The latest release from Thunder Lotus Games is as beautiful as it is challenging. The sophomore release from the studio, Sundered, incorporates Lovecraftian and roguelike elements into a beautiful Metroidvania style platformer. Throughout the game, you play as Eshe, a mysterious nomad wandering through a perilous world.
Sundered is a horrifying fight for survival and sanity, a hand-drawn epic from the creators of Jotun. You play Eshe, a wanderer in a ruined world, trapped in ever changing caverns teeming with eldritch horrors. Harness the power of corrupted relics to defeat gigantic bosses, at the cost of your humanity. Resist or embrace.
As a longtime Metroid fan, I was very intrigued by the concept of Sundered. It seems that lately there have been a good number of 2D platformers making their debut, but I’m a firm believer that you can’t have too much of a good thing. Especially when it comes to Metroidvania games.
Yes, I had been looking forward to playing Sundered, and I was excited to play it, but I didn’t expect it to exceed my expectations so quickly, and by so much. Thunder Lotus Games unquestionably nailed the art of creating atmosphere in their second release. I fell in love with this game based on the art alone, but after getting a feel for the gameplay and experiencing the emotions that this title presents, I was absolutely captivated.
Sundered relies more heavily on gameplay than plot to maintain momentum. The game provides little context for the player, forcing you to pick up clues along the way. You begin in a desert, pushing forward through a sand storm before being swallowed up by a dark and powerful force. From here on, you are trapped in an underground lair, forced to navigate through a series of procedurally generated rooms. Your main goal is to simply survive, which might mean abandoning your humanity and succumbing to the darkness.
It doesn’t take long to realize that Sundered is absolutely gorgeous. The hand-drawn art is amazingly well done and does a great job of furthering the overall mood of the game. As you make your way through the story, there is a constant sense of unease. The score is inconspicuous, but foreboding. At any moment, a horde of vile enemies can descend on you, forcing you to combine exact timing and skillful combos to survive.
As you progress, you collect shards from vanquished foes and occasionally from random jars that are scattered throughout the map. The shards serve as a sort of currency that you can use to upgrade your skills. Naturally, the interface that you use to unlock new abilities is as beautiful as the rest of the game. Each aspect of Eshe’s skill set is mapped out in a tree-like design, with paths that branch out from a single point of origin.
As you spend shards, you can reveal new abilities that build on your existing skill set. The one caveat is that you are not able to work on your build as you see fit––you are only able to spend your shards once you die and are transported back to a safe room.
While the benefits to dying can be fairly welcomed, as you’re able to make crucial alterations to your skills, there are no real consequences to dying. However, the map tends to shift when you die and are forced to restart, which is one of the things that made Sundered incredibly challenging. Due to it’s procedurally generated nature, it can be hard to get your bearings after you die. While this can be somewhat frustrating at times, it contributes to the overall sense of apprehension that the game tries to create in the player.
As you delve further into the treacherous world of Sundered, dexterity becomes increasingly crucial. In classic Metroidvania style, timing is of the utmost importance when battling through swarms of enemies and loathsome bosses. Admittedly, I struggled in many of these encounters, and died more times than I care to admit. However, the ever changing nature of the game (as traitorous as it may feel at times) provides a new set of obstacles to overcome, which speaks to the game’s dynamism as well as its replayability.
Overall, I found this game to be exciting and inspired. With the level of difficulty, I often found myself stuck, but with the wide area of map to explore and the constant threat of attack, it never became stale. With its capricious pace and uncertain nature, this game never allows you to get too comfortable. Sundered is a beautiful game with very enjoyable and challenging gameplay, which I think will appeal to any fan of the Metroidvania genre.
Sundered is an outstanding 2D platformer with impeccable art and a wholly immersive mood, making it a worthy addition to the genre of Metroidvania games.
Want to learn more about the development of Sundered? Check out our IndieDev Interview with Developer Will Dube where we talk about the challenges of designing a Metroidvania game, Sundered’s Resist or Embrace mechanic, and what they learned from the development of Jotun.