Sundered only came out a few days ago, but it?s already one of my favorite games of 2018. Well, technically it came out last year, but the Switch version just barely hit so I?m saying it counts for ?18. Anyway, I absolutely love the game and have been playing the hell out of it.
Cover art for Thunder Lotus? ? Sundered
I didn?t know anything about the game shop Thunder Lotus until a few weeks ago when the Sundered: Eldritch Edition for Switch trailer hit (see below). The holiday season was already looking packed with a number of intriguing titles to tackle during the break. One glance at Sundered?s gorgeous, hand animated sprites, along with the promise of a fresh take on the Metroidvania formula, instantly made this game a top priority for me. I have very specific tastes, and Sundered seemed to be hitting all of them:
- Insanely gorgeous art!
- Metroidvania style exploration!
- Semi-proceduralely generated environments and encounters!
- The protagonist is a strong, female, person-of-color devoid of any tropes or stereotypes!
- Huge bosses to take down!
- Eldritch horror!
- Post-apocalyptic tech world!
- Mysterious plot to uncover!
- 4 player co-op!
So I preordered the game on ?trailer promise? alone and avoided spoilers and reviews as much as humanly possible. I wanted to form my own opinions without having any outside bias. And I?m glad I did because I freaking loved the game. I?ve beaten it twice since downloading on Friday (once in the ?Embrace? track and once in the ?Resist? track), and now I?m on to a third run on insane mode both Resisting and Embracing specific skills. That?s probably 30 hours of playtime or so over the course of the last 5 days, played between basically all the free, waking moments I was able to carve out during the busy Christmas week.
The point I?m trying to make is that I love Sundered and am quickly becoming a Thunder Lotus evangelist.
Probably my next tattoo
So, if you?re reading this guide, chances are you either:
A) picked up Sundered recently and are struggling, or
2) you are considering picking it up after seeing the trailer, but are trying to decide if this game is for you or
D) you?re insanely bored and have nothing better to do than read indie video game guides on Medium.
In either case, I hope you find the content helpful. What follows is a brain dump of the skills and techniques that I think are absolutely vital to a successful and enjoyable Sundered experience. So, without further ado, here is my (mostly) spoiler free beginner?s guide to Sundered.
Exploration is always rewarded, so make like Kirk and boldy go EVERYWHERE
The game tries to tell you to explore during just about every load screen, but I can?t emphasize this point enough.
Get creative with your exploration
The world of Sundered is sort of procedurally generated. The major areas of the game remain consistent, but singular sections will change a bit every time you load-in with new treasures, terrain, and hordes to manage. Take the time to peak around, and you?ll almost always find something that was worth your while.
Your shield is a beautiful, life-saving wonder device and it deserves your worship
You have a number of potential branches in your skill tree to invest in: health, damage, shield, luck, ammo, and energy are the main areas you can build out. Eventually you?ll be able to max them all out, but you should prioritize your shield first before anything else. In my opinion your shield should come even before your health upgrades whenever possible.
Keeping your shield up is probably the most important skill you can master in Sundered. Once your shield pops, you become extremely squishy and health goes by-by fast. Upgrading your shield allows you to have a larger amount of shield energy and also decreases the amount of time it takes for your shield to recharge. You want to get a beefy shield, that recharges quickly, as soon as humanly possible in your run.
Keep moving, if you like being alive
Keep those toes frosty until your shield heals. Also a good example of up-slash mobility, which I address later.
If you?ve ever played Doom (which rules and you should), you know how important it is to keep yourself in motion when playing a game that throws a large amount of dangerous enemies at you. A stationary target is a dead target. This definitely applies to Sundered. If you try to take a motionless stand against an angry horde, you?re toast. Period. Keep moving to keep from getting swarmed. You get swarmed, you get dead.? Trademark me.
This advice is especially potent if your shield pops. When this happens, it?s your job is to switch from ?kill? to ?retreat to a safe distance? as quickly as possible. You want to get that shield back up fast so that you can re-engage strong, without the pressure on your health that will force you to panic and make bad choices.
Speaking of panic, DON?T PANIC
Don?t panic. Take it slow. Don?t get greedy.
