Review – Sundered is a Gorgeous and Deathly Difficult Platformer

Review – Sundered is a Gorgeous and Deathly Difficult Platformer
4.5

Platforms:

Sony PS4, Windows PC, Mac, Linux, Steam

Game Name:

Sundered

Publisher(s):

Thunder Lotus Games

Developer(s):

Thunder Lotus Games

Genre(s):

Action, Adventure

Release Date:

July 28th, 2017

Sundered by Thunder Lotus Games

Sundered from Thunder Lotus Games stands out as a unique offering in a sea of Roguelikes.

Upon first glance, the eye is immediately drawn to the animation. Each background is painstakingly hand drawn to provide a look similar to Thunder Lotus Games’ previous release, Jotun. Hand-drawn games have seen somewhat of a resurgence in this digital age, with games like Bastion, Child of Light and Bravely Default garnering the attention of gamers and art enthusiasts alike.

Sundered is no exception. The hand-drawn backgrounds and elements in this 2D side-scrolling Metroidvaniaare eye-catching in their mythological glory.

New yet Familiar

For those unfamiliar with the term, a Metroidvania is a game inspired by ’90s SNES classics Super Metroid, Castlevania IV and their various successors. Metroidvanias are known for sprawling maps, hidden power-ups, treasures and tough enemies.

Sundered follows suit, providing a gigantic map with procedurally generated exits, many power-ups and perks and absolute hordes of enemies. Not quite as randomly generated as games like Rogue Legacy, Sundered keeps bosses and important areas in the same places while switching up area exits and shortcuts.

Movement in a game such as this will make or break the experience. Without a doubt, Sundered nails character movement. Each jump, attack and evasive maneuver feels as fluid as an extension of the player’s fingers. As intuitive as the controls are, the experience improves as more skills such as double-jumping are unlocked. Seasoned veterans of the genre will feel like they’re putting on a well-worn glove as muscle memory takes over.

Two Step, Bump and Grind

Mastering the combat and movement isn’t enough to get far in Sundered. Enemies will drop shards which can be spent on an ability tree. The difficulty in Sundered tends to spike dramatically in certain areas, forcing the player to return to the Sanctuary to spend acquired shards. Stats such as health, armor and melee damage can be improved, leading to more abilities and skill boosts that can be unlocked. It’s a well-designed skill tree, and it takes a bit of grinding to really unlock main character Eshe’s full potential.

Since grinding is a necessary evil in Sundered, the story tends to be given in slow, small chunks. Not only is it slow going, but it’s a little bit mysterious. It seems to allude to fallen gods and the choices of Valkyries.

To be honest, since I spent most of my time grinding, I would often forget or simply not care about four lines of cryptic text amid two hours of solid exploring and fighting off hordes of enemies. Throughout the 15 to 30 hours it takes to complete Sundered, story isn’t exactly top on the priority list.

For the Horde!

When I mention hordes of enemies, I use the word “horde” in a very literal sense. Sundered is not for the casual gamer. This game is really hard, and Dark Souls level frustration is common. While exploring, the fleeting calm is constantly broken by enemies filling the screen and charging at you from all directions at once.

As a fan of the genre, Sundered makes an aesthetically pleasing and wonderfully rewarding addition to my game collection. I’ll keep coming back to replay it, but I can’t in good conscience recommend this game to a casual gamer. For those hardcore enough to handle the constant disappointment with yourself, keep in mind: “Death is only the beginning.”

Sundered is available via the Sony PlayStation Store and Steam.

Rating: ★★★★½ 

Watch the official trailer for Sundered below:

michael.duhacek

[Toronto, Canada] Michael Duhacek is an avid gamer who also works in the media production industry.

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