Sundered review

written 2023-10-07

Sundered is a metroidvania I played in 2023/09. I played on Hard (the 3rd out of 4 difficulty settings), and quit at the 3rd major boss. Overall, I don't recommend the game unless you have someone to play the coop with, see below.


First, a couple of aesthetic annoyances:


Most fights consist of huge swarms of enemies in rooms with a variety of platforms and sometimes environmental hazards. Your own attacks are melee. You have a roll that can phase through enemy attacks, and a shield that recharges after not being hit for a few seconds.

Unfortunately the hordes are overdone. Having 5 of the same type of enemy stacked on top of each other doesn't really make the fight any more interesting than 1, and when they cover each other's sprites like this, you sometimes can't see their telegraphs. Plus, it's weird to have a shield that only recharges when you take *no* damage for a few seconds combined with fights that make this unfeasible, since practically the entire screen can be filled with enemies and their projectiles. Sometimes you get situations where you can't engage because your shield is down, but you also can't stay away from damage long enough to regenerate it, and this can be frustrating. And the fights just go on too long sometimes. A million enemies spawn, you kill them all and a million more spawn, repeat 5x to be able to move to the next room safely. Etc.

The fights also feel a bit samey. Each major area has about 4 different types of enemies, and their designs are fine, but almost every random encounter is a balanced mix of all 4 types on screen at all times, so once you've had one fight in an area, you've kind of seen everything that area has to offer.

Boss fights

Most of the bosses are pretty shitty. Each major area of the game has 3 minibosses and 1 major boss. Most minibosses are just upgraded versions of regular enemies, with a lot more health and fought at the same time as the normal hordes. Not very interesting. But the other minibosses are even worse, like the giant jellyfish one which combines a super fast regenerating shield with constantly flying inside walls so you can't reach it, *and* a huge amount of health underneath that shield. And the one who summons visually identical clones of itself, with the real one constantly teleporting offscreen, and also has a huge amount of health. And both of those only have 1 attack, making them monotonous as well as tedious and frustrating.

The major bosses are also pretty shitty. Most of them have about 2 attacks plus summons, and they are all so giant that the camera has to zoom out so much that you can barely see your character, the summons, and the platforms you use to reach the boss's vulnerable points. Some of them have way too much health. One of them is one of those "empty one health bar to make the boss vulnerable for a few seconds, then the outer health bar refills and you have to do it again" fights, *and* the boss can float inside walls during its vulnerable periods so you can't reach it.

Also, there is only *one* respawn point in the *entire world*. It's in the center, but still, dying at a boss will likely mean a long run back to the arena.

Upgrade system

In metroidvania style, you unlock new fundamental abilities at a few points, like double jump and air dash. But there's also an experience point system that you use to buy stat upgrades from a tree.

Experience points are grindable, which means every time you die, you get upgrades from the enemies you killed on the way. This is super lame because it means difficulty is really just a matter of dying enough times to get enough upgrades to win.

Other than that though, the upgrade tree is great. I love how it gives you quantitative information! Even when it's not just a straight stat increase like +2 damage, for example when it's decreasing your shield recharge delay, it tells you by how much! This is really table stakes for any game, but it's so rare that it feels like a blessing.

Sundered isn't perfect when it comes to giving you that kind of information: it doesn't tell you the armor formula, so I assumed it was just flat subtraction, but it's actually an exponential system: incoming damage is multiplied by 0.98 ^ armor. But that's really cool too! Exponential damage formulas are great and flat subtraction sucks, as terepy has written about on my site before.

terepy's article


Sundered supports local coop! The way it works is you load into one person's save file and it spawns two of you, with shared health but separate shields. It doesn't support online coop, but even having only local coop is awesome and a big selling point if you have someone to play it with.

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