The artists behind Jotun are back with a massive roguelike Metroidvania.
The first thing that will immediately pop out to you about Sundered is its gorgeous hand-drawn graphics. These beautiful visuals will impress throughout the 15 to 20 hour-long campaign as you traverse its three absolutely massive and varied worlds filled with unique enemies.
When it comes to gameplay, Sundered is a unique blend of Metroidvania and roguelike. The sprawling overworld consists of branching pathways, shortcuts, and a variety of upgrades that will grant access to new areas. However, the world is crafted as a mix between static and procedurally generated sections. Key areas like upgrade zones and boss battles will always have the same layout but the areas between these sections will change their layouts each time you die.
Combat is a huge part of Sundered and it handles it a bit differently than most other games. Instead of coming across small packs of enemies as you progress, the game instead chooses to overwhelm you with large swarms of them but only occasionally. After defeating a swarm, you'll mostly be left alone in peace to continue your exploration. That is, until the next large swarm is called in.
Sundered's combat dynamic is excellent, forcing you to learn both offensive and defensive strategies to survive. Alongside a powerful melee weapon, our protagonist Eshe is also outfitted with a rapid dodge-roll to get herself out of harm's way. Eshe later finds an ultra-powerful cannon that deals massive damage but also causes a terrible amount of recoil. It takes a bit of practice but the challenging combat becomes extremely rewarding once you start to master it.
Eshe also possesses a rechargeable shield which is the single most important item in the game as it will absorb a lot of damage. If you avoid taking any damage for just a few seconds, it will charge back up and provide you with powerful defense against the enemy hordes. If you take damage while your shield is discharged, you'll quickly find out just how strong some of Sundered's enemies are.
A few small technical issues hold Sundered back a bit. Initial load times are extremely long (around 90 seconds) and post-death loads take a while, too. The visuals stutter at times (mostly during auto-saves) and I experienced about 8 crashes during my 17 hours of play time. Fortunately, Sundered auto-saves frequently and I lost little progress due to these crashes; just some time waiting for it to load again.
Aside from those few small quibbles, Sundered is an addictive and fantastic roguelike. Every time you die, you'll be brought back to the hub area. There, you can purchase upgrades in the massive skill tree that will boost your attack damage, shield, health, luck, and more. After upgrading, you can venture back out in the world slightly stronger and more prepared to face the hordes of baddies and hulking bosses. You'll also unlock shortcuts as you play, significantly cutting down travel time after each death.
I can't say enough good things about Sundered. Developer Thunder Lotus Games took some risks by trying a few new things and fortunately, they all paid off. The visuals are top-notch, the combat is excellent, the upgrade system is robust, and the exploration is on-point. Sundered isn't just the best indie game I've played this year but one of the best games I've ever played period.
- + Gorgeous hand-drawn environs and characters
- + Challenging, satisfying, thoughtful combat
- + Addictive upgrade system makes every run worthwhile
- - Long load times and a few technical issues that will hopefully be ironed out in updates