Sundered is a game that appeals to a lot of what I like in games. The genre is a fantastic open exploration game in the style of what most would call the “Metroidvania” genre. The art style and overall theme of the game are fantastic, pulling from different inspirations and sources to mash them all together into a single mysterious world. The gameplay is terrific; it’s smooth as silk and challenging, but also fair. There are a lot of things I like about Sundered (and a few things I don’t) and I am glad I was able to play and review this fantastic and amazing title by the studio behind Jotun, Thunder Lotus Games.
Sundered is a game that takes place on a ruined, desolate world, what remains after some kind of apocalypse. You take control of Eshe, a lone survivor, seeking power in this desolate world. For what purpose, you don’t really know at first, and I would be remiss to ruin the surprises the game has in store for you. You find a gate and are teleported to hub area where a dark crystal promises you power, and the world only opens up to you from then on. The game is very sci-fi in its theme with just the right amount of Lovecraftian themes mixed in, and I found myself entranced and excited with what I was going to find next in this dark, desolate world. The game caught me from the get go, and never let go.
Sundered is an open exploration Metroidvania title, one that actually expects the player to die, and one that while it can be frustrating sometimes, wins you over with how it perfectly mixes frequent deaths and amounts of progress. You start off the game in a hub area, one that you will be returning to quite often, there you find a dark crystal, that promises you power, and you move forward from there. Killing enemies will earn you shards, which let you upgrade your character, in any direction you would like. You are given the freedom to upgrade any way you choose, and I saw the potential for various builds even in the early points of the game, which really lets you focus on the play style you are looking for. Finding abilities called Perks also helps you further customize these ideas, and while they are incredibly powerful, they also have drawbacks you really have to consider beforehand, although the pros really outweigh the cons. This level of customization is further heightened by the Elder Shards you find, which allow you to corrupt your gained abilities and make them better, but it’s implied there is a grim consequence the more you choose to do so.
The game’s art style is truly breathtaking and something I hardly see in games. The style is hand drawn animation one that is beautiful, crisp, and smooth, and I still love looking at it and observing every detail. I can’t even express how beautiful it looks, and it certainly is unique and gives the game different and refreshing look that is hard to even describe, but it’s not justified in the still images that accompany this review. There are some sections I think warrant a seizure warning on the game beforehand, and I think the developers should consider that, but they weren’t too bad, but I feel should be warned about to be on the safe side. The art was truly hand crafted lovingly and carefully and I applaud the makers of the game for using this art style, as it’s certainly not an easy thing to do, but gives it such a high amount of polish that the end result takes your breath away.
The game’s music is amazing as well and fits the setting with beautiful tones and rich melodies. Areas felt quiet, but never quite boring, and the game’s music did a lot to set the tone in every room I entered, often picking up and quieting down when extremely appropriate. The soundtrack is truly beautiful and really complements the beauty of the art style quite nicely.
The game’s controls are tight and responsive and really flow well with the combat. Movement is sleek and smooth and it feels really good to traverse the world and fight the creatures that attack you. I always felt like I was in control of the character, even in the chaos of the game’s spawning enemies that can quickly consume you, I always felt like I had control over the character and could survive some encounters purely because I had that control.
Boss fights are massive…like truly gigantic and ridiculous in scope. These bosses are huge, cinematic, and awesome. Sometimes I could barely see Eshe on the screen, which is a minor nitpick, but it truly showed off how huge and epic these boss fights were. They never felt unfair either, the best comparison I can give is Dark Souls. The bosses were challenging and had huge attacks and patterns, but once you got them down, they were beatable but still huge in scope. The orchestra for the bosses are amazing as well, starting off almost quiet and low but still epic and picking up and becoming louder and more prominent until the apex of the fight, really giving the epic sense of these boss fights and making them feel that much more awesome.
To sum it all up before I continue gushing about this game, Sundered is a beautiful, dark, epic, jaunt into a post apocalyptic sci-fi world with sinister Lovecraftian themes hidden beneath the surface. The art style, music, and the world are just gorgeous and it comes together for a highly polished, beautiful, but fun and challenging game. The few nitpicks I could find could easily be fixed, in that I feel as though the camera could be adjusted to let the player see themselves easier in some boss fights, and there were some sections that were really rough on my eyes, but these are minor problems the developers could adjust easily. Sundered is one of the best games I have ever had the pleasure of playing from an indie game studio and one that is as close to perfect as I can give in scores, the game is amazing, and I see myself jumping back into it constantly in the future. A must try, one of the best games I have played all year, and a feast for the eyes, and ones that do all of this while having replay value, a challenging and fair difficulty curve, and a world that constantly has you coming back for more, Sundered is a masterpiece.
A Steam review copy of Sundered was provided by Thunder Lotus Games for the purpose of this Review.