After the release of Jotun in 2015 from Thunder Lotus Games, many wondered what was next for the studio after their successfully crowdfunded 2D action game. Well, when you’ve made your mark as an upstart 2D indie developer with a knack for visuals and impressive boss design, what’s next but a Metroidvania? Enter Sundered on Kickstarter, and the masses agreed as it raised over 200,000 USD for its development. Development along the way has been met by resounding praise, and we’ve tabbed it as one of Top RPGs of 2017: July. Let’s tear it open and see what’s inside.
Developed by: Thunder Lotus Games
Published by: Thunder Lotus Games
Release date: July 2017
Platforms: PS4, PC
- Explore. Delve into a procedurally generated dungeon at the heart of a beautiful hand-drawn world. Classic Metroidvania elements such as backtracking, secrets and unlocking new abilities that open new regions are at the core of the exploration experience.
- Fight. Confront hordes of dynamically spawned eldritch monsters. Put your skills and reflexes to the test through furious melee combat and epic boss fights against uniquely designed enemies. All monster spawns are dynamic, constantly keeping you on your toes.
- Die. Designed as a challenging adventure for seasoned gamers, frequent deaths are part of the Sundered experience. But taking our inspiration from our favorite rogue-like games, death in Sundered is only the beginning.
- Upgrade. When you die, you respawn in the Hub, where you level up and customize your character. Equip and upgrade a host of unique Perks, stats and special Abilities hidden throughout the world.
Story & Setting
Sundered’s story centers around a mysterious event called the Terror, which caused the undoing of society and plunged the world into madness. You play as protagonist Eshe, a scavenger centuries after the cataclysm, who is pulled by a sandstorm into a cavern. Inside you discover the source of power that led to the world’s destruction.
The emanating power attracted an armed group of scientific revolutionaries called the Valkyries as well as attracted the Eschaton who are cultists who follow the teachings of a mysterious god. Eshe will have to piece everything together and get to the roots of the struggle that tore the old world apart.
Sundered is a Metroidvania, another in the resurgent classic genre of challenging 2D experiences with a sprawling and gradually unlocking map full of platforming and deadly foes. The game’s tag line is “Resist or Embrace” and forms the core of the gameplay; whether you will be drawn to or repel the seduction of power.
After you defeat a boss (we’ll get more to them later), you earn something called an Elder Shard. You can bring this shard to something called a Skill Shrine which you find in the world. At these shrines you can choose to “corrupt” one of your abilities. A corrupted ability is much more powerful version of the base ability but takes away your humanity. The choices you make here will have implications for how the game ends, as how corrupted you are determines which boss you will face. This gives the game and every present push and pull and it should make for some interesting choices, including “no-corruption” challenge runs as players try and test their skill using lower power abilities.
These are the seven major abilities in the game which can be corrupted into more powerful versions:
- Double Jump
- Hook Shot
- Wall Run
You’ll be making these choices of corruption in order to better take on the challenging variety of enemies in the game. You will be tackling them in melee combat and the monsters spawn dynamically. This spawning approach is done to make the game unpredictable. The monsters spawn based on a number of factors such as time, difficulty level and current region. This creates a diversity of obstacles and surprises that will lie in waiting.
This dynamic approach also extends to the game’s level design. Sundered leans heavily on procedural development, which seems antithetical to the Metroidvania, whose hallmark is a fixed map that players memorize gradually, but we’ve seen it work in new games like Dead Cells. In Sundered the overall structure of the world is set in stone. The sub-sections are procedurally generated every time you die. Because of this, the backtracking and unlocking of new abilities and new sections that define the genre is kept in tact, while mixing up the smaller components to keep things fresh for players. This sounds like a good compromise between the flexibility of procedural development and the rigid expectations of the Metroidvania genre.
The randomness of the dungeons combines with the dynamic and random monster spawns to create an organically evolving gameplay experience. The game will have 3 unique regions based on this formula, each filled with monsters and secrets to tackle.
The culmination of all that level traversal is naturally, some impressively designed bosses as Thunder Lotus is known for. The game will feature 6 epic bosses, each with a wide range of patterns and abilities that will challenge your skill and your progression. The bosses shown so far are brilliant and the game seems to capture the essence of what makes a memorable boss battle.
Bosses are likely where you will experience most of your deaths and frequent death is an expected part of the experience. Sundered handles death in a rogue-like fashion. When you die, you respawn in the Hub, where you will level up and customize your character. This character progression takes the form of skill trees which you can select from. Furthermore you can equip and upgrade unique perks, stats and abilities that are hidden throughout the game world, giving the progression an inside-out approach that should allow for plenty of specialization.
The game retains the same hand-drawn art style as found in Jotun and features some distinct character design and environments. The animation is fluid and quite beautiful and in the thick of combat, the game pops with color and effects. The visuals are complimented with an original soundtrack that is absolutely moving and tuned to the action of the game.
Sundered has all the elements for a special gaming experience and this starts with the game’s visual and audio design and works its way through all of the elements of gameplay, especially the corruption mechanic and it’s impressive boss and set design. There is a fluidity and polish to everything presented so far and that level of production indicates a deeply engaging experience. Creativity is at the core of all of this and Sundered is all set up to be a memorable indie success.
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