Sundered works really hard to make your feel overwhelmed, and it does a masterful job to this end. Thunder Lotus? own website describes Sundered as ?A CHAOTIC HAND-DRAWN METROIDVANIA WHERE YOU RESIST OR EMBRACE ANCIENT ELDRITCH POWERS? And they?re right, things can get really damn chaotic in the heat of a horde battle.
In Sundered, the enemies, sound-effects, art direction, soundtrack, and gameplay all work together in harmony to beat the crap out of YOUR harmony. It hit me just how perfectly and uniquely Thunder Lotus accomplished this chaotic feeling as I reached the end of the first boss fight. The music becomes extremely erratic, there are at least 50 enemies on the screen, you?re dodging 20 things at once all while trying to hit one small hitbox poking out of a massive eldritch horror, and you can actually feel the hatred radiating from the boss.
It?s freaking incredible.
But it?s also really easy to lose your cool in these moments, to panic when the screen is suddenly full of things that want to kill you, and when the sounds these creatures make shakes you to the core. A very large majority of the deaths I had in my two play-throughs were because I allowed myself to panic in the moment. They were completely preventable mistakes that happened simply because I got flustered.
Take a deep breath, get your bearings, glance at the mini-map to find an exit, and keep moving until you find a place where you can regroup mentally and spatially. ?Keep moving? and ?keep your head? are the two most important tips you I can give you for Sundered.
Treasure doesn?t just glisten, it makes pretty noises
Treasure is the best way to get the funds you?ll need to upgrade your abilities and gear. A lot of treasure is easy to find, but some corrupted treasure piles are well hidden. Luckily, all treasure makes the same ambient sound you can hear clear as a bell in Sundered if you?re listening (see below). Perk your ears up and hunt accordingly.
After a while you will notice repeatable patterns for where treasure is normally hidden in a given type of room, and you?ll get really fast at grabbing that sweet loot and moving on.
The sound of treasure is directional. Follow it like a moth to the flame.
Listen for the sound of impending doom that signals an incoming horde
Each area has a specific sound that chimes, signaling that a horde is inbound. When you hear that noise, book it to a location that YOU are comfortable fighting in. I can?t stress this enough. I?ve seen too many players just jump straight into battle like they are being forced to engage right where the gong sounded. Move to the nearest safe location with as few environmental hazards as possible. This is your one chance to force the enemy into the ground you know you have the advantage in. Get to a comfortable spot without hazards and with clear escape routes, then kick ass.
When you hear a horde, move to a safe battleground.
Do NOT underestimate environmental hazards. They will murder you.
Related to the above advice to pick your horde battle-ground carefully, environmental hazards (ie. spikey bushes, poison fungus, etc), are a one way ticket back to the sanctuary spawn if you aren?t careful. On their own, hazards rarely pose a treat, but paired with a horde they become incredibly deadly. Hazards do a great job of popping your shields, keeping your shield off when you?re just trying to get to safety, impeding your mobility, and allowing a horde to successfully swarm you. If you?re caught in an area with a lot of hazards when a horde hits, find an exit and make moving to a new section your first priority.
The ground is so ?last year.? Keep yourself in the AIR.
Eshe (the protagonist whose role you?ve assumed) has great ground game, but she truly shines when she?s airborne. Ground attacks have a longer pause between combos, while air attacks have a larger damage radius and a smoother transition between attacks. This means better DPS. Attacking in the air also helps you avoid being swarmed since many enemies rely on Eshe being on the ground in order for them to deal their maximum amount of damage. Stay in the air to decrease the odds of them popping your shield.
Air combos for dayz
Using your up-slash after a jump will get you into the air, and attacking enemies while airborne will keep you there. Once you get the Leaping Device (double jump), you can basically stay in the air for as long as there?s an enemy in the room to attack. Each time you hit an enemy, your Leaping Device recharges allowing you to perform a jump again no matter where you are.
It?s possible to clear an entire room without ever touching the ground, and it?s a thing of beauty.
Up-slashing will change your life and do your taxes and clean your laundry and get you that raise you?ve been waiting for
You can use your up-slash attack while airborne to get extra vertical movement. This is probably the most important move you can (and should) master early in the game. This will help you dodge enemies, land air combos on enemies that look just out of reach, get treasure high up, and finally reach parts of the map that you really shouldn?t be able to get to (especially early in the game).
