Sundered is a gorgeously drawn Metroidvania

Sundered [official site] is the ridiculously beautiful Metroidvania from the people who brought us the ridiculously beautiful Jotun. In a busy genre, does it do enough to stand out? Here are my thoughts:

There is, unavoidably, an issue with the Metroidvania: to do it well is usually to do it familiarly. I got into a fair old bit of hot water for expressing some of this when it came to Hollow Knight. There the notion of familiarity became, for me, an ennui that spread into the game itself, the sense of its doing something I’ve already done so many times before worsened by a bunch of unfun barriers between me and those aspects I’m so used to in the genre. For many others it clicked very nicely. To me, it felt like revisiting the same very pleasant holiday destination, and finding the lifts don’t work and the swimming pool’s closed in the evenings.

Sundered is the very pleasant holiday destination, with everything working and open, a lot like last time we visited. In fact, they’ve redecorated, and very splendid it all looks for it. I’m having a lovely time, weather’s great, food’s amazing, wish you were here.

Sundered is, yet again, a team producing a really splendid Metroidvania that adheres to the rules of the format, while sprinkling in its own slightly distinctive ingredients. For Sundered it’s a combination of the breathtaking animations, and the mobbing nature of the combat. Beyond that, you do exactly as you’d expect – explore an ever-growing network of chambers and regions, able to access farther reaches and previously hidden bonuses as new skills are gained. Gained by finding special shrines, and unlocking extras from a points-based skill tree. What you have to decide is how many more times you want to come on your holidays to this particular resort.

Let’s talk about the combat first. I think, if I were to imagine the median MetroV game, it would have a combination of swishy melee and aimed range combat options, with an ever-increasing selection of enemy types with their own distinct attack behaviours. And it would most likely have them placed at fixed points in a level, regenerating each time to re-visit a location. Sundered deviates from this in a couple of ways. Firstly, there’s no fixed spawn points or regularity to enemy appearance, and secondly, when you do find them, they all show up at once.

It makes a big difference in terms of how you fight, if not that big of a difference when you pull out to look at the game in all. You get mobbed, those different enemy types with their different attack behaviours all trying to hit you at pretty much the same time. You’re fending off a dozen, or a couple of dozen of them, the slimy crawly triangular oozes trying to zap you while flying orbs go spin-crazy and fling themselves at you while crawling whale-blobs suddenly fling themselves up into the air and dive bomb you while laser-beam firing enormous beasties curl into balls when you try to hit them while… And it works. It’s messy fighting, often desperate, but you’re well equipped with a regenerating shield, a half-second-invulnerability dash move, and ever-growing pools of health, strength and defence. There’s a lot of frantic and ungainly scrambling to survive, but it sure makes victory taste sweet. The further you get, the more enemy types are introduced, and the more complex the dance becomes.

Death is interestingly handled, too. It carries a weight of inconvenience, resetting you back to the starting location of the game, albeit with progress inevitably opening up shortcuts and routes to get back to your point of failure pretty quickly. But your starting location also happens to be the only place where you can spend the XP you’ve accrued from bashing monsters and raiding organic stashes. There’s an intricately complicated tree of unlockable bonuses, primarily health, damage, shield and armour, but with little extras tucked along the interlocking chains like carrying extra health elixirs, increasing shield regeneration speed, boosting your maximum armour, that sort of thing. Then you can add in perks, gathered abilities that when slotted in might increase the numbers of elixirs dropped, at the cost of reducing the total number of XP you’ll gather as you go. Some with penalties like that, some without.

When it comes to the big upgrades, like the phenomenally welcome double-jump you’ll pick up early on, these are found in the field, and they too open up new chains of the skill tree themselves albeit to unrelated skills. Nothing especially unusual, perhaps, but nicely delivered, and the cleverness of having you spend your gathered resources as a consequence of death definitely takes away its sting. Not least because as you head back out, you’ll be better defended to survive for longer.

It’s as open as you’d expect, loading hints mentioning that the first three bosses can be tackled in any order, and suggesting that if one pathway is proving too tricky, just head off in another. I’m just past the first third, and at this point I do start to worry that the boss fight difficulty spikes will become too much. I certainly am getting the floor wiped with me by one, although that has appropriately prompted me to explore other quarters.

