Sundered: Eldritch Edition Review
Sundered originally released in 2017, by the same developers of Jotun and while I missed the opportunity to jump into this metroidvania style hack-and-slash, almost two years later they’ve released the Eldritch Edition completed with brand new updates. With a bit more content to try out, I thought it was time to take the plunge.
You are dropped into the middle of a wind storm in the desert, trekking to find an escape from the storm when suddenly you see a cathedral and believe you’ve found a way out of the harsh weather. But wait, surprise, you’ve been pulled down into a magical portal at the last second. Sundered follows a woman named Eshe in her battle to find shards and escape and while some of the story is fairly straightforward, some feels like it needs a lot more back story than what you’ve been given. You won’t want to miss any of the subtitles, that’s for sure.
Though it’s unclear which side you’re trying to help here, good or evil, you are bestowed ancient and magical powers to defend yourself against those who would try to harm you. While Thunder Lotus isn’t exactly reinventing the wheel with the narrative here, this 2D side-scrolling platformer does a pretty solid job bringing it all together at the end. Without any major spoilers, your journey will take you through the various underground environments, fighting epic bosses and picking up shard fragments in an attempt to restore power to those who brought you into this other dimension. There are multiple Elder shard fragments to piece together and your choices will determine which of the three endings you’ll face. Will you help give in to the ancient eldritch powers or will you resist their strength? It’s up to you to decide.
In Time, so Too Will the Rewards Reveal Themselves
Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of help along the way, though not in the shape of allies that will help make the journey easier, rather with a sanctuary that allows you to equip perks, and spend shard currency earned within battle to strengthen your health, armor, shield, luck, etc. Spend this currency wisely and be mindful about what each perk will help with, as players can only equip four at a time and each has a consequence to using it. Though it seems rather questionable to have perks that might lead to a disadvantage against certain foes, or in certain situations, this is all part of the challenge.
There is no multiplayer of any sort in Sundered and although this could have made for some hack-and-slashing fun amongst similarly enlisted strangers, the game isn’t lacking because of it. This is in part due to the fact that in addition to the regular story that can be played individually you can also enlist three of your best friends to play cooperatively to kick enemy ass. This brand new mode comes via the Eldritch Edition update and having company when exploring these haunted caverns makes the game that much better. Earning currency, uncovering new areas and blocked passages and trying not to die with friends is about as fun as it sounds. It’s really something to see the strategies of each player get thrown into the mix, and despite not being able to move as freely as one might on their own, this game mode definitely has its advantages.
The controls are easily mastered within Sundered, lending to the fact that the Canadian developer didn’t over complicate this metroidvania platformer. The basic combat controls consist of a melee attack as well as a chargeable finisher, and a jump and dodge. As you play through more of the story you’ll pick up a few extra abilities that will help you manoeuver the treacherous terrain a bit easier, like a double air jump. Keep in mind that without these abilities, there is only so much of the map that can be unlocked, so be sure to go back to locations that show a yellow lock after these are unlocked.
Prepare for the Challenges Ahead
It’s a good thing that the controls are smooth as butter too because otherwise, the AI would be an extreme challenge to beat, even without being on the hardest difficulty. Throughout your time with Sundered you’ll find yourself face to face with a variety of adversaries, some that fly, some that launch themselves at you, some that come running up walls and platforms to electrocute you and even some that shoot lasers. Each of them requires a slightly different approach and while the melee attack works to get rid of them all, you’ll need to use those limited dodges and quick jumps between platforms and off the walls to avoid taking damage. Though there isn’t too much of a consequence to dying, as you will respawn, the underground world won’t be exactly how you left it. Honestly, this can be kind of frustrating as the map and environment already require you to go through a million steps in order to get back to the area you’ve been looking for. Sure, there is a map, but this gameplay loop isn’t exactly the most enticing and can feel a bit repetitive after a while.
Thankfully, the music gives just enough motivation to keep playing through and the sounds are the only thing that really give you a heads up about what’s to come. Unless of course, we’re talking about a boss battle, then you might be able to see that on the handy dandy map. Sure, the music isn’t the glue holding Sundered together, but it is enough to get you bee-boppin’ along, in tune with your chain kills and quick maneuvering. The unique hand-drawn graphics blend in well with the overall atmosphere of the game. The world, though underground, is versatile and vibrant. It’s a bit hard to tell that there’s any huge detail when it comes to Eshe, however this detail is something that comes to life, as if color seeping out onto a page of a coloring book with every new environment you’ll encounter.
While Sundered: Eldritch Edition is not without its faults here, the new additions thanks to the Eldritch Edition are welcome. The new co-op mode is intense and it adds a bit more replayability to the mix here. Sure, the longer you play through the single-player experience, the more it all begins to feel the same, but the graphics certainly don’t hurt your eyes, and the music lends credence to the ancient religious themes throughout, adding depth to the atmosphere as well. If you’ve been waiting to kick start the new year with some 2D metroidvania platforming action and you’re looking for freedom to explore without instruction, Sundered is one to keep your eye on.
*** Xbox One code provided by the publisher ***
- Good metroidvania action
- Solid platforming
- Chain hits are a beauty
- Boss battles are chaotic
- Minimal instruction throughout
- Gameplay/environmental loop