Sundered Review with Stream
Wonderful art style
Interesting level/map design
Too many swarms of mindless enemies
Odd difficulty curve
Sundered-Nerds Are Go!
Metroidvania is a style of game that usually describes a 2D environment, with a heavy emphasis on exploration, and using the map quite often to find your next goal on a non-linear route. It’s been a while since I’ve seen such a loyal interpretation of this idea, but I have found that in Sundered. I have fond memories of both Castlevania, and Metroid respectively, and I was a huge fan of Thunder Lotus Games previous title, Jotun, so it seems a mix of everything I like was at least worth checking out.
Sundered takes place in a place of ruin, beneath which lies ancient enemies and incredible powers. You play Eshe, but beyond a name, a slightly Arabian look, and a vague goal, that’s really all you have to go on. In a mix of crafted and procedurally generated levels, you have to face huge swarms of enemies, and single yet powerful bosses. It has the classic maps of yore, easy to understand yet hard to master. You know where you need to go, the boss’ icon taunts you with every room, but it’s a real journey to get there. It has all the hallmarks of Metroidvania, with small incremental upgrades that unlock a different part of the map, several bosses checking your skill at each point, so that it never seems boring, and you can easily gauge how strong you’ve become.
Check out my stream of Sundered here:
The enemies are beautiful yet deadly as always with the truly awesome hand-drawn, smooth as silk animation that I now relish seeing in a Thunder Lotus game. The bosses are no different, and they are always given a real treatment for details and the polish is evident. The backgrounds are interesting with multiple layers and some nice variety making every major area just different enough to not be boring which is a problem in many other games of the same ilk. The music is not bad by any means, but I do wish there was some more variety, enough to fit the same amount as the backgrounds.
While Sundered definitely plays like a Metroidvania game, there are some definite problems. For one, the difficulty spike graph looks more akin to a Sin Wave than anything, because it could be incredibly easy at one point and snowball to a totally unrecognizable level almost instantly, and things get out of hand so fast it feels unfair or cheap especially due to the procedural nature of the enemies themselves. There is a skill to help with these hordes of enemies, but the perks that come with them are usually so terrible they aren’t worth using, so it seems pointless at least near the beginning. These kind of games are never meant to be sped through, since they encourage the exploration of everything which takes time, but it does seem to take a while to really get going, so it comes off a bit boring at the start. If there was literally any story that we could latch onto to make our goal clear, or for us to even care about our character, that would definitely have helped the arduous journey ahead, but that’s just not the case here. In Jotun for example, you were helping a Viking get into Valhalla after being denied her change at eternal happiness; now that’s incentive!
It’s a tough game to be sure, but that’s not a bad thing at all. I personally love tough games since they test what I can really do on a lot of levels. But with the constant change in difficulty out of nowhere, and with enemies just swarming you left and right that appear out of the ether on both sides, it just seems like a trap everywhere I go, instead of a test to be conquered. When I beat a boss or get an item, it seems like more of a to-do list item getting checked instead of an epic quest to save a kingdom, or something else epic in nature. Even with some minor faults, Sundered is still an entertaining title that deserves praise, and with only being $20, you would absolutely get your money’s worth due if nothing else to the replay value.