Oh but we must talk animations. Sundered is utterly, utterly beautiful. Hand-drawn cell animations that look like a pre-CGI Disney at its very, very finest. The player character is undoubtedly the finest, every tiny detail of movement exquisitely rendered, clothes flowing and flapping, utterly mesmerising. Even a death is hard to get too upset about when you get to see the incredible little animation of turning and twisting into its own form and sinking into the ground. Enemies are lovingly designed and animated too, making for a crazy feast of pretties. And gosh, the first chapter’s are as nothing compared to the swirly, twisting wraiths of the second, complete with the eldritch tentacles reaching from platforms as you explore.

But they would be for nought if it weren’t fun to control, and here is where this truly shines. As soon as you’ve unlocked the double-jump, Sundered becomes one of the most satisfying to control platformers I can remember, your rapidly-responding movement precision perfect. And this, more than anything else, is what keeps this very familiar format interesting for me. It is, in its movement, completely sublime.

There are a couple of noteworthy faults. The enemy health gauge is as broken as it’s pointless – useful for bosses, in theory, but not for general mobs. And it flat-out doesn’t work, regularly staying a third or half full after you’ve seen the enemy die. And it’s definitely lacking in its narrative, meaning you really don’t want to pause at any moment to wonder why you’re doing any of this. Just doing it is plenty of fun, leave it at that. And the map – the game has the odd notion of including procedurally generated sections, that really add very little to the whole kaboodle, and mean that when trekking back to a previous location you can a) sometimes not find it at all, and b) have a map that’s now blanked out previously explored sections. It’s not as intrusive an issue as it might sound, but it wasn’t the best choice.

The result is a completely wonderful Metroidvania, but at the same time, another Metroidvania. Its distinctive animation is worthy of accolades and awards – it is simply astounding. And its novel approach to being mobbed for combat has merits, alongside some frustrations. Neither dramatically shifts the game away from the most familiar aspects of the genre, all of which it delivers extremely well. It is that lovely holiday destination, and a lovely stay you’ll certainly have – the question is, fancy going there again this summer, or maybe somewhere new?

Sundered is out now for Windows, Mac and Linux for £15/$20/20€ via Steam.

85 Comments

  1. Stevostin says:

    “ridiculously beautiful”

    From the video, you maaaay oversell it a tiny bit. Animation are clearly very well done but the rest I guess is up to everyone’s taste. Also having a hard time to just understand the action.

    • laotze says:

      Nah. Can confirm it’s ridiculously beautiful.

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      DantronLesotho says:

      It really shines when you see the bosses in the game. You should look up some videos of them.

    • rubmon says:

      TBH the graphics look like an ugly mess to me. I suppose we can use this as a prime example of beauty being in the eye of the beholder…

  2. Laurentius says:

    Is this comfortable playable on a keyboard?

    • GeoX says:

      Good lord.

      • onodera says:

        I play Hollow Knight on keyboard, and it’s fine. I find only downward slash annoying to execute.

    • laotze says:

      It involves 2D platforming combat and is not a twin-stick shooter, so no. Don’t put yourself through that.

      • Laurentius says:

        Well, Ori and the Blind Forest is 2D platformer that is comfortable to play and finish on a keyboard, so it can be done, it just requires coming up with control scheme that doesn’t suck,

        • laotze says:

          Why would you want to? A great controller costs less than $30.

          • nattydee says:

            Sorry, link? :3

          • Laurentius says:

            Because I played plaformers on a keyboard for over 25 years since times of Prince of Persia, Another World and Prehistorik 2 and I am good and comfortable playing them that way, while learing to play on a controler would be massive pita and feel like waste of time for me since I am already good at using a keyboard.

          • Urthman says:

            Me too. I’ve played so many games like this on a keyboard, my fingers on keys are at least 10x more skilled than my thumbs on a controller. I own a controller but only use it for things like the LEGO games that require zero skill.

          • Stingy McDuck says:

            A whole childhood spent playing emulators with my keyboard has taught me that these games can be comfortably mapped to my keyboard (up to SNES and arcade games. N64 and Playstation games where a nightmare). Particularly fighting games and platformers, something to do with having precise control over which direction you want to go (which still gives me trouble in my X360 gamepad). If pressing many keys at a time looks your keyboard, then use the WASD keys for directions and Numeric keys on the right for everything else.

          • Landiss says:

            I have never played any game with controller (ok, except once at a party). I played lots of platformers and I don’t see why keyboard would be a problem with them. Surely this is not more difficult than Super Meat Boy (which I finished on keyboard, although I admit big part of the extra levels were beyond my skills and/or patience)?

          • Sian says:

            It’s nice to know I’m not alone.

            I’ve had so many people tell me a controller is cheap to buy, it’s getting a bit irritating. I own a controller, thanks, and there are preciously few games I play with it – mainly For