4 out of 5. Local Co-op. Has some absolutely amazing moments that are padded out with grindier features, but the excellent multiplayer let's you fill in those slower parts with social conversation.
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How Metroidvania is it? Medium Fit. In spite of being a procedurally generated roguelike at its core, Sundered borrows enough from the Metroidvania genre to make the comparisons unmistakable – mostly surrounding ability gating.
Primary Challenge: Melee Combat
Time to beat: ~13 hours
Review Info: Sundered was played on Steam

More Info

Developer: Thunder Lotus Games
Publisher: Thunder Lotus Games
Sub-genre: Roguelite
Features: Map System, Skill Trees, Random Loot, Multiple Difficulty modes, Local Coop, Guide/Hint System, 2D Platformer, Procedural Generation, Melee Combat, Ranged Combat, Narrative/Cutscenes Story Telling, Lovecraft, Power Fantasy
Difficulty: Medium
Linearity/Openness: Open Low Gating - No Handholding
Platforms: Windows, Itch.io, Linux, MacOS, Steam, GOG, Switch, PS4
Release Date: 2017/07/28
Available Languages: English, Japanese, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Korean, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Simplified Chinese

Store Links

    Amazon    Steam    Epic Store    Humble Bundle    GOG    Playstation    Nintendo eShop    itch.io    

Buy Sundered if you like…

  • Grinding for Loot and Gold
  • Co-op Games
  • Roguelike Level Structures
  • Hand-Drawn Graphics
  • Lovecraftian Stories

▼ Review continues below ▼

Sundered is something of a hybrid between ARPGs like Diablo and the platforming genre, with just enough Metroidvania ability gating and openness to make it a consideration for Metroidvania fans. The primary gameplay will be fending off hordes of enemies by mashing your attack button, but there is a host of secrets to be found within the nooks and crannies of the world as well. Thus, I’d say that the target audience for this game would be for fans of both Metroidvania games and ARPG, particularly multiplayer ARPGs. Anyone not a fan of both may consider this game a total failure.

One of the elements that causes me to compare Sundered to the ARPG genre is the need to grind. You start off very weak – the game is extremely slow at the beginning – and the only way to progress away from that weakness is by killing enemies and finding treasure. The biggest key to your power is your skill tree which raises your stats and only occasionally gives you abilities that would change the way you actually play. To mix it up, the game also includes perks (many of which are random loot drops) that you can equip a limited number of. These perks usually have a benefit and a drawback, so you’re not just raising your critical hit or HP, but are also cutting off your ability to perform in other areas. Finding a build that works for you is as fun as it ever is, but what really gets the gameplay going is the Metroidvania-style movement upgrades.

You start with only your button mashing sword attack and a dodge button, but as a required part of the game’s progression you’ll get powers like the obligatory double jump, a Smash Bros style strong attack that breaks walls and enemy’s faces, or the ability to dash in mid-air. All of these guaranteed upgrades make the game inherently more interesting, and allows the combat to be more dynamic than just a frustrating loop of death and purchasing better stats.

As a single player endeavor, Sundered may still not have been more than a novelty, but the addition of local co-op really bolsters the game’s value. Grindier games tend to favor the addition of social features since the more boring parts can be filled with conversation. Especially on the hard difficulty though, Sundered is more than just a simple random card game to give you something to do with your hands while you talk. Adding additional players borrows from your shield meter and you share a health pool, so every player has to pull their weight or at least be good at dodging in order for the whole group to succeed. Exploring the world and looking for treasure boxes may be accompanied with more talk about the latest blockbuster movie, but as soon as those alarm bells sound and the hordes come every player must be on alert or you’ll quickly see that death screen once again.

Once the ball gets rolling, combat becomes a fantastic feature in Sundered, especially when it comes to the bosses. All through the first of the Sundered’s three zones I felt pretty ambivalent about the game overall, but once we faced off with that first boss my only thought was that I needed to see the rest of them. The graphics in Sundered are already striking, so it’s just expected that the bosses would be the best treat of them all. But aside from the impressive visual theming, every single boss escalates their attacks over the course of their fight, and assuming you haven’t over leveled (like we did with the final boss) you’re in for a memorable challenge.

That isn’t to say that the other elements of the game are bad. Just like with the combat, as you get all your abilities, exploration becomes meaningful as well. In spite of the segments of the levels being procedurally generated, the whole map appears to stay the same in a single playthrough. Just like in any Castlevania title, you can look at your map and pick out areas you haven’t filled in. With the Eldritch Edition update, there are even some hidden surprises to be gained by doing this. Replayability is the primary advantage of all of these random elements, and the game also includes three endings to give you a reason to play it at least twice. The plot and lore is interesting to explore, but also straight forward enough that I can’t really cite it as being a major draw unless you just like this particular theme.

I think if you have the setup and some friends decent enough at video games to sit down with, then I recommend picking up Sundered right now – you’ll have a blast with it if you stick it out long enough to get past the initial slowness. As a Solo game, the random level design sort of works against it, making it boring at parts. It gets too frantic for it to be a grindy game you listen to podcasts to, but it also gets repetitive enough that you may end up dropping it and finding something else to play if you don’t find the grind relaxing (Again if you’re an ARPG fan also you may consider every aspect a prime feature.) There are enough high quality moments that I’m willing to call the overall design of Sundered “great”, but comparing it to the other “Rogue-vania” competition the caveat is that it only achieves that greatness through its excellent local co-op.


Final Score

4/5

Scoring system overview


Metroidvania Breakdown

Combat
– 4

Very slow to start but the complexity ramps up nicely with the many abilities you gain throughout your quest

Platforming
– 3.5

The procedural generation prevents this from being as good as the greats of the genre, but there are some fun challenges in spite of this

Exploration
– 3.5

Handcrafted levels may be more intuitive than the randomness of Sundered, nevertheless there are a ton of rewards

Puzzle
– 2.5

No major puzzles to speak of outside of the normal application of Metroidvania powers to progress

Story
– 3

A lot of lore is given that has little bearing on your story. Primary plot is fun lovecraftian fare

Graphics
– 4.5

Gorgeous hand-drawn animations juxtaposed against some samey backgrounds. All enemies are striking to look at

Music
– 4

No majorly memorable tunes, but the music always fits the tone of the game

Replayability
– 4.5

There hundreds of ways you can combine perks (though not hundreds of ''Good'' ways to do it.) Main replay comes from Corrupt vs. Resist


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