Preview: Get Swarmed in the Beautiful and Challenging Sundered
The fight for sanity looks really good.
Platform: PC (previewed), PS4
Developer: Thunder Lotus Games
Publisher: Thunder Lotus Games
“Difficult” seems to be a genre these days. It used to be that some games were just harder than others. As time went on, games became more and more accessible to where difficult games seemed less standard and more of a selling point, such as games like Dark Souls and Rogue Legacy. This is the niche that Sundered fits into.
While not nearly as punishing as Dark Souls, Sundered does offer quite a bit of challenge. It’s a side-scrolling platformer with Metroidvania-style puzzles and intense, fast-paced fighting. What’s stands out is how dying actually works. The game starts out pretty simple. Learn to run, jump, and roll. Then the player finds a magic item that transforms into a weapon-shaped shadow. That’s when the real fun starts. Fighting monsters, you’ll learn that different enemies having vastly different approaches. Sooner or later, it will prove too much for the hero and you’ll die. But the whole time, the enemies were dropping shards you can use to level yourself up through a tree. A literal and metaphorical tree. Filling in each node using the shards you accrued will make you more powerful, and allows players to choose what they level. More damage, more health, or more shield? This is just an example of the different types of choices that can be made within the leveling process.
The game’s pacing is a bit slow at first
It appears to be very basic, but upon playing further, it got to be more difficult and definitely more fun as enemy waves would increase and different tactics would have to be employed. Also, power-ups make the game more fun but are locked away until you’ve progressed. If anything could be tightened up, it’s the pacing in the beginning. True interest in the game didn’t strike until my second boot up.
Once a few power-ups and different enemies appear, the fun dramatically improves as there are different ways to battle enemies that are satisfying to pull off. Huge hordes of enemies rushing toward you make the combat that much more tense, and deciding on the fly what abilities to use to thwart them is crucial.
The artwork is beautiful
Sundered has a gorgeous hand-drawn art style. Every movement looks like it was drawn frame by frame and the particle effects such as dust clouds look straight out of a Disney movie, in a good way.
The overall mood of the game eerie. The game starts with you plunging into the depths of a facility with creepy sounds, chattering monsters, and shadowy tentacles grabbing you when you die. The lack of obvious story and dialogue add to the creep factor, as opposed to coming across as a cop out. Although, more exposition would be welcome if somehow done artfully.
The game has a mix of procedural and hand-crafted levels, with set pieces remaining the same, while the procedural levels allow for replayability.
Sundered shows real promise
Context and pacing are the two things Sundered needs to polish. The gameplay, once in the heart of the game, is fun and satisfying, but it does take some legwork to get there. In the days of hundreds of indie games, the game would benefit from a more immediate hook. I personally stuck with it to give a proper review, only to realize halfway through that I liked it quite a lot. Others may not give it such a chance, opting to drop it before the game gets its stride.
The world is beautiful and the silence is creepy, but it would be nice to know a little bit about why we’re there. With these two complaints worked on, the game could find some real success. The hour or two it takes to get into the meat of the game is worth it in the end.