Sundered (PC) Review

By Athanasios 27.07.2017 2

Review for Sundered on PC

Metroidvania. Can anyone think of any other sub-category of video games that has been as fortunate? From the pioneering classics that started it all, to recent gems like Hollow Knight and Axiom Verge, genre aficionados have had the chance to try some titles of very high quality throughout the years. While their basic recipe is generally pretty simple, though, having something that helps stand out from the rest is certainly a must. Does Sundered, the highly successful Kickstarter project from Thunder Lotus, have something like that to offer? Cubed3 enters its beautifully crafted world of eldritch terrors to find out.

After the stunning Jotun, Thunder Lotus proves its talent with hand-painted visuals once more. From Eshe, the graceful, nomad-like protagonist, to the gargantuan monsters and the locales these live in, everything has excellent design. Taking a look at screenshots doesn't do justice to it all, though, as it's the impressively fluid animation that truly makes this look as great as it does. Generally, the art style used has a strong Ralph Bakshi/heavy metal smell, which, like with the Tim Barton-esque Hollow Knight, helps this stand out from the competition.

Whereas Jotun revolved around Norse mythology, however, Sundered chooses a more menacing setting, as this tells the story of a girl who gets trapped in an underground microcosm inspired by Lovecraft's mythology; a story narrated by an omnipresent entity that acts as our heroine's guiding hand; a story that's pleasantly ambiguous, making you obsess with pushing on and finding all about it, the horrors that live in it, and whether the band of mercenaries known as the Valkyries was actually the biggest evil in here, as it foolishly tried to exploit the powers at hand.

Screenshot for Sundered on PC

The Lovecraftian influences don't end with the ferocious blobs of fang and tentacle that are your foes, or the pretty cool fictional language called Eschatonian, which is based in R'lyehian, and is even available as a subtitle and menu language option(!). Instead, Sundered's central theme seems to be the feeling of helplessness, which, like it or not, resonates into the actual gameplay, since the best way to describe the offered challenge is… you will die. No, fellow reader, this is not an insinuation about your skills. It's just that… well, you will die.

There's typical Metroidvania exploration to be done here. Abilities to find that enabling going deeper (and higher) into the labyrinth, perks that grant a nice passive boost at a relatively minor cost, helpful shortcuts that can be unlocked, and so on. However, there's also a pretty heavy emphasis on heart-pounding battles against vast amounts of enemies. Every couple of minutes a horde of monsters will appear, and after that another one, and another one, and another one, and then, the game will simply throw everything at you, and death will come in a matter of seconds.

Screenshot for Sundered on PC

Fortunately, death is only the beginning. Upon meeting her doom, Eshe will get to spend those precious shiny shards that foes spill over on a vast skill tree; a skill tree that will make her tougher, more lethal, and, by the end of this odyssey, a force of nature that slays by the dozen. Don't expect to create a unique build like the developer says, though. Unlocking abilities is literally a must if wanting to reach the end of this 12-15 hour journey; therefore, the vast majority of players will simply max out their skills, find almost all perks, and even manage to upgrade them to tier three.

Now, the battles are definitely fantastic. Apart from Eshe being a pretty versatile warrior, the controls are super tight, and the fights frequently feel like an elaborate and quite tense dance with the enemies - not to mention the fantastic aerial combat, which many times is at the very core of Sundered's fights. Unfortunately, it all gets repetitive and even annoying after a while. The feeling of impotence, for instance, starts off as something that's pretty exciting, but it soon becomes aggravating by throwing the player into an endless circle of fighting-dying-upgrading.

Screenshot for Sundered on PC

All this doesn't really ruin the experience as a whole. It's just that, with just a little bit more careful design, this could become something much better. Take boss battles, for example. The Lovecraft element shines every time you get to battle with one, but this happens at the gameplay's cost, as these beasts tend to be so freaking enormous that controlling Eshe feels like controlling a tiny tick that tries to avoid all sorts of projectiles, as these otherwise awesome matches have a pretty strong bullet hell vibe.

…And yet, for all its faults, it's hard to put the controller aside, as, for every issue this has, there are at least two things that make up for it. Yes, horde attacks can annoy, but it's hard not to love them and the ominous gong sound that plays along them; yes, the larger-than-life boss battles can frustrate exactly due to the big honchos' size, but they are also insanely epic and adrenaline-pumping; and, yes, other games have pulled the whole exploration and skill upgrade thingy much better, but most will keep on playing until they've seen everything.

Oh, and by the way, will you corrupt your abilities via the Elder Shards, or resist and destroy them, enraging the "god" of this dark tale in the process?

Screenshot for Sundered on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Sundered constantly tiptoes between mediocrity and plain greatness, but, despite the annoyingly repetitive and, many times, "unfair" horde attacks, as well as a couple of bad design choices here and there, it's definitely a Metroidvania worth checking out, especially for those who wanted something much more fast-paced and battle-heavy, as well as horrifyingly pretty and with lots of Lovecraft in it.

Developer

Thunder Lotus Games

Publisher

Thunder Lotus Games

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

Comments

Interesting we gave it the same score, however one thing I really hated was the controls - I thought they were largely horrendous.

Dragon0085 said:
Interesting we gave it the same score, however one thing I really hated was the controls - I thought they were largely horrendous.

I find it hard to believe that the controls are different from platform to platform, but, yeah, my experience with them was great.

Can't a fella drink in peace?
                                -Farnham

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