You will also get into a number of scenarios in Sundered where landing a jump is the difference between you escaping a horde or succumbing to their numbers, and the up-slash has saved my ass more times than I can count (see the section above ?Keep moving if you want to stay alive? for a gif illustrating my point here).
Getting to ?Area 2? before getting the double jump with up-slashes
An important skill early in the game is wall climbing. You can basically ?climb? any vertical wall, no matter how high, as long as you perform an up-slash climb move correctly. To do this, jump up the wall as high as you can, then jump out and up. Push back to the wall and then (and this is the most important part) as you start moving back to the wall, perform an up-slash. Then repeat: jump out, swing back to the wall, up-slash as you begin moving backwards towards the wall you came from, jump again. This move will NOT work if you up-slash to early. You need the momentum from Eshe moving back towards the wall you?re climbing to make the most efficient use of the up-slash you?re about to give her. Slash up too early and you?ll lose all your gained vertical space by the time you get back to the wall, too late and you?ll hit the wall before your up-slash is finished. However, slash just right and you?ll gain a full body length in height, breaking the game entirely and impressing all the eligible single ladies and/or gentlemen in the room.
Dying is really no biggie _(?)_/
I?m serious. In Sundered, you don?t really lose anything when you die. In fact, because you?re brought back to the sanctuary/skill-tree each time you die, dying can sometimes be a good reminder that you?re sitting on a mountain of coin that needs spending.
The hardest part of dying is making the trek back to where you were to continue doing whatever it was you were just doing there. But even that is a blessing in disguise because now you have another opportunity to gather coin for further upgrades as you travel. Bonus! Who knew the existential dread caused by the fear of taking a dirt nap was so trivial.
There were multiple times in each run where I just decided to push as fast and as hard as I could into unknown territory just to see how far I could get. Sometimes there were big payoffs, sometimes I just died fast, but because death is really just another gateway to progression, Sundered gave me the freedom to take risks I might not have otherwise.
Burn your damn finishers instead of waiting for ?just the right moment?
At first, I would hold onto my finisher ?until I really needed it.? I then realized it?s a total waste and that I was missing out on a lot of extra damage. Finishers charge fast, so use it quickly as soon as it?s up. You?ll hear a little chime letting you know it?s ready, at which time you should spend that sucker as fast as you can. Try to see how many finishers you can unleash in a single horde wave.
Burning through finishers at a horde treasure
It?s also worth noting that you have a few different finishers that you can perform. Play around with the various forms?hold up while on the ground, or down while in the air, etc.
Not all finishers do the same thing either. Some finishers do a smaller amount of damage all around you while others do more damage to just one area. Performing an up finisher while in the air can also help you gain additional height after your jump and up-slashes have been burned. My personal favorite finisher is unleashed by holding up while standing to release a massive spectral hand that reaches skyward and then slams downward. Bad ass.
Temporary Bonus Shrines
The world randomly generates a number of shrines per area that grant temporary bonuses. You can have as many bonuses active as you find, but most of them wear off after a short amount of time.
For instance, one bonus significantly increases your armor and lasts for about a minute before wearing off. You?ll notice an icon next to your finisher energy gauge that slowly empties like an hour-glass telling you how much time is left on that bonus.
Some bonuses don?t have a time limit but last until you die, like the bonus that shows where treasure is hidden on your map. If you get this particular bonus, drop whatever you?re doing and go treasure hunting. U gon need dat coin.
Don?t waste much time with locked doors. They?re locked.
This is a shortcut door that can only be opened from the other side
Many locked doors in Sundered are opened from the other side just by slashing an orb beyond your reach. You?ll usually unlock the door by exploring other areas and circling back from the other side. These are referred to as ?shortcut doors,? meaning they are meant to let you reach an area more quickly after you?ve beaten it.
This is slightly different from other Metroidvanias that constantly ask you to find a new ability in order to unlock something you currently can?t access. And while there is a lot of that in Sundered as well, at least half the locked doors in the game have nothing to do with abilities or progression and are shortcut doors that you can just ignore until you easily unlock them from the other side.
