Available On: Steam, PlayStation 4
Developer: Thunder Lotus Games
Publisher: Thunder Lotus Games
Genre: Metroidvania, Roguelite
Official Site: https://thunderlotusgames.com/
Release Date: July 28, 2017
Where to Buy: Steam, PS4 Store
Beware the gong. One of the cryptic loading screens in Sundered, a procedurally generated Metroidvania title from Thunder Lotus Games, gives you this ominous warning early on. It is not until a bit later in the game that this statement actually rings true. When you encounter a massive hoard (the gong signals its approach) an hour away from any checkpoint, the cold sweats will start. Do you attempt to fight through it, gaining massive experience but putting yourself at great risk? Or do you attempt to sprint away, dodging and weaving to run out the clock until it dissipates? Sundered is a tough game, and it is beautiful to look at. It’s a bit rough around the edges, but it is absolutely worth the frustrating aspects.
At its heart, Sundered is a Metroidvania-style roguelite, and tended to remind me a great deal of games like Rogue Legacy and Dead Cells. Players begin in a central hub and foray out into an unforgiving world, battling monsters and collecting experience, attempting to reach a boss or upgrade that can open a new section. Inevitably, the player will die. From there, they are transported back to the hub, where they can use all their collected experience to make their character stronger through incremental stat increases and hopefully reach the goal this time around.
Sundered utilizes an interesting mix of prebuilt rooms and procedurally generated ones. Most rooms are totally random, but certain rooms (like boss battles and upgrade rooms) are set. They may be in a slightly different location in order to fit with the procedurally generated aspects, but, in general, they will always be the same distance away and will be set up the exact same. This helps cut some of the boredom that can set in from constantly having to trek back through familiar territory; the randomized sections keep you on your toes and force you to approach each run in a slightly different way.
The randomization aspect also hurts the design a little bit. The “set” rooms are clearly made with specific designs and movement options, and the randomized rooms stick out a bit for not possessing that clearly designed aspect. Thus, the procedurally generated aspect is both a blessing and a curse.
The combat in Sundered feels fluid and quick. The animation is spectacular, the enemy design is unsettling, and dodging, jumping, and slashing away at tentacled monstrosities feels smooth and responsive. Kiting a massive horde of enemies and slowly picking them off feels satisfying, and one mistimed jump or poor dodge can spell doom for your current run. Boss battles deserve a special mention here as well: bosses in Sundered are huge (seriously, sometimes your character becomes a tiny white blur on the screen when a boss reveals their true size) and grotesque, all with a variety of punishing attacks. In addition, they provide an exhilarating feeling of success when you finally vanquish them.
Sundered obviously draws much of its design from the Eldritch horror/Cthulhu mythos of HP Lovecraft and the like. Enemies are bizarrely proportioned, with far too many eyes, tentacles, and mouths. Gigantic skulls walking on robotic spider legs, firing lasers out of their mouths, are par for the course. Regular enemies are not quite as inspired as bosses, but its tough to pay attention to specific details when dozens of them come screaming at you from every direction.
The combat feels fluid, the graphics are a beautiful, hand-drawn style, and the story and progression both work well. All is not completely perfect in Sundered, however. Complaints are minimal, but they do hold the game back a bit. A little more variety in attacks and environment would be nice. The difficulty tends to be at its highest at the very beginning of the game, meaning combat can turn into a bit of a time waster as your character reaches maximum power levels. Finally, it can be frustrating to die repeatedly at or before a boss and have to trek all the way back from the central hub, especially with the rather lengthy loading times that occur every time you are sent back. On more than one occasion, I quit Sundered and took a break our of frustration, rather than diving back in immediately. All of these issues are pretty standard in procedurally generated games, and the positives of Sundered definitely outweigh the negative, but the negatives are still there.
Verdict: If you’re looking for a beautiful Metroidvania with slick controls and an impressive story to tell, Sundered should be right up your alley. It has a few issues here and there, but it is an overall impressive package that will provide you with hours of entertainment and white-knuckle action.
- Fluid combat and controlls
- Gorgeous hand-drawn animation style
- Epic boss battles
- Solid progression
- Can be frustrating
- Long load time