Sundered is the best roguelike game to hit the gaming market since Rogue Legacy, and, in some ways, it is even better. It matches the elements of roguelikes perfectly (the formula is not that complex), and dips it in a strong metroidvania chassis as well. Roguelikes and metroidvania games have saturated the indie gaming market over the last couple of years with few notable titles that have stayed in memory. I will play almost any game in either the roguelike or metroidvania genre because these kinds of games appeal to my history of gaming, but Sundered pairs these two elements together in a perfect mix. Between the beautifully hand-drawn artwork, the smooth mechanics, and weird as hell storyline, Sundered easily makes the top of the indie gaming list.
The storyline of Sundered is a bit difficult to follow. As a mysterious god is speaking to you in a native tongue, you must read the subtitles. Additionally, these voices sometimes give cryptic information. In some ways, it feels like jumping into chapter 3 of a book. The basis of the game is the final choices you must make on whether or not to comply with the directions of the ominous voices or go your own way.
Another aspect that makes Sundered special is the ability to make certain choices that unfold different pathways and endings to the game. This is not a new concept whatsoever, but the choices that you make throughout the game (you have the option to corrupt certain powerful abilities or destroy the crystals that give you these powers to either obey or besmirch the gods who are speaking to you on your quest).
If you played Jotun, you will be familiar with the art style of the game. I thought Jotun was a well thought out boss rush style game that brought some amazing and unique visuals to the gaming scene. Sundered follows through with this style. Bosses are larger than life and create an eerie sense of atmospheric dread that is both compelling and unnerving at the same time.
There is no shortage of quests to complete in Sundered. Whether you are collecting perks and crystals to upgrade your strength, special cannon abilities, or your health elixir capacity. Collecting elder fragments and shards will allow you to upgrade your abilities or cash them in for crystals to upgrade your character. Perks allow you to enhance your abilities as well, but at a cost. All of these elements give Sundered a well-balanced feeling of control and choice without becoming cumbersome. The skill trees are very extensive and give a lot of choice as to what you wish to enhance.
The game is divided into three primary regions which you can explore at any time. The bosses can be killed in any order, but in typical metroidvania fashion, you will need certain abilities to progress in certain places of the game. Each region has subsections which all have different environmental feels. From the robotic lab to the hellish demon cliffs, Sundered explores a perfect blend of uncanny visages and creatures. These creatures sometimes take over the screen in mass quantities, which bring you to certain death quite quickly, which brings you back to the main altar of the game. Retracing your path is not difficult, especially after opening new pathways to new and old areas with your upgraded abilities.
Due to the ability to make certain choices (resist or embrace), Sundered offers replayability that pays off with different final bosses depending on your choice (3 total). The game is procedurally generated, so each foray into the depths will have you exploring a map that is familiar but connected in different ways. A number of predefined areas could have had more unique iterations, as it became a bit repetitive at times to move through similar areas, but this is an issue with all roguelikes, as a genre. Sundered innovates enough of the game not feel like it is too repetitive.
One issue I did have with Sundered were continuing crashes of the game. In a 2-hour gaming session at one point, the game crashed over 6 times. They responded to my tweets saying they were fixing the issues, but it still made for frustrating continuity as the load times of the game are quite long.
Between Sundered and Jotun, Thunder Lotus has made two beautiful projects that differ greatly in mechanics but feel like they are part of some strange otherworld ecosystem. We can only hope that Thunder Lotus continues on this pathway of creating eerie nostalgic feeling retro experiences.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Sony Playstation 4 code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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