Earlier this summer, we published a look at the beta for Sundered – a gorgeously drawn platformer with a Lovecraftian horror element. Now we’re coming up on the official release date of July 28th. Sundered has been polished up and finished, and it’s time to take a look at this incredible game.
For full disclosure, I should mention that I had some serious lag issues with the game, but I think it was my computer and not Sundered itself (which Mithical says ran flawlessly on his PS4). This means two things. First, be extra-sure about your specs – this is a gorgeous game that requires fast movement. A slow system will make things difficult once you hit the more highly skilled mobs. Second, I was unable to get as far into the game yet as I’d have liked before writing this review. However, I fully expect that my current impressions will continue to be justified throughout the game and look forward to delving in further!
Inspired by Lovecraft, Sundered drops your character into strange desert ruins. No people seem to be around, but there are strange monsters throughout. It’s clear that something once lived there. Sculpture-studded caverns eventually become broken down labs and those eventually morph into new scenes as well. Your job is to make your way through these ruins. When you inevitably die –you will, I promise – you’ll be dragged back to your starting point, Sanctuary. Sanctuary will be your refuge. With each death, you have the opportunity to purchase new buffs – higher attack, better defense, longer shields. Slowly you’ll become stronger and better able to continue on. If you make it far enough, you’ll likely uncover a shortcut for next time, allowing you to get further and discover more secrets.
Weirdly enough, one of my favourite features of Sundered is the tutorial. It begins the moment you are pulled into the ruins, allowing you to move freely as unintrusive suggestions let you know how to control your character. The whole experience is flawless and makes sure the immersion begins immediately.
The mystery you begin with is perfect, and compelling. At first, you know nothing – just vague clues from what seems to be the one surviving entity. Pushing forward is the only way you’ll understand where you are and what happened there. A major difference from the beta is that now you have company – a seemingly ancient weapon that welcomes you, urging you on as you uncover more and more. While I did love the beta’s feeling of loneliness, I really enjoyed this touch. The feeling of wonder is left intact, and maybe even emphasized by your mysterious new guide.
There’s no way around it: Sundered is a masterpiece of atmosphere. Even with your guide leading the way, the feeling of loneliness throughout the caverns is astounding and the sense of mystery is pervasive. Rooms switch from wide open space to claustrophobic pathways quickly. In the distance there is occasionally the sound of life – monsters which will swiftly find and attempt to overwhelm you. Eventually mobs will become so massive that you will die, no matter how hard you fight. Sometimes you know you just need to go one room further to progress – you run, breaking whatever you need to break, desperately, before you’re overtaken and find yourself back in Sanctuary. But with each win, things get harder. Rekindled the electricity in an area? Be ready – you’ve also called upon smarter, more deadly enemies.
The deep caverns range from beautiful, open caves to claustrophobically dark factory remnants. Even when you’re alone, sounds in the distance are amazingly unsettling, and a reminder that something is out there somewhere.
The game itself is put together well, and when it’s running right for me it runs gorgeously smoothly. Battle is fast paced and enjoyable, and the movement is quick. Set against beautiful artwork and a fitting soundtrack, there’s very little I don’t like. Even better, it’s the type of game I could easily see myself replaying.
If I had to take issue with anything, it’s that the difficulty was sometimes a little high. I was excited to see difficulty choices added after some of the discussions around the beta’s difficulty level, but Normal mode felt about the same to me. It’s nothing too crazy, but an easier mode would have been nice, especially for those of us wanting to soak in the environment. However, the challenge is reasonable, and the average gamer will probably have no problem.
I definitely recommend Sundered for anyone who loves a good platformer – I doubt you’ll be disappointed. It releases July 28th, for PC (currently $17.99) and Playstation 4 (currently $16.99) – check it out!