Sundered: Eldritch Edition – The Switch Island Review
Metroidvanias, love ‘em or hate ‘em there’s a lot of ‘em about. And here’s another one! If you don’t mind that, read on.
Sundered is a game of madness and H. P. Lovecraft. With place names like X’zea’shia it’s as much a tribute to Lovecraft as a roiling mass of tentacles ever was. Weirdness abounds. If you’re comfortable with that, keep reading.
The aspect of the game that hits you between the eyes right away are the visuals. It’s a gorgeous spread of hand-drawn art, with a cartoon style and a bright palette. It’s a game that feels a joy to explore, just simply because of how good everything looks. Like that? Read on.
You start in a hub area, which acts as your sanctuary, your save point, your skill-tree, and it’s where you respawn when you die. The world is made up of three enormous areas, with networks of labyrinthine tunnels and caverns. You need to be prepared to explore. The game has procedurally generated magic applied to its pathways, so just like in Tulgey Wood, Alice is never able to take the same path twice. Reassuringly though, the core points of interest – the bosses, the upgrade rooms, etc – are always in the same positions, but you’ll need to be prepared to take slightly alternate routes to them. Happy with that? Read on.
The pathways are procedurally generated and so are the enemies. In most games of this ilk the enemies are fairly evenly distributed. Not so here. You may spend a good five minutes exploring rapidly without encountering anything, and then, like an alarm has been triggered, Lovecraftian nightmares descend to wipe you out. The combat can be fairly relaxed at times, and then, at other times, it can be a dangerous, chaotic swarm of beasts barrelling down on you from all directions. Eshe can cloud-step, allowing you to chain attacks together and jump from enemy to enemy. You can also roll out of harms way, because roly-polies, need I remind you, make you invulnerable. The combat is mostly melee but you do add a massive cannon to your arsenal later. I found the frenetic combat a lot of fun, enjoying the spikes in combat as refreshing breathers from the wandering, but this might not be to everyone’s tastes. Sometimes you really do get overwhelmed and need to flee to survive. You do have a regenerating shield, so if you can get some breathing room you’re normally OK for more combat. This all sound like fun? Ok, keep going.
If you die though, you do jump back to the sanctuary. It’s not a huge problem because that’s where the skill tree is, and you can spend all those shards you’ve collected. Shards? Yes, these are the currency. They’re littered throughout in chests and vials, they’re fun to collect. Plus, the sanctuary is never a huge chore to return to, for two big reasons: the first is you can go exploring in a different direction, and as the game tells you ‘exploration is always rewarded’. Second, Sundered has a core aspect that makes it a Metroidvania, which is the use of new abilities to access shortcuts and new pathways. And, if you’re ever really struggling anywhere in the map, you can voluntarily return to the sanctuary. Yes, everything is how it should be. Pleased? Read on.
The game runs really well on Switch. The controls are tight, the character movement is fast and fluid. There was very little slowdown, even with vast hoards all around you. The movement is actually very very fast, in fact, especially as the new abilities pile up, but the game keeps up very well. So, a good port as well. Is there anything this game can’t do?
Well, actually there are a couple of minor complaints. The combat isn’t as strategic as in some other games, and is essentially just jumping around and thrashing enemies. A lot of fun, but I’m guessing it may tire on some. And the other slight issue would be a lack of atmosphere, perhaps caused by the music. I think they could’ve gone weirder and eerier with the music, but again, that’s possibly a taste thing.
Overall then, Sundered: Eldritch Edition, is a colourful, whirlwind example of my favourite genre. It doesn’t do anything radically new, but, for me, it’s as if someone remade Dead Cells to my tastes; packed with exploration and permanent upgrades, and completely gorgeous as well. With Jotun and now Sundered under their belts, I can’t wait to see what Thunder Lotus Games get up to next. Hopefully Cthulhu will make an appearance (all hail Cthulhu!).