Friday, December 21

Review: Sundered - Eldritch Edition [Nintendo Switch eShop]


OK, so there’s this really wild new genre you’ve never heard of… a Metroidvania. I know, you’re thinking “What is this genre of which you speak?” OK, so perhaps only outnumbered by roguelikes there are simply a ton of Metroidvanias (action games with ability upgrades that unlock new areas of the map and lots of cool action ideally) on the Switch. There are even some really great ones I’ve reviewed in the past month (and all year). So why would you want to even consider another one? Let me tell you about Sundered.


Ever since their releasing the gorgeous Jotun, featuring some amazing hand-drawn art and massive bosses, it seems that the folks at TunderLotus have been busy. With Sundered, the same amazing art and taste for preposterously large bosses has stayed in place but in place of the somewhat inconsistent and odd filler in Jotun that didn’t always work so well they’ve put in a procedurally-generated world map with multiple major zones, areas you’ll need specific abilities to reach, and a surprising amount of player choice. While there are core powers you’ll need to gain to progress you’ll also have a huge upgrade tree where you can decide what areas you want extra oomph in, perks that further enhance your powers (sometimes at the cost of another area to keep some roguelike balance), and a choice to embrace dark powers or resist their temptation which will change which final boss you face as well as the game’s ending.


One word of warning, starting out not everything was terribly well-explained in-game so the early going felt a bit aimless. One key thing to understand is that death, though always inconvenient, isn’t a very big deal and is simply likely to happen since even on Easy the challenge can be substantial in spots. In particular both somewhat randomly and especially in some specific rooms where there will be a gong you can strike expect to be swarmed from pretty well all directions by enemies… and in some cases quite a lot of them. These will test your ability to slash, dodge, make smart use of your finishers, and do whatever you can once you’ve lost your shields to try to avoid being hit so they can replenish again.


There’s a real flow to combat you can get into but as you progress and go into new areas how you deal with the swarms will need to vary since enemy attack patterns can be quite different. Dealing with enemies who have ranged weapons and are firing at you from off-screen can be a serious problem in some spots, and aggravating since they’ll continue to respawn for a while until things have passed… though in a few areas rather being a limited time attack you had to survive the goal was to reach a certain area while under attack, in one case even having a need of the swarm of enemies to be able to make your way up to an area your abilities couldn’t possibly get you to. While I was eventually able to tune in to what the game was doing with the sudden swarms, special areas where the objective is to do something active rather than just survive, and making smart use of the map to plan out what areas I could unlock to help make future navigation easier… until that moment I’ll admit I wasn’t too thrilled and could get a bit frustrated by it all. While saying “push through and things will get better” may not be the best thing to see in a review hopefully being armed with some info up front will help you get over the hump more easily at least.


While Sundered may not be as polished or clearly mainstream-friendly as some of the other titles in the genre on Switch for folks looking for a game that plays well, looks great, and has amazing moments to offer those who invest in it there’s also nothing else like it. It’s meant to be a challenging experience, you will likely die more than a few times as you come to terms with various scenarios and the truly incredible bosses, and there are times when the periodic randomly respawning and swarming enemies coming at you will grate on your nerves. That said, if you take the time to fight it out, obtain new perks, and fill out your skill tree you can get quite formidable and the slashing combat can be a blast. Throw in the fact that beating the game isn’t going to be something you’ll accomplish too quickly and Sundered has a lot to offer if you’ll give it a chance to grow on you.


Score: 8

Pros:
  • Amazing hand-drawn art
  • Simply incredible bosses that are massive in scale and challenging
  • A great deal of player choice in how you’re powered up, with some choices impacting the final battle and ending which also makes the game more replayable

Cons:
  • The periodic swarms of enemies can sometimes be a bit overwhelming, especially in the early going
  • Not everything about what’s going on or what you need to do is very well explained in-game, making it more challenging than the average to get oriented
  • Lacks an overall polish some of the other titles in the genre on Switch possess