Sundered (Beta Review)

By: Rae

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Looking for a good summer game to play? Like an atmospheric mix of mystery and horror? If so, you might want to check out Sundered – the upcoming metroidvania with a Lovecraftian feel, expected out this July.

The game just recently went into beta, and I got the chance to check it out. As a disclaimer, I haven’t finished the beta yet, but I feel pretty confident about how I feel toward the gameplay and overall experience. I’ll definitely be playing more of it and keeping track of the game as it comes to completion.

To get just a couple complaints out of the way, there were times when I got frustrated with the loading time and lag. Both of those things don’t really bother me normally, but it got a little extreme at some points, especially in big battles where it’s already a lot of action. Even worse, because the controls work so smoothly regularly, when it starts lagging it becomes nearly impossible to land on the right spot, fight, or get where you’re trying to go. I noticed in the forums that the developers said they’re working on that, so hopefully it will be fix before release on the PC.

Overall, however, Sundered is pretty enjoyable.

A mix of platformer, horror, and mystery, the beta drops you into a series of caverns with absolutely no explanation. You don’t know why you’re there, what the story is, or where you are. Occasionally throughout the game you’ll hear screeching metal or other sounds in the distance, but you won’t find NPCs hanging around or any other signs of life. What you do find – or more accurately, what finds you – are alien-looking creatures that attempt to swarm you in large groups. You’ll hear them coming before you see them – a disconcerting screech or shuffle somewhere above or below. Don’t be too distressed if you die. This appears to be part of the plan as you’re simply sent back to improve yourself, your armor, or your weapon before you dive back in. Death and rebirth are an important part of your story now.

After death, you’ll find yourself back in the calm and quiet safety of Sanctuary. There’s nowhere to go except back down into the caverns…

As you press forward, you’ll unlock gates and uncover rooms that will help you access more areas or get closer to where you left off when you inevitably die under 20 eldritch-inspired horrors. Each time you go back, you’ll get to review your skill tree and purchase better health, shields, and attack. But the relief of a smoother, straighter path only lasts a few moments. Soon, on your way back to that newly uncovered area, you’ll discover the tradeoff for your discoveries.

There are more enemies now. And they’re getting smarter.

Sunder’s skill tree. As you defeat enemies or break objects, you’ll earn shards, which can be used to purchase upgrades.

The difficulty level can be a little intense at times, and it seems like no matter how skilled or prepared you are, a too-big mob will take you down. Discussions in the forums have revealed that after one of these terrible experiences, the difficulty level drops just a little bit again. However, it can be a little overwhelming at times, especially when you have to make your way all the way back after every death. I wonder if this is a game that might benefit from difficulty level options? People seem to disagree one whether the difficulty is refreshing or frustrating – for me it was sometimes both. I understand that dying is a part of the game, but it can sometimes interfere with the game’s focus on exploration.

While inspired by Lovecraft in some ways, the references and lore aren’t too thickly laid. Instead, the game focuses on creating that same aura of unexplainable mystery. The further the player ventures into the caverns, the more questions they’re bound to have. Who used to be here? What are the creatures running around? What were these old rooms and machines used for?

Of course, things are bound to change by the time the game officially releases. But fortunately it seems like Sundered’s biggest strength is going to stick around: the atmosphere. 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.

It’s not often that I add a new game to my “to get” list, but I really look forward to seeing more of this one. Check it out this July, and we’ll try to keep you updated on how the final version stacks up!

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