progression is supposed to be non-linear. I feel as this is somewhat true in theory, but I still found myself stuck at points and going through each region one at a time and I think you probably will too because there’s definitely some walls in difficulty. You know that difficulty spike is definitely an issue and it affects all of these different categories under pacing here for me.
So is it fun? Look, there are some issues with the pacing, but overall Sundered is a beautifully animated game that will scratch an inch for those who are interested in the Metroid-Vania genre. The gameplay is fast and when you couple them with the striking visuals, you’re in for quite a few hours of entertainment. $20 is the price of entry and I think it’s reasonable given the content.
Well, that’s all I have for you today. Please like, comment, subscribe and hopefully see you in the next video! Thanks for watching. Have a good one.