First time I came across Sundered was in announcement trailer which captivated me with its art style right from the start. The gameplay had a real metroidvania style but the visuals were just rich with their hand drawn styling and the story looked inviting and mysterious. It was time to see if the game itself could live up to the promise it showed in the trailer.
Set in a seemingly, players take the role of a wanderer named Eshe who stumbles across a large facility in a post-apocalyptic ruin where upon meting a strange and mysterious entity then convinces Eshe to explore further in order to gain more power to help Eshe escape. The world has different areas and environments filled with enemies and hazards which Eshe will have to fight his way through and overcome to open new areas on his mission to learn new skills and abilities. Some areas will be locked off to start off with until Eshe has acquired the skill needed to open them up giving the game the element of returning to previous areas later in the game.
So let me start with the visuals as this was my attraction to Sundered to begin, and they are truly stunning. The animation and hand drawn art style are so fluid and striking on screen that the world Sundered is set in. They bring the world to life and create an almost sinister atmosphere to it especially when you explore deeper into the world around Eshe and start to unlock the different areas. The music and sound scheme both compliment and then enhance the world even more as the musical score and background sound effects especially when you unlock the more otherworldly areas. Love the animation as well as Eshe runs, jumps and fights his way in this world with such fluidity which becomes almost a dance in the combat.
The combat is a combination of melee and projectile attacks whilst Eshe can dodge and wall jump which can also be used really well in traversing the area and reacing higher platforms. Now it is fair to say that nothing here is really new or refreshing and they are pretty much standard movement and fighting techniques used in this genre with the animation quality being so smooth, once Eshe begins to move around exploring or when engaged in combat, as before it does feel like a dance thanks to the animation instead of blocky jumping and weapon swinging. Eshe can upgrade his health, shield level and stamina along the way by returning to the Entity and spending upgrade points to increase Eshe powers and ability. These are further enhanced by gaining new perks for Eshe and tend to compliment the addition of a new weapon for example.
The combat is relatively easy to get to grips with which is vital because Sundered has a particular way in which it tests Eshe along his journey by quite simply throwing hordes of enemies at him with each encounter. Once combat starts, enemies will appear in numbers to attack you and whilst some are easy to take down, the sheer amount of them will be a threat as Eshe is attacked from multiple directions. Awareness of the environments is also key to stop Eshe from being swarmed or trapped in a tight area where he cannot jump or dodge his way to a more open space to fight in. I did find these both distracting and a little annoying after a while, especially right at the start where you need to start exploring this world only to be attacked multiple times by gangs of enemies. This horde style of enemy grouping does make the combat stand out but it can slow the progress down a little if on every screen you move to you are having to fend off multiple low level enemies at a time and then they will also chase you and can follow you no matter how high you jump. Once the fight has engaged it won’t stop really until you have killed that group but then if you are being chased and run into a new set of enemies, the fight will then feature the chasers and new guys till you wipe them out. It gives you the genuine feeling of being hunted but again, when you need to explore the world, having to constantly stop to fight these guys hinders the pacing just a little too much for me.
Then there is the exploration which can become a little confusing at the opening to the game as you constantly find areas that are locked off leaving you moving from screen to screen almost aimlessly having to contend with hordes of enemies. I do appreciate the lack of hand holding but the first two hours can feel a little hit and miss. The constant battling does allow for Eshe to level up and should he fall in the fight, will simply respawn at a location that he can spend his upgrade points in order to be stronger the next time the player ventures out. Using the map and remembering key points is the formula for success in Sundered.
Sundered has a lot going for it and the elements it has taken from the Metroidvania genre on the whole work really well. The visuals and music are strong selling points and it successfully creates a world full of atmosphere which will keep the player on their toes throughout with the constant threat of enemy attacks and exploring to push further into the world. Thought the constant fighting can slow the pace down a bit too much for me personally, the fact enemies are everywhere feels a natural part of this world, a world where our main hero Eshe is completely unwelcome to be in and is treated as such. As an action platformer is certainly ticks a lot of boxes that it has to and the story when it starts to unfold is enjoyable. But the slog of the continuous battling can feel just that, a slog and a grind which I had not expected which for some will be the reason to play this and for others may be a deal breaker if it stifles progession.
But this is certainly worth taking a look at if you are a fan of the genre even if just for the art style alone. There is plenty of game here but will take some time to settle into which is worth it in the long run.