Sundered - PS4 Review

Sundered is an interesting mesh of Metroidvania and 2D souls-like. A dark and VERY difficult journey through a R’lyehen world full of gruesome monsters, death around every corner, and an extremely disturbing surplus of eyeballs. Exploring the semi-rogue-like cavern of apparent doom in Sundered is kind of like sticking your hand in a box and hoping the box is full of Gummy Bears, instead of some of the…less favorable options.

I find that Sundered can be fairly adequately described as a mesh of some of the better parts of multiple genres, the Metroidvania and Souls-like I mentioned earlier. For the most part, gameplay exploration is rather Metroidvania styled, as you explore different regions, finding blocked paths, backtracking to find an ability you need to bypass said blockage, and then returning to fight a boss. The reason I included souls-like is because of the combat. Most of the fighting revolves around smacking things and dodge rolling away, and as you kill more enemies and find cash, well, caches, you build up shards, which can be used to upgrade nodes on an ability tree, which had me instantly think of Salt and Sanctuary.

Further compounded with the periodic “grey” caverns that are randomly generated every time you either load an area or die, make for a new experience fairly often. Unlike in the souls series, dying isn’t particularly detrimental, although it can be quite infuriating. When you die you don’t lose your shards, which are necessary to purchase upgrades and skill bonuses. In fact, dying returns you to the sanctuary where you can purchase your upgrades. Another parallel to the souls series is the distinct lack of explicit story. You start out as a hooded figure in a desert sandstorm, and you find a mystic gate of presumably Eldritch energy. That’s about it. The rest you learn as you travel through the cave systems.

Over the course of your exploration, you will discover abilities such as the wall run or grappling hook, which unlock different segments of the upgrade tree for you to explore. These abilities will also allow you into new areas and may give you the edge on some of the bosses. Which brings me to one of my serious gripes: the boss AI can be super annoying. As an extreme example, the boss in the cathedral took me almost four hours to beat, and only two tries. The first attempt took me over three hours. Second attempt? 10 minutes. The reason was because the boss kept floating either way too far off-screen, or had the only part that takes damage sitting within a wall where I couldn’t hit it. The boss of the holy city also had an issue where one of his weak points disappeared after hitting it once, making it rather difficult to hit. On the plus side, there are a lot of mini-bosses, most of which have interesting gimmicks that will give a refreshing feeling to each new boss fight.

As you explore and fight your way through this Cthullian cave system, you will see some beautifully drawn backgrounds, some unique and horrendous enemies, and maybe even hear a “gong” and the wails of the damned. Those would be your wails, by the way, as the gong symbolizes an incoming horde of enemies. These hordes can be useful for grinding out shards, or they can occur during the worst timing such as during a particularly difficult platforming section. Which brings up my next gripe, or gripes, I suppose: enemy quantity and knock-back. There were times that so many enemies were onscreen I didn’t even know where I was until I was dead. Another time, I got swarmed by the floating eyeballs that shot so many laser beams at me I got forced into an instant death cloud. I wasn’t too happy about that. That being said, most of the game was at least manageable, if not extremely difficult.

I thoroughly enjoyed my experience with Sundered. Despite some of its short-comings, such as the occasional lag or really long load times, the semi-randomized and beautiful environments, fluid gameplay, and varied boss fights really drew me in. Despite a particularly memorable soundtrack, Sundered provides most of what it needs in the form of the harrowing horde signalling gong and wailing that had me getting worried on multiple occasions. With just enough abilities to hit a nice medium between “way too many” and “is this is?”, they all get used often enough and the game doesn’t demand an insane level of backtracking. It also has the most glorious of game implements: a map. No more fondling the darkness hoping for a juicy piece of treasure only to be met with a hungry warg, you can see all the areas you have been through, although the randomized areas turn into large grey boxes, but the basic size of the areas remains the same, and only the interior changes. It also shows the locations of key points, such as the ability providing shrines, but doesn’t tell you how to get there, so there’s still plenty of fun in exploring the map.

Overall, I’d say that Sundered, while maybe needing a bit of polish, still shines through regardless. With multiple endings based on what you do with the elder shards, there’s a decent amount of replay value, and the randomizing is a wonderful addition. While it can be infuriatingly difficult, it is by no means impossible. So the only question remains: will you embrace the darkness, or resist its lure?

Game Information

PlayStation 4
Thunder Lotus Games
Thunder Lotus Games
Single Player
Other Platform(s):

Provided by Publisher

Article by Richard