Sundered, by Thunder Lotus Games, shares a lot of DNA with games such as Castlevania and Rogue Legacy and meshes them together with this gorgeous hand-drawn art style. The procedural generation of some elements has its issues, but the game took hold of me and wouldn’t let go until I successfully downed the boss. Sundered is currently available on Kickstarter to back and has an estimated July delivery date.

A Broken World

The pre-alpha build I played showcased primarily the gameplay mechanics and art style. There weren’t any story elements apparent to the game, but their Kickstarter page does go into some detail. There was a war between the scientific Valkyries and the cult worshipping Eschaton, and their war ultimately destroyed the whole world. Your character, Eshe, ends up in this underground labyrinth and must find a way to survive and uncover what exactly happened.

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Along the way, she unlocks new abilities that allow her to pass through various environment obstacles as we usually see with a ‘Metroidvania’ type game. The build only included three of the seven planned abilities: a sprint, a heavy attack, and a gun attack. You can also corrupt these by collecting Elder Shards from fallen minibosses. They’re supposed to make the abilities more powerful but I didn’t really notice a change when I chose to corrupt the heavy attack power. Outside of the gameplay, the developers mentioned that the more you allow Eshe to be corrupted, events will change during the game. Your final boss also depends on just how corrupt Eshe becomes.

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Judging by the scope of the build, it’s hard to tell how much more there is to the world. I was given a large area to explore and while I accidentally did some things out of order, there’s a natural progression that leads you to pick up several upgrades for Eshe. The build included the abilities mentioned earlier, several perks to add stat boosts with some type of drawback, and a huge boss battle at the end of the demo. This is where the “roguelike” element of Sundered kicks in, where you’ll make another run and try to get just a bit farther than you did the last time.

Eldritch Swarm

At the start, Eshe has very little at her disposal for fighting. She can attack, jump, dodge and shoot a ludicrously-sized gun. That’s really it. I found it frustrating at first because the combat consisted of mashing the attack button as fast as I could. A lot of fighting comes down to managing how many enemies can get behind you and mowing everyone down as they try and attack. The build had four types of enemies, with two to start and two more that you’ll encounter later. You’ll often be fighting Devourers, a flying monster that shoots projectiles, and Crawlers, a creepy tooth-filled creature that lunges when in range, for most of the game. You eventually find Cultists and Screamers in the deeper regions of the caves. The variety of enemies or adding in potentially new tactics may change as the game moves towards a wide release, but your core combat strategy really doesn’t change that much depending on what you’re fighting.

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Bosses are a bit different. There were two minibosses I found, but they were the same monster in each location. Killing them granted me an Elder Shard and I could then corrupt an ability if I chose to. The final boss of the demo was massive and ended up being the most interesting fight. You can see in the image just how small Eshe is in relation to the final boss, and there’s a definite pattern you need to identify and avoid to survive. It took me several tries and I maxed out the Skill Tree by the end of it, but every time I died I knew what caused it and had a strategy for the next run. The boss fight felt like the most substantial piece of the game and it was immensely satisfying to bring it down.

Handcrafted, Computer Generated

One place where Sundered really sets its tone is with the hand-drawn artwork. In many places where the camera zooms in, you can see the individual draw lines for the characters as they move and it gives them a great sense of motion. Thunder Lotus Game’s previous release, Jotun, also used this style and it really helps their games stand out.

I mentioned earlier that the game is a Metroidvania and a roguelike together, so you’re constantly dying and restarting as well as slowly becoming more powerful and capable as you navigate the world. Sundered shakes up the genre conventions by semi-randomly generating the rooms and corridors on each run. These games usually have a static map set by the creator, but with Sundered, the outline of the map is locked in.

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Your spawn point is in the same place, there are gates you can open to speed up your route through the cavern, and special rooms for bosses and abilities are locked. Everything around those rooms will change upon your death. When you enter a new room, you’ll see the large outline of that map segment and know where you are in relation to the exit. The corridors and rooms along the way will shift, preventing you from memorizing the map eventually but changing your experience ever so slightly each time. The unique paths help break up some of the monotony of the level but I personally thought it was to the detriment of appreciating the level’s artwork. I found myself staring a lot at the mini map and following the clearest path to my next objective. Each room isn’t unique on its own because it has to slot in virtually anywhere. It’s hard to know how much of that would be an issue in the final retail release but it was something that stuck out to me.

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Overall, I enjoyed my brief time with Sundered. It starts out slow as you get used to how the map generates and you begin building out the skill tree and grow stronger over time. Once I finally managed to destroy the main boss, I was ready to move on to the next challenge. This is a game that caught my eye with a gorgeous reveal trailer in September and managed to hook me into taking “just one more run” over and over until the very end.

 

Developer: Thunder Lotus Games
Genre: Roguelike, Metroidvania, Platformer
Platforms: PC, PS4
WebsiteSundered, Kickstarter

About The Author

Andy L
Review/Editorial Writer

Ever since he received a Sega Genesis for Christmas at age 6, Andy has been hooked on video games. Pokemon and Metal Gear Solid are his all-time favorite games, but he's found an appreciation for quirky, unique indie titles as well. He's also into board games because one gaming hobby just wasn't enough.