Review: Sundered (PS4)

Review: Sundered (PS4)

Formats:

  • PlayStation 4
  • PC, Mac, Linux

Format/Hardware Used:

  • PSN Download
  • PS4 Pro
  • 4K HDR

Extras:

  • DualShock 4 Required (1)
  • Move None
Title: Sundered
Format: PSN (5.26 GB)
Release Date: July 28, 2017
Publisher: Thunder Lotus Games
Developer: Thunder Lotus Games
Original MSRP: $19.99
ESRB Rating: T
PEGI: 12
A copy of this game was provided by the publisher for review purposes.
PS Nation Review Policy

Gameplay:
The Metroidvania genre, as it were, has long been a favorite of mine. This generation has only brought about a few fantastic games in this category: a favorite being Axiom Verge. I played the hell out of that game. I couldn’t stop.

Sundered delivered the same high level gameplay and exploration mechanics found in games like Axiom Verge and Strider, but with a visual style that is straight out of the 1978 rotoscoped Lord of the Rings movie. It also ensured that my instincts were still working with a challenging difficulty that encourages strengthening your character.

I won’t fault this game for having a less obvious story, but half the time I didn’t really know what was going on, except that my character, Eshe, was in a certain hellish state and I needed to get out of it.

Besides that, a lot of the dialogue is done in an invented language and requires some reading during action sequences that kept me too busy to pay attention. The narrative, much like the one in Journey, is more subdued and doesn’t interfere with the gameplay.

Your progression through the map is not hindered by bosses. You can traverse almost the entire map without one barring your way. They do however give you mad experience bubbles, orbs, or whatever, and certain perks.

That said, what does keep you from traversing the map with reckless abandon is the swarm of enemies that brutally assault your progress. Skill helps a lot here, but so does leveling, because quite honestly, at times there was little to nothing that I could do to avoid dying.

Dying here doesn’t set you back in your character’s progress or even reload an old save which is great news. Instead you return to your starting point in the sanctuary where you can spend some of your earned experience on updates to your character.

I’m so glad that I wasn’t penalized for dying, because not only does the game have extremely long load times, but I even had a few crashes during my return to sanctuary. Fortunately, upon rebooting the game, I’d find that none of my experience was gone.

So this went on for a few hours: push as far as I could, gain experience and die horribly to a swarm. Admittedly, it grew a little monotonous after a while, but some of the intense battles still managed to hold my interest. Eventually, I was able to level Eshe enough to hold my own, somewhere around the same time that I started getting better at dodging and countering.

The leveling system is pretty robust, with branching avenues to explore that go from simply updating your damage and defense to perks that increase your overall health and energy meter. I chose early on, for example, to travel the path of damage in order to dispatch as many of these swarming monstrosities as quickly as possible, since they were relentless in their attacks.

Abilities and upgrades are also scattered throughout the maze-like levels. Access to the map is available with the press of a button, but the action keeps going while you’re checking your surroundings, so I had to choose carefully the times I did so.

Of more annoyance was the constant hiccup that would occur from time to time. I’m assuming it’s when the game was loading new areas on the go. Most of the time it was harmless and would simply cause me to miss a jump, but every so often I would take damage from an enemy or fall onto a hazardous environmental object because the frameskip would throw off my timing.

Despite these few complaints, Sundered offers solid gameplay and plenty of environments to explore.

Visuals:
We may never get Cuphead on PlayStation 4, and I’m not making a 1:1 comparison between the two games, but Sundered has a similar hand-drawn visual style that evokes somewhat of a comparison.

The enemies, as well as Eshe herself, animate with a silky smooth fluidity that comes not from polygonal manufacturing, but from someone’s hand.

The only area this seems to hurt, but only a little, is when an enemy is meant to interact with the environment such as with digger enemies that burrow into the static ground.

This is where the beauty is broken a little, since you have this super fluidly animated creature breaking into the static environment and you can see where the two intersect. But I nitpick. The game is beautiful, and I’m certain that you will agree.

Audio:
In addition to some wonderfully composed music, the game sports some great sound design that makes every hit feel great. Voice work is treated with that ICO-like otherworldly language.

This does not reflect negatively on the sound department at all, but since some of the dialogue happens during some pretty intense moments, the fake language makes it difficult to pay attention to some story elements, because I can’t read captions and fight a dozen enemies at the same time.

Online/Multiplayer:
This game is one player only with no online component.

Conclusion:
Despite some frustrating glitching, not to mention extreme loading times after death, Sundered is a solid Metroidvania game. It sports some seriously gorgeous visuals and animation and it gives you plenty to choose from when it comes to building up your character.

There are some spectacular boss fights and some varying environments to keep you moving forward. There is a subtle Lovecraftian narrative, but one hindered by some of the spoken dialogue occurring during intense moments of combat.

Fans of the genre will not be disappointed. Just prepare for a little bit of grinding, but take heart in knowing that the combat system will make it enjoyable.

Score:
8.5

* All screenshots used in this review were taken directly from the game using the Share functionality on the PlayStation 4.

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