Review: Sundered (Computer)
- Release Date (NA): July 28, 2017
- Release Date (EU): July 28, 2017
- Publisher: Thunder Lotus Games
- Developer: Thunder Lotus Games
- Genres: Metroidvania
- Also For: PlayStation 4
Single playerLocal MultiplayerOnline MultiplayerCo-operative
Adapt or Perish… But Mostly Perish
Enter Sundered, where playing as Eshe, a wanderer stranded in a ruined underground world, you are tasked by an eerie contraption called the Shining Trapezohedron to adventure in the ever-changing caverns abound with Lovecraftian horrors in order to reach the surface; a task that might cost you more than what you expected...
The plot seems hazy from the get-go but clears as you play on, learning more about the cryptic world you are in as Eshe moves deeper in the underground through the narration of the ShiningTrapezohedron. But even then the story doesn’t feel satisfying enough given the toughness of the game.
Sundered starts off with a strikingly steep difficulty curve, with hordes of enemies that appear randomly for a blitzkrieg offence on your vulnerable self. And then you’ll die, a lot. True to their “Soulsian” inspiration, Thunder Lotus Games made dying an imperative feature in their second game. The game wants you to die. Indeed, once you bite the dust, you’ll respawn at the entrance to the underground; the game’s sole checkpoint which doubles as a skill tree. There you can upgrade Eshe’s abilities like her armor, health, luck and damage by using shards obtained after slaying enemies, breaking pots and slashing those spherical piñatas that serve as treasures. Once her abilities upgraded, Eshe can go back to take on the region that gave her a hard time beforehand.
Speaking of the regions, Thunder Lotus Games added a little twist to Sundered's environments. While the core map is static, the sections between every main area is not. The path taken to reach your objectives are procedurally generated, giving a different playthrough every time you respawn, in theory. In practice, the repetitive layout feels monotonous with some minor tweaks for the sake of change.
Sundered is a long game, not just because you'll take time to backtrack, kill and get killed, but the core game itself is pretty lengthy. Add to that the multiple endings that are available depending on your between sanity and madness to this Lovecraft-inspired game, you're in for considerably longer, provided that you have some stamina left to tackle the whole game again, several times!
On to the difficulty curve, you might think that it might entice those suckers for challenges but it’s not necessarily so. The lack of checkpoints adds another level of difficulty to the game. It is disproportionately so at the beginning of the game. True, you’ll open up shortcuts to ease your way to other sections but only later in the game after you unlock additional abilities like double jumping. But at the beginning you’ll die a lot, and you’ll stay at the “beginning” for a while, you will need to trace your way back again to the same spot, just because those hordes of relentless sentinels won’t stop following you or you managed to reach a boss, only to realize that you’re short on Health Elixirs or have yet to wrap your head around the boss’ mechanics. This constant backtracking becomes tediously and frustratingly repetitive. Nevertheless, the frustration is eased later in the game as Eshe gains new abilities and weapons like the prophesied Valkyrie Cannon.
Die, die, die!!!
Another issue of concern is the loading times. I could easily have my tea infused and ready to drink by the time Eshe drops down the underground’s opening and actually seeing her drop down after the loading screen...
For all of the ugly mess you’ll find yourself in from the avalanche of opponents, repetitive deaths and backtracking to the painful load times, Sundered is beautiful. The game features painstakingly hand-drawn animation that play fluidly to offer an absolute treat to the eyes. I would myself indulge more time taking in the scenery if there weren’t angry robots constantly after my back or sniping at me from a mile away.
Successfully beating the gigantic bosses also gives a certain sense of fulfilment. That’s Sundered at its best. But considering the ordeal you’ve been put through to get there, one would expect a more rewarding experience.
Sundered is a visually pretty game that is also pretty frustrating but gets better if you allow yourself to sink some time past the initial steep difficulty curve, backtracking and load times.
+ Beautiful hand-drawn animation
+ Multiple endings
- Steep initial difficulty curve
- Unsatisfying for the challenge it imposes
- Loading times
Impressive hand-drawn animation that has become a trademark of Thunder Lotus Games makes for a visually impressive experience. However, the procedurally generated regions will have repetitive elements and the lack of enemy variety lowers its presentation score.
Easy controls with a game that wants to kill, not challenge you, doesn’t make for an easy game. On top of that, the repetitive deaths and back tracking amount to the point of frustration early on.
Best enjoyed over time, you can easily sink in a considerable amount of time in Sundered by exploring, taking in its wonderful visuals and tackling its multiple endings.
out of 10
(not an average)
Sundered is pretty to look at but as the saying goes, never judge a book by its cover. It is an unforgiving game that fails to fully satisfy the gamer. Nevertheless, if savored bite by bite to prevent the frustration and repetition from exceeding your satiety threshold, it’ll prove to be a pretty entertaining title.