If you'd like to hear my thoughts on the game while watching some gameplay, you can check out the video review below.
When procedural generation is a huge aspect of level design in a game, it isn’t always met with the most positive reception. While Sundered: Eldritch Edition does suffer from some procedural pitfalls, it’s able to make up for its shortcomings in various ways. The random nature of almost all of the enemy encounters and environments in the game can make for some truly frustrating gameplay segments, especially early on. Fortunately, the best aspects of the game such as the platforming, addicting gameplay loop, and tense combat situations are able to easily offset those low moments.
Sundered has players assume the role of Eshe, a wanderer from the surface who becomes trapped underground in a cavern of horrors. To make her way out, she has to rely on the Trapezohedron, a sinister entity that constantly tries to tempt Eshe into embracing its dark power. At first, it feels as though accepting the Trapezohedron’s offers is the only way to survive, but the game actually allows you to choose whether Eshe goes along with the mysterious being’s plans or not. Depending on your choices, Sundered can end in three different ways which helps in adding weight to your decisions. Although, the ending that I received seemed quite abrupt, almost as if it was cut short.
The gameplay in Sundered contains the majority of its best features. The brilliant mix of exploration, platforming, and combat come together to create a game that’s hard to put down. In this underground maze of caverns, there are three main areas connected to a hub room. Each area contains three hidden mini-bosses and one main boss that reveals itself once you obtain every new skill found in the area. Players begin the game with a simple melee combo, a dodge roll, and a jump, but your arsenal of abilities expands over time, as with any Metroidvania. Sundered starts out deceptively easy, but as you explore the large areas and discover new enemies, the difficulty spikes begin to appear. When the difficulty ramps up, you will die. There’s no way around it. What makes this gameplay loop of exploration, combat, and death so great is the fact that you’ll constantly be obtaining a currency known as shards as you roam about. Once you die, a massive skill tree will be revealed to you in order for you to spend these shards on new upgrades, abilities, and stat boosts. Essentially, the gameplay loop becomes so addicting because Eshe becomes stronger with every run, which in turn, allows you to venture into tougher locations in order to collect even more shards and progress in the game.
As you delve deeper into the caverns, you’ll eventually be introduced to hordes – large groups of enemies that attack immediately following the ringing of a gong in the distance. I didn’t understand this at first, but after a few unfortunate deaths, the ominous sound of the gong had me frantically searching for a location best suited to surviving the impending onslaught of demons. These moments create tense yet exciting situations that can often result in death for the ill-prepared. With death comes the shifting of the map, which can make it even more difficult to formulate a plan for the next trip out of the hub room.
Good luck with that
Even if you’re fully prepared, the combination of procedurally generated rooms and the random appearance of enemies as you wander around can still be deadly. These features don’t seem so bad in the beginning since key rooms never change location, but as you proceed through the game, the rooms begin to repeat quite often and the random encounters become far more frequent. Over time, some of these fights will test your skills as well as your patience because of how cramped some of the procedurally generated rooms can be, combined with the fact that some enemies can become unreachable as they attack you through walls, ceilings, and floors. As Eshe becomes stronger, these gripes become less irritating, but they are still noteworthy problems nonetheless.
The aforementioned choice to resist or embrace the power of the Trapezohedron not only affects the endings, but the gameplay as well. Sundered can be played in significantly distinct ways depending on what choices you make. You’re given you the chance to corrupt your abilities and gain new powers, but resisting this corruption will open up access to a completely different set of skills. This well-executed gameplay element adds a surprising amount of replay value to a game in which Eshe’s abilities are the difference between life and death while offering various ways to go through the caverns.
The platforming in Sundered isn’t always straightforward, so not every player has to use the exact same methods to reach the same end goals. The choice of resisting or embracing affects many aspects of the game, including the traversal. Some corrupted abilities make platforming easier, for example, but I resisted using any dark powers during my first playthrough which forced me to become much more creative in my travels in many instances.
Sundered contains a total of 20 achievements, the majority of which can be unlocked through simply playing the game as one normally would. The less straightforward achievements will require players to thoroughly search all three main areas to defeat hidden mini-bosses and acquire hard-to-reach perks. The game will also need to be completed more than once in order to obtain the achievements for seeing all three endings.
Check out our Best Xbox Metroidvania Games Available in 2018 article for a compilation of other great games in this genre.
SummarySundered is a game that is able to constantly give players that “one more time” feeling by providing multiple ways to overcome its many hurdles. When you die, you know that you’ll almost always be coming back stronger to tackle the obstacles that are put before you, whether it be a seemingly undefeatable boss or an unforgiving location full of hard-hitting enemies. Some deaths can be chalked up to procedural generation forcing you to be in the wrong place at the wrong time when the gong sounds, but those moments become less and less bothersome as Eshe is continuously upgraded through the satisfying and fulfilling gameplay loop.
- Addicting gameplay loop
- Tense yet exciting combat situations
- Upgrade system allows for creativity in combat and platforming
- Procedurally generated rooms can create inescapable situations at times
- Procedural rooms repeat too often
This reviewer spent approximately 16 hours slaying eldritch horrors underground while managing to obtain 15 of 20 achievements. A download code was provided for the purpose of this review.
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