When indie games first began to caught on, a lot of them had tiny budgets and often held off on hiring an artist. This meant that we were flooded with titles that looked (and played) like they were straight off the NES. These days, however, indie games are investing plenty in their artwork, and the result is some of the sleekest, richest visual work we’ve ever seen in gaming. Sundered is another wonderful addition to this compendium. However, is its rich aesthetic matched by compelling gameplay? Let’s find out.
To begin with, Sundered is a metroidvania that places you in a huge, dangerous and bizarre world where you need to fend for yourself (a classic indie trope at this stage). The caveat, however, is that Sundered is not a pure metroidvania. It’s a metroidvania in the sense that Dead Cells is; a metroidvania with roguelite elements. Basically, when you die, the layout of the levels changes around. This is not a great choice to start things off, and it ends up weakening the overall game. While there are some genres that lend themselves more to roguelike and roguelite elements, metroidvanias typically survive more on the strength of their maps and level design, and Sundered’s procedurally generated elements cause parts to be more forgettable.
What’s not forgettable, however, is Sundered’s world. It’s a strange mix of technological apocalypse and Lovecraftian horror, and the design of pretty much every aspect is mind-blowing. The animations on everything are amazing, and there’s a real fluidity to the motion. Perhaps my favorite part would be the design on the bosses. You fight some truly massive, disturbing creatures, and you can tell the artists here really put a lot of thought into crafting memorable body horrors.
The boss fights are really amazing in terms of gameplay and pacing, and they have a sort of Shadow of the Colossus feel to them. Between the massive size of the bosses and your insignificance, you really find yourself using every trick you can to stay alive and try and fend off their attacks. The boss fights really do challenge you to think creatively, and they’re probably the high point of the game. You can really tell that the devs here wanted to emphasize boss battles as a core part of the gameplay experience.
When it comes to combat outside the boss fights, however, the game is a mixed bag. Its combat feels smooth and responsive, but at the same time, you can get easily overwhelmed when you face larger hordes of enemies, as the dodge-heavy fighting style doesn’t lend itself to that style of hack-and-slash gamepaly. It’s also a matter of the game just ramping up the difficulty with these hordes. There’s really no point to them, and you don’t even get that many upgrades from fighting them off. At other times, the combat can get a little bit repetitive.
All in all, Sundered is a title that I recommend, albeit tentatively. Its world-building and its incredible artwork are worth the price of admission, and while the combat can get hectic and plain frustrating at times, it’s still fairly satisfying action. The game is also likely to patch out some of the rougher edges, and it’s definitely a title that metroidvania fans will enjoy.
Sundered was reviewed using a PC and PlayStation 4 downloadable code of the game provided by Supergiant Games. The review was tested by Mazen Abdallah on a PC running Windows 10, with an 8GB NVIDIA Geforce GTX 1070 fitted on a 4th Generation Intel i7 4790 3.6Ghz CPU and topped with 16GB of RAM, and on PlayStation 4 by Nazih Fares. We don’t discuss review scores with publishers or developers prior to the review being published.
• Visually stunning artwork
• Unique, memorable world design
• Smooth action gameplay
• Creative boss fights
• Hordes are overwhelming and unfair
• Random generation makes levels feel less meaningful
• Combat can feel repetitive