Skill perks are way better than you think
You will unlock skill perks that strengthen certain abilities and nerf others. For instance, one of my favorite perks greatly increases your crit damage but nerfs your other damage by THIRTY percent. However, as the tutorial screen will tell you, ?a perk?s upsides ALWAYS outweigh its downsides.?
A few of the skills that usually drop early game
Skills become extremely vital when you determine what sort of play-style you enjoy, and these perks are absolutely invaluable in harder modes.
You acquire new skill perks through a number of venues ? by making it to the other side of an endless horde area, by defeating bosses, on rare occasions when you open a treasure, or by defeating Lith enemies. I?ll explain these all below?
Endless horde areas are scattered throughout the map. You know you?ve entered an Endless horde area because the game will give you a title in blood red, and the top of the title will say in tiny letters ?Endless horde.? You?ll also notice an incessant gong in the background constantly assaulting your anxieties while you?re in the area.
Endless horde areas will throw endless enemies at you until you either
- leave the area or
The end of each Endless area houses a specific skill perk that is tied to that area. My advice is to book it to the end of the Endless horde area as fast as you can. The name of the game is ?pull anchor and haul ass.? Keep one eye on the mini-map to find the next room, and keep moving until you get to the shrine at the end of the area. Then you?re free to turn back to your foes to see who?s the bigger woman.
It?s also worth noting that Endless horde areas are chocked with hidden treasure. If you?re brave/strong enough to explore these areas, the payoff is massive.
Perks can also drop from bosses. Main bosses can be re-played after they?ve been beaten for additional (albeit lessened) rewards. Skill perks often drop from replaying bosses as well.
Next, there are two kinds of treasure: normal treasure that is found commonly throughout the maps, and purple horde treasures. Horde treasures are much less common than normal treasures and can only be opened after clearing the horde that spawns after you disturb the pile. Normal treasures have a very low chance to spawn a skill perk (depending on your current Luck score), but Horde treasures almost always drop skill perks when you clear them.
Lith enemies are larger, angrier, better-looking, golden-ier versions of their normal, non-Lith selves. These are the eldritch horrors all the eldritch moms wish their eldritch children would grow up to be.
Lith enemies usually move faster, do more damage, have extra abilities and attacks, and have beefy shields. They are very dangerous and almost always pose the greatest threat on the screen when they are around. They also have a very, very high chance of dropping skill perks. If you see one, don?t leave the area until you?ve taken it down.
Don?t overthink your decision to Embrace or Resist, both rule
I?ve played through both ways (I did Embrace first since I run a Warlock in DnD), and I can safely say that both options are awesome. The story and endings are drastically different and the abilities are night and day from each other depending on which route you chose. You can even mix your choices to Embrace or Resist, although a choice to do either for a specific ability can?t be undone later.
Embracing or Resisting both require whole eldritch shards. You can get a whole shard from one of the main bosses, or you can combine three smaller pieces that you collect from smaller bosses to create a whole shard. There are also three shard pieces hidden throughout the game, but I?m not telling where they are. And don?t Google it. Googling is for pansies.
To Embrace, take a whole eldritch shard to the skill shrine you want to ?corrupt? (ie. upgrade significantly). To Resist, go the the furnace (located just below the sanctuary and to the left), and torch that sonuvabitch. Embracing will upgrade your skill immediately while Resisting will unlock a new branch on your skill-tree that you can purchase.
Resist Tree (left) Embrace Tree (right)
I won?t spoil anything about each path and the cool stuff you get as a result of those choices, but I will say that the Resist path was more challenging (it should be right? You don?t have an eldritch god backing you up). Resist gives you upgrades created by the Valkyrie instead of imbuing your abilities with corrupted eldritch energies, which is amazing but slightly less powerful overall in my experience.
At any length, pick a path and commit, because both experiences are incredible. There really isn?t a better path, and both deserve a playthrough from you.
And finally, the most important advice?
BEWARE THE GONG
You?ll figure it out.
So there you have it. The best and most complete beginners guide to Sundered. You are now smarter and better looking than when you starting reading this article, which should help you on your journey to master this most incredible of eldritch journeys.
Buy it now. The eldritch masters demand it.
Ps. Sundered is 75% off on Steam right now.
Also here is the link for PS4, XBOX, and Switch.
Now get on it.