Sundered: Eldritch Edition review

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Sundered: Eldritch Edition is a cross between a Metroidvania and a rogue-lite. Combining exploration and combat, the title does not hide its true nature and after your first death that you will discover it. To pass from life to death is not the end but a continuation. If your first few minutes are allocated to unveiling the map, to explore every corner and make it fully visible, you will find that this first task will be ephemeral.

The different regions that make up the world are divided into zones which, themselves, are divided into individual rooms. The zones will remain fixed but the rooms and structures will change after each death. This can be slightly confusing for new players who are still learning the games mechanics.

The controls are pretty simple and typical of the genre. The A button is assigned to the melee weapon whose shape is malleable according to the combos made. By chaining the strikes, you fill a purple gauge that, once filled, gives the player a powerful “fatal blow” attack. The gauge will decrease while not in combat though, so saving it for a future encounter won’t work.

Even with this simple starting weapon, you get a lot of options. Each attack coupled with a different direction will result in a different animation. Better yet, once you unlock the double jump you can combine it with your attacks to deal some serious damage. For those who prefer ranged combat, Eshe is equipped with a canon that fires voluminous balls of energy (within the limits of your ammunition). As you progress throughout the game, you will discover alters that unlock new skills. Some of these skills, such as the double jump, are required in order to reach new areas.

As I mentioned previously, while the regions don’t change as you revisit areas, the rooms will be different each time. This is very unique to Sundered but it works quite well. The map shows the location of different points of interest and you can easily tell which areas are locked and which have already been explored.

As well as unlocking new skills, you also have the skill tree that is at the heart of improving your character. As you defeat enemies and destroy canisters scattered throughout the world you collect [sparks]. These [sparks] are used to improve different skills and abilities. The skill tree is huge and some skills are dependent on unlocking new abilities before you can use them. Each new skill acquired will open a new branch of the tree. In addition to these bonus statistics, you can equip up to three talents (four under certain conditions).

The electrical jellybeans pack a punch!

Naturally, the world is populated with enemies, they vary in skill and ferocity from harmless little jelly-beans to angry, difficult monsters as you progress. However, these hostile creatures have the unfortunate tendency to be unpredictable. You could explore much of the area without coming across a single foe and suddenly a whole horde could appear.

Fighting valiantly won’t be very rewarding, this will result in a lot of health loss and wasted elixirs. Fleeing is usually the best resort in the end as you won’t lose any precious resources. This somewhat strange system is quite frustrating and unfair at times, especially when it ends with an unnecessary death.

Your character will face much tougher opponents. Minibosses will prepare you for the regional bosses. These epic battles will be the scene of very graphic and interesting clashes. Each boss is very different from eachother and the battles are always very memorable. Finally, we can note that it is possible to play with up to four players, each needing a Joy-con.

Visually, Sundered: Eldritch Edition is stunning. It’s clear that Thunder Lotus Games have been working hard on the graphics quality since their previous title, Jotun. The animations are fairly smooth and each area contains a high level of detail giving us a game with environments and characters straight out of the illustrators’ pencils. One downside however, is that the different stages can give off an impression of repetition. Furthermore, after deaths you will have to repeat certain rooms and thus the graphics lose their initial wow factor.

The bestiary can also be a small disappointment. They could have been more varied, some enemies will only differ in colour. Fortunately, every regional boss remains unique and really stands out. Eshe, meanwhile, has fluid and stylish animations. The different skills and their improvements will offer plenty graphic variations.

On the sound side, the exploration music is quite discreet, but this choice is probably voluntary and reinforces the feeling of loneliness that accompanies us throughout the adventure. The sound effects of weapons and enemies are very good and provide a complete and whole atmosphere.

Your first play-through will last about fifteen hours. However, Sundered: Eldritch Edition has a high replay factor. The title offers three ways to complete the game depending on your choices, this alone will inflate the life expectancy. You also have the option to “corrupt” your skills to give different bonuses. Like Bethesdas Prey, I opted for a “natural” play-through. The second time around I played around with the skills a lot more once I understood how the mechanics worked.

Finally, the Switch version of Sundered: Eldritch Edition includes the additional content “Magnate of the Gong” that adds new areas, a new boss and the famous multiplayer mode mentioned above. Where some rogue-lites contain a notable absence of real evolution, Sundered: Eldritch Edition manages to make the addictive experience worthwhile. With a giant talent tree, skills to unlock and improve, and a story to unfold, the recipe seems simple but is devilishly effective.

Continuous improvements to the gameplay by progressing through the depths of the earth compensate for the lack of multiple weapons. With smooth and intuitive controls, Eshe is pleasant to control, very agile and guiding her through the world and the skill tree is simply enjoyable.

Formats: Nintendo Switch (reviewed), PC
Price: €19.99
Publisher: Thunder Lotus Games
Developer: Thunder Lotus Games
Release Date: 21/12/2018 (Nintendo Switch)
Age Rating: PEGI 12+