'Sundered' Preview: Thunder Lotus Games' Addictive, Eerie Take On Lovecraftian Horror

thunder lotus games sundered
'Sundered' from Thunder Lotus Games. (c) Thunder Lotus Games

Sundered is an original take on Lovecraftian horror and its accompanying dangers of creeping corruption and madness, set in the ruins of a world torn apart by a war between cultists and scientists. It’s no surprise that this next game out of Thunder Lotus Games is every bit as beautiful, polished and exciting as their last, the redoubtable and Norse mythology-themed Jotun (and its boss challenge edition, Jotun: Valhalla ).

The demo I played for Sundered took place in a new level about halfway through the game, a place of holographic platforms and elegant carved columns interspersed with interesting purple ciphers suspended in mid-air. I thought them some Lovecraftian hallucination at first but was told they related to an ability, a hookshot-like power that allowed protagonist Ashe to swing from node to node like an aerial dancer.

Sundered is as hard as Jotun at its most difficult, but unlike Jotun , there’s a lot of fighting all the time - and a lot of tension. Ashe’s moments of respite are brief as she zips through the ruins of her world. Every moment of quiet stretches until it snaps, bringing enemy swarms and forcing the player into bursts of frenetic action until the enemies are subdued. They’ll follow you as long as they can, and if you activate swarms without eliminating them, the swarms will just pile up and tail you until they take you down.

However, death is only the beginning. When you die, you can spend the “Shards” you’ve earned by eliminating enemies on abilities in the skill tree that will make you harder, better, faster, stronger (sorry). That means the next time you face a swarm that kicked your butt, you’ll be more prepared to take it on. I died three times to a massive swarm, every member of which had to be killed before I could proceed.

But each time, I had a huge amount of Shards at my disposal and increased my damage, improved my shield and otherwise made myself tougher and more dangerous. Three deaths were the ticket: I eliminated the swarm and made my way forward, where the demo teased the opening to one of those famous, elaborate Thunder Lotus boss fights.

I had played a different Sundered demo that takes place in another level prior to this one, but I’m embarrassed to admit how difficult I found it. I had trouble reading the map, especially since the maps do change each time in a procedurally-generated fashion to maintain a sense of unease and tension in the player. Some anchor rooms stay the same, but rooms off of them will change after each death, so I kept getting lost in new and exciting ways.

With the game’s creative director Will Dubé standing right there and patiently pointing me in the correct direction, I was able to progress, but all I could think was, “No wonder I keep getting lost on the convention floor.” Still, the Sundered demo had polished aesthetics and the lush hand-illustrated art that made Jotun so memorable, thoughtful gameplay mechanics that married perfectly with its Lovecraftian themes, and thrilling fast-paced action that sees you swinging, dashing, dodging, leaping and otherwise doing your utmost to carve your way through a jarring, hostile world. The demo is already so beautiful and so playable it’s hard to believe the game isn’t already out.

Interested in exploring corruption and power in Sundered ? Feel free to let us know in the comments section below.

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