Interview: Resist Or Embrace The Corruption In SUNDERED

Sundered is a Metroidvania 2D sidescroller from Thunder Lotus Games, the makers of Jotun. Jotun received much critical and commercial success back when it released in 2015, praised for its beautiful hand drawn artstyle and its fantastic story, leaving many to have high expectations for this new title.

In Sundered, you take control of a wanderer named Eshe, who becomes trapped in a series of randomly generated caverns filled with horrific creatures. Players are given the choice to Resist or Embrace the dark ancient eldritch powers that can be harnessed by corrupted relics. These powers will help the player fight off the games gigantic bosses but at the cost of their humanity.

Don’t be fooled, Sundered is not just your average 2D sidescroller, it’s bringing a heaps worth of features with it that is usually expected in AAA titles. Dynamic enemy encounters, procedural levels, massive boss fights, and multiple endings are all what makes Sundered such an ambitious title. I recently had a conversation with Thunder Lotus Games Art Director and Founder/Creative Director, Jo-Annie Gauthier and Will Dubé respectively, to gather more details on this epic project.

Your beautifully crafted hand drawn artstyle is returning from Jotun. Though, this time it seems to have a darker tone. Can you tell me a bit about what influenced the art direction?

Gauthier- “As per usual, we like to go for animated movies look. It evokes a lot of nostalgia for us, and we bring it to video games so you may interact with what feels like an animated movie. I'm of the belief that animated movies can be enjoyed by all ages and used for all purposes and intents, and I think it is well reflected in our work on Sundered. With the beauty and wonder you get from strange landscapes and beautiful animation, we don't shy from going down a creepier and darker road. We want the suspense to be tangible in everything from the background to the enemies, to the sheer scale of the world you explore…”

You have described Sundered as a Metroidvania influence but with more replayability. Can you go into detail about this?

Dubé- “Well, the core experience is largely classic Metroidvania, with the exploration of a 2D map, and a focus on platforming and melee combat. Added to this are elements like backtracking and unlocking new abilities that unlock new sub-sections, keeping the experience fresh throughout. The replayable aspect comes into play with hordes of enemies being spawned dynamically according to a number of factors (as in Left 4 Dead), combined with a mix of hand-crafted and procedurally-crafted levels...Taken together, these add a multiplicative layer of uncertainty, since the layer of randomness of the dungeon gets added over the random monster spawns.”

Dynamic enemy spawns

Dynamic enemy spawns

After your successful launch of Jotun, what are some things you have learned coming into Sundered. Anything specific that you wanted to tackle, implement, or improve upon?

Dubé- “We've been pretty explicit that our main goals for the Sundered Kickstarter are to repeat what was great about the Jotun Kickstarter: specifically, a dedicated and invested core of players whose feedback during the crucial testing phase made the difference between Jotun being good, and it being something special. This explains why anyone backing Sundered at the $15 or higher tier will get an automatic invite to Sundered's Beta. All funds raised through the campaign will be invested in the game's production, with implementation of alpha and beta feedback extending the game's production until June, for a July release. Further, we want to avoid feature creep and focus on making the core experience as solid as possible.”

Can you go into detail about how the procedurally generated levels will work? Within the 10 hour campaign, will each level be randomly generated?

Dubé- “Yeah, so there’s already been tons of questions on the subject, which is great! A lot of people feel that a procedural Metroidvania is impossible. We respectfully disagree. Every time you die, the physical rooms in the dungeon are re-shuffled. Though the overall structure of the world is set in stone, subsections take a random sampling of preset rooms and assembles them to create a different flow every time. Think of it like Diablo 2, where the progression of the levels is always the same, but the individual tiles are always different..."

Randomly Generated Caverns

Randomly Generated Caverns

You mentioned on your kickstarter that death in the game is a means to upgrading skills. Can you explain how this is implemented and what players can expect?

Dubé- “Taking a cue from games like Rogue Legacy, frequent deaths are indeed part of the Sundered experience. Throughout exploration and combat, you collect Shards, and, when you die, you respawn in the Hub, the world’s central landmark. Here lies the Skill Tree, filled with Upgrades, Perks and the Metroidvania-style Abilities. More commonly, your Shards are spent on Upgrades, permanent stat boosting nodes like Health, Melee Damage and Critical Chance. Meanwhile, Abilities are found at Shrines in the world and are the real game-changers. For instance, you can find the Power Dash, a much more powerful move that replaces Eshe’s initial Roll. Once an Ability is found, it appears in the Skill Tree and unlocks a whole new section (a branch if you will), filled with new Upgrades.”

Will you have simultaneous launch on all platforms?

Dubé- Sundered will launch simultaneously in July 2017 on Windows, Mac & Linux (through Steam, Humble, DRM-free GOG) as well as PlayStation 4.”

It seems like Sundered is promising a lot to gamers, but if successful we will truly have something unique, an indie title with a AAA heart. 

Check out the trailer below and don't forget to head over to Sundered's kickstarter to find out how you can access the beta and help make this game even better.

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