The folks over at Thunder Lotus Games have put out hand-drawn games before, of a style that speaks to those who love the classic era games like Super Metroid. Jotun, the game they made before Sundered is unfortunately just a vague unfamiliarity to me, but getting to spend some time on their new hand drawn project, I am incredibly excited for what they’re doing and how they’ve managed to capture the 2D spirit of action platforming in a fun, mash-up way.
Sundered is a 2D Metroidvania. Yes, it’s exactly my wheelhouse, if you didn’t know. Herein is the full monty of getting abilities as you progress, in my demo’s case: a dash, which let me cross barriers that would hinder my jumping. That one ability very much seemed like a top-level example for the demo I explored, but the interesting look and feel to the game led me to believe there will more more complicated abilities and powers in the latter parts of the world.
It’s got that core design, with some nice Metroidvania map edits that make using the minimap and exploring even breezier, especially for a Metroid veteran. But, there are hooks here. The combat, which it’s heavily focused around, is a lot more action-packed. It’s closer to a Guacamelee or a Salt and Sanctuary than it is to Super Metroid, since it isn’t strictly a shooter style game, with a hack and slash feel to it. There are different directional moves you can do, like for example a drop-down attack from the air that reminded me a lot of the drop attacks from games like Super Smash Brothers, which Rodrigue, the PR specialist giving me the demo, mentioned many of the staff were a fan of.
Oh, and did I mention that the world is randomly generated? That’s the most exciting part for me: it’s a Metroidvania kind of game where you get abilities and powers, gaining prowess as you explore, with randomly chosen tilesets all in between. I didn’t get a chance to hear how this will work for any kind of campaign or single player mission setup, but we’ll see how they can incorporate gaining abilities into exploring an essentially ever-changing world.
One of the coolest parts was a Demon’s Souls-esque mechanic of dying and return to a sort of hub, where you can cash in all the ‘gems’ you earned from combat and exploration into a skill tree, which in my demo only allowed me to get a better shield, which breaks before you begin taking damage, or to do more damage to enemies. I can hope that this’ll lead to new combat abilities, and I only had access to a small section of the tree when I played, meaning there is a ton of potential for more.
Overall, the game felt very good. Every frame is hand drawn, with tons and tons of frames of animation in every style of movement, so everything was beautiful and reminiscent of a painting in almost every waking second. Movement was smooth because of this added visual caretaking, and something as simple as rapidly wall jumping felt legitimately amazing because of how fast, responsive, and smooth it was. Combat was the only concern, because it was a bit difficult to understand the combo inputs, and after gaining the dash ability, it was seemingly randomly incorporated into my directional attacks. I’m sure there is a reason to the madness, but it was difficult to get ahold of in a ten minute demo.
Sundered played out like a fantasy dream of mine: roguelike elements of random generation and death-based mechanics wrapped up in a Metroidvania skin with hand drawn beauty in every brush stroke. It’s really cool, and even if some of the fighting feels wonky, just getting the core concepts down was really fun. The potential for exploration here is massive, and that’s all I wanted to do by the end of the demo, which culminated in a giant boss arriving just as it cuts to black. Right now, we’ll have to wait until 2017 before we can see it though.