Just in the opening moments alone, I was drawn in by the rich art style of Thunder Lotus Games’ jaw-dropping world. The journey through Sundered is a thrilling fight for survival and sanity. You play as Eshe, a wanderer in a world ruined, forced to navigate though caverns filled with hordes of terrifying enemies.
Little is known about Eshe in the beginning and after a simple tutorial, you are quite quickly into the action. You are tasked with collecting Elder Shards, which are obtained from the various bosses all throughout the caverns. In true metroidvania style, how you tackle the bosses is up to you, well providing you have the right upgrades to get to them!
Each area of the massive map has a unique aesthetics and its a lot of fun to see how they vary the deeper you go in. The controls are very tight yet fluid and every attack, jump and dodge just feels perfect! It feels like your playing a version of Super Metroid mixed with Devil May Cry. Enemies come in a variety types and they come fast, and in hoards! Sometimes there up to around 20 enemies on screen at one time, Luckily the dodge gives you a much needed, albeit a brief respite from the mayhem Eshe is enduring. Enemy design is great and is varied, always keeping you on your toes, they are also very persistent and hard to shake off as they will follow you from screen to screen.
Enemies drop shards which act as a kind of currency for ‘levelling up’ Eshe. Upon your inevitable death, you are taken back to the Sanctuary, a safe area akin to Dark Souls Firelink Shrine. In the Sanctuary you have access to a skill tree for upgrading Eshe’s stats & equipping corrupted shards. With every death I was left compelled to try again with my freshly upgraded health or damage output, It is a very addictive feeling! The corrupted shards offer a stat boost usually at the cost of another, one in particular made health elixers drop rate from enemies 4% while decreasing the amount of shards obtained by 15%. This really makes you have to weight the pros and cons and adjust accordingly!
The exploration aspect of the game is really quite interesting, each time you die the caverns change. The bosses and other ‘important’ rooms stay in the same position but everything between is completely procedural. This fits in very well with the lovecraftian feel of losing your sanity and keeps thing interesting, No two runs will be the same.
There is a lot variety in the bosses and they really are impressive, Some are massive taking up the whole screen and really feels like an achievement when you (eventually) defeat them. It takes me back to old days of shoot-em ups like R-type where the odds really feel stacked against you. Another thing I must mention once more is the beautiful hand-drawn art and animation, I felt like every frame could be captured and put on display, and the numerous layers of parallax scrolling in the background really does add to sense of depth. The visual are supported by fantastic, atmospheric soundtrack that all comes together to create a world unlike any other.
The only criticism I can really give is the game does just throw you in there, many times I got lost but luckily the map system works really well and getting lost was all part of the fun. I really cannot recommend Sundered enough, at the end of my time with the game I was left wanting more and luckily for me there are multiple endings!
Sundered is available on PC & PS4 July 28th.