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Sundered Reviewed by Cyril Lachel on . Sundered is an action-packed take on the Metroidvania formula with gorgeous graphics and a massive world to explore. Unfortunately, the stunning presentation is marred by rampant technical problems, aggressive enemies and boring levels. There's a good game here, but you have to dig through some truly disappointing design decisions. Rating: 64%
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  • Review Score:

  • B-
I like Sundered. I feel like I need to say that right at the start, because I have a hunch that this review is going to turn negative in a hurry. But before that happens, I want to begin by raving about the graphics, the smooth animation and the massive world full of surprises. I also love the enemy designs and how non-linear the adventure is. And while I have quite a few complaints about this brand new action game, I'll be the first to tell you that I didn't want to put it down. Sundered is a good game that I'll end up recommending when all is said and done, but hang on, because this is going to be a bumpy ride.

This is the story of Eshe, a nomadic woman who finds herself sucked into a massive labyrinthine cavern after accidentally stumbling across an ancient monument. It's here where our adventurer will need to fight for her life while uncovering the secrets of the ruined world. We'll need to track down and destroy a series of crystal shards, which we're told is the key to escaping this realm and defeating the evil force that keeps throwing monsters at you. It's not an especially original story, but it gets the job done.

What we have here is a stylish 2D Metroidvania action game where we run around this massive world looking for upgrades and powers that will allow Eshe to dive even deeper into the cavern. This starts out with a double jump before giving our hero a massive photon cannon, the ability to run up walls and even a way to phase through the air. Fans of games like Symphony of the Night, Guacamelee and Axiom Verge will recognize a lot of the abilities in Sundered, as this generally sticks with the tried and true abilities you normally get from this genre.

The good news is that Eshe isn't completely helpless in this hostile world. She has a savage melee attack that rips through the enemies like a wrecking ball and a roll move that will keep her out of trouble. She'll also pick up glowing orbs of money from the fallen enemies and hidden treasure chests that she can use to improve her stats and upgrade the various abilities. A neat touch is how when you die, you'll always return back to the sanctuary, a tech tree with all kinds of improvements to spend money on.

It's impossible to talk about Sundered without taking a moment to rave about the gorgeous hand-drawn graphics. I was blown away right from the opening moments and love the look of Eshe and the enemies she fights. In fact, some of the giant boss creatures are the best I've seen all year. And not just from 2D side-scrolling action games, but from all games. There's some absolutely stunning stuff here that you won't want to miss. And best of all, they save some of the best treats for the second half. I found myself constantly wishing that more games could look like Sundered.

You would think that great graphics, a massive world to explore and the best boss fights of the year would be enough to make this a contender for 2017's top prize, but Sundered has a problem. Actually, it has a lot of problems. Let's start with the load times, since that's the first sign something is wrong. I don't know if it's because the game is forced to construct a procedurally-generated world or something else, but load times routinely run longer than 90 seconds. And it's not like you only sit for the for a minute and a half on the initial load, because this happens every single time you die. That feels like an eternity when you're just sitting there watching the same boring hints fly by.

Sundered (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

These load times wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't for the fact that you're constantly dying. Don't get me wrong, I don't think Sundered is necessarily difficult. I mean, the bosses are fairly straight-forward and most of the enemies are push-overs. But the game does this one thing that makes advancing through the caverns more frustrating than fun. For whatever reason, every enemy in this game has a bad habit of swarming Eshe. Like aggressively swarming. The kind of swarming that is almost impossible to shake, even when you run away. And when you kill six of them, a dozen more rush you from all sides. And they keep rushing, because apparently Sundered has an unlimited amount of bad guys to throw at you.

When it comes right down to it, I don't mind the game's difficulty. What I object to is the way the fights play out. It feels like the developers started with the idea of melee combat and something went seriously wrong. There really isn't much skill to fighting different kinds of enemies, because you can defeat all of them by simply mashing the Square button. Almost all of the enemies will try to stick to you like they're made of glue, which doesn't lead to an especially interesting fight. Instead of being exhilarating, I found these fights to be boring and monotonous, to the point where I actively avoided them after a while.

And then there are the rampant technical problems that overshadow every other aspect of the game. This game is prone to crash. A lot. I had the game send me back to the PlayStation 4 dashboard close to two dozen times. Even after a last-minute patch, I still found the game crashing at inopportune times. Hell, it got to the point where it was even crashing at opportune times, like when the game was paused.

Now here's the sad part, the constant crashing isn't even the worst of it. The most annoying bug is how the game hitches up once or twice every minute. As in literally pause for a second, and then abruptly restarting. The problem is that the action isn't actually paused in that moment, it's more that time was running without you. This has a bad habit of breaking up the momentum of fights and making some of the platforming much more difficult than it should be. This issue is especially annoying because the rest of the animation is otherwise flawless.

Sundered (PlayStation 4)Click For the Full Picture Archive

The truth is, the crashing, boring combat, and constant hitching makes some of the other issues seem almost pointless. That said, I do think it's worth mentioning that starting at the same place after every death makes the structure feel more repetitive than it needs to be. I also thought a lot of the level designs were boring. It's a lot of industrial settings where the only difference is the color. I also wish developers of this style of Metroidvania action game would come up with more original abilities. I know the double jump is a classic, but it would have been nice to see more creativity in the gameplay.

This is probably a good time to remind you that I genuinely like Sundered. There are definitely elements I don't like and design decisions that baffle me, but I was riveted by the world and in love with the graphics. This is a game that controls well, is full of surprises and features a few of the best boss fights of the year. It's so good in so many ways, which is why all the bad stuff stands out so prominently. This is a great action game buried beneath boring combat and rampant technical problems.
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