Sundered Eldritch Edition is a Metroidvania platforming game developed by Thunder Lotus games and is available on Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch and PC. You can also find it on Steam and Humble Bundle. This game was reviewed by Joseph Pugh.
Sundered is a Metroidvania game with a strong Lovecraft influence with its visuals and references. If you are familiar with other products influenced by Lovecraft you will notice references to things like Nyarlathotep or Atlach Nacha. I myself have never read any of his work, but I fancy some board games and tabletop RPGs that have spawned from it. So despite not being an actual fan, even I appreciate the nods to the Elder Gods of that universe in Sundered.
You play as Eshe from a side-scrolling perspective who finds herself trapped within the ruins of an ancient site with some dark secrets. Shortly after the game begins, she obtains the help of the Shining Trapezohedron (say that five times fast) that she wields as a weapon in the game. But that is an entity with its own desires…
In Sundered you explore a sprawling and ever-changing maze of regions. There are a lot of secrets to be found and a lot of backtracking to unlock areas that are inaccessible without abilities obtained from other regions.
Movement is fast, fluid and easy to control as you run and bounce from wall to wall and obtain even more crazy movement skills later on. As you explore you will come under siege from hordes of technological enemies and eldritch horrors. Even though the game features multiple difficulty settings, you will die at some point. When you do, the maze shifts and the layouts of the regions change. But don’t worry, not all is lost.
As you explore and fight, you collect shards and you hold on these when you die. You can spend shards on the Trapezohedron tree, which is a long and branching web of improvements you can purchase. These range from increasing your maximum health and shields, damage output and more. Both the game and the tree are nonlinear. You aren’t locked into a single skill path and can customize it any way you would like. You will also pick up perks which you can slot into the tree. Each perk has an advantage and disadvantage. For example, one replenishes a bit of your shield when you kill an enemy, but if the shield breaks, it stays down longer.
Your exploration of each region is also only limited by the abilities you have picked up, and your own stats and skills. You are free to complete them in any order and return to previous ones at any time. Each region is vastly different to the others both aesthetically and from a gameplay standpoint.
One is a technological base where you need to contend with grid lasers and turrets. Another is a rocky vile place consumed by darkness full of eldritch hordes and waterfalls of purple energy. And another is a shattered tower where you will contend with high winds, deadly gas and extreme verticality. Each region has different enemies, mini-bosses and normal bosses to battle.
The combat is simple to learn but difficult to master. Eshe has basic attacks combos, finishing moves, a dodge roll, and an energy cannon. You get a shield that recharges overtime but your health doesn’t. You heal yourself by consuming elixirs that you can find in the world. Eshe always spawns with a full set of them after you die. Combat is pretty simple but skillful, you will need to stay aware, dodge attacks and attack the right enemies at the right time. Once you obtain the double jump, your second leap resets when you strike an enemy allowing you to stay airborne. Mastering the ability to bounce and dart around in combat is key and when you pull it off it looks and feels amazing.
You have finishing moves that can be used after charging up a purple bar. You fill it by striking enemies and objects. Your dodge roll uses stamina and your cannon has an ammo count. Balancing all of these factors is a large part of the challenge. Sundered periodically throws hordes at you, aside from bosses, enemy locations aren’t predetermined and you can be attacked at any time.
Each region has its own environmental hazards. Many times you will get a horde coming at you in a really bad spot, as a number of attacks can knock you into hazards. In times like these, you really need to stretch those platforming muscles and lead them to a safer area to fight in. It’s another moment that feels super cool when you do it well.
While the combat is fun and requires skillful use of the abilities you do have. I do wish it gave us a wider range of attacks. Multiple hordes can sometimes feel repetitive, especially when you have died to a boss three times and are just trying to navigate the ever-changing maze to go back and try it again. A larger pool of attacks and abilities would have gone a long way to stifle the repetition.
Visually, Sundered is gorgeous, the art style looks to be hand drawn and the animations of both Eshe and every enemy type looks fantastic. This is an often undervalued aspect of platformers, but it contributes greatly to the enjoyment of the game when everything that’s happening on screen is pure gold in the eyes of the player.
The enemies are fun to fight not just due to the mechanics of the game, but the visual feedback that they give the player when moving around, being knocked back or when they attack. However some hordes throw so many enemies at you, the screen can become polluted and difficult to discern what is happening. The boss battles are done very intelligently and each one requires a different approach. As with every other aspect of the game, they look downright incredible.
One of the games core tenets is the Elder Shards, you acquire these in the game. With them, you have the choice of corrupting one of your abilities or resisting the darkness by destroying the shards. These not only affect you mechanically, but the final boss and ending is influenced by whether you corrupted your abilities, resisted or a combination of the two. If you choose to resist you do get certain boons. While they are functional, they aren’t nearly as flashy and visually appealing as the corrupted abilities. This is disappointing because you have to forgo some really awesome stuff to try and get the “good ending” and I would have liked to be rewarded a tad bit more for the exchange.
Sundered Eldritch Edition is playable in co-op with up to four players locally. Each player gets their own shield, ammo, energy and finisher gauge. But the health pool is shared between them all and the main player manages the tree upgrades. With the push of a button, other players can teleport to the main one. This makes the game easier to play with friends and family that may not be too good at platforming but still allows them help in combat.
The shared health pool, however, means that all players will have to acquire some player skill in combat because the weakest link ends everyone, one death means death for all players involved. It can also be disconcerting when the screen flashes red due to one player being struck when the others weren’t. This can lead to some confusion on the players who didn’t get hit. Playing in co-op is still fun and the game adapts exceptionally well to a gamepad.
The level design is exceptional and intelligent and obtaining each new ability is exciting. The ever-changing pathways and death persistence make the game challenging but repetitive at times. You are always growing stronger with every shard you collect.
The game’s visuals and animations are top notch and I enjoy the fact that both exploration and character progression are non-linear. The game has an interesting co-op mechanic and the choice of corrupting or resisting is fun if a bit disappointing on the resist side. The fact that all the games regions look and play differently is outstanding. The story is minimalistic but coated in lore you can find. The combat is responsive and skillful and the platforming is fun.
Sundered is a platformer that I feel will ruin a lot of other platforming games for me. While it’s not perfect, it does a lot of things nearly perfect and its visuals keep your eyes entertained while your brain engages with the rest of it. It had some of the repetition fallbacks of other Metroidvania games but is otherwise extremely solid.
A key for Sundered Eldritch Edition was provided for Gideon’s gaming by Thunder Lotus Games. If you like challenging side scrollers, you may also like Chrono Ghost!
- Nonlinear world
- In-depth character progression
- Visually stunning
- Responsive and fun platforming and combat mechanics
- Difficulty settings
- Local co-op
- Each region is visually and mechanically different.
- Multiple endings
- The screen can become too populated with bigger hordes, making it difficult to discern what’s happening.
- Co-op can be confusing at times
- Combat can become repetitive
- Resist boons aren’t as cool as corrupted abilities.