You’re a wanderer in a razed world, who discovers an ancient monument that sucks you into a boundless, surreal cavern filled teeming with foes of all kinds. Forced to make your way fighting through hordes of these enemies, you journey on, guided by an entity known as the Shining Trapezohedron in hopes of finding a way out. You’re in a passageway, and get overwhelmed, resulting in death. When you come back, you find out that the passageway is not quite how you remembered it, neither do you face the same group of enemies. There’s no memorizing locations here. Welcome to Sundered. Welcome to your procedurally generated hell.
The reason behind the procedurally generated rooms is quite simple. The ancient races that used to inhabit the cavern had a conflict, which lead to a rift in reality, rendering the world physically unstable. And not all areas are generated. Boss rooms, shortcuts and areas where you find abilities are all pre-designed, whereas the passageways connecting them change every time you die. So in terms of familiarity, Sundered doesn’t offer much comfort, rather it keeps you tense and on the edge of your seat most of the time. For better or worse, this has both positive and negative effects on the game’s experience. While being rendered helpless while exploring adds a sense of thrill and mystery, these dungeons aren’t as good as the fixed ones. And trust me, the game’s hand drawn art, characters and animations are a sight to behold.
Sundered doesn’t seem to rely heavily on its story, offering little explanation and leaving you to explore the world to discover the lore. The Shining Trapezohedron does provide you with history lessons about the cavern from time to time, but even these are vague at best. It’s a little unsettling, as you can’t be quite sure of what to make of the tales you’re being told. The environment is both fascinating and harrowing at the same time, and each discovery instills a sense of anxiety as you explore the game’s odd and peculiar world.
The best thing about Sundered, in my opinion, is the combat. It is rather demanding and relies on quick reflexes, but once you get into it, it is stunningly satisfying, and leaves you wanting for more. The game is quite unforgiving, and there are times when you can be surrounded by enemies from all directions, bombarding you with attack after attack. Thankfully, you gain timely access to new abilities that can give you an edge over these encounters. The controls are smooth and responsive, and it feels very natural. However, the procedural generation can often stack the odds against you, pitting you against overwhelming numbers. These spikes in the difficulty can get annoying, but it only encourages you to play better. Combining different abilities can lead to spectacular combos, which are a joy to execute and watch. Familiar abilities include the double jump, the dash and a charging slash, all of which make the combat more tense and exciting.
Another great thing about the game is its progression system. You accumulate a fortune of stats, which comes in very handy as you can expect yourself to die a lot. But the game offers you a lot of choice in terms of leveling up, trying different builds and go with what feels comfortable to your own play style. You can either go all offensive, or make sure you have defensive stats to last longer during those intense fights. And trust me, the game’s difficulty level is quite intense. The boss fights, especially can prove to be a major challenge, and you’re constantly encouraged to think on your feet and try different skills and combinations. The game adds another layer of depth to the progression system by offering you the choice to accept the Shining Trapezohedron’s dark energy. Choosing to embrace or reject will result in different endings, of which the game has three. If you ask me, between the multiple endings and the different builds and challenging dungeons, the game has plenty of replay-ability value as well.
Like I mentioned before, the procedural generation in Sundered is like a double-edged sword. On one hand, it keeps the experience fresh and challenging, but on the other, it can feel broken at times. Not to mention, while the game has incredible aesthetics, these procedurally generated passageways feel like they lack a certain depth and character, compared to the game’s fixed areas. Also, a lot times, it can a certain extent of inconsistency, in both the environment and the difficulty level. But no matter how unfair you may think the game gets, once you get a good grasp of the combat, it feels absolutely rewarding.
Sundered is a wonderful take on the Metroidvania genre by the creators of Jotun. It is an experience that is both discomforting and exhilarating, pushing you to the limits. There are times when it feels notoriously punishing, but even in those moments, the combat is extremely satisfying and it doesn’t matter whether you survive or perish in the fight, the game finds a way to reel you in, and it’s difficult to stop once you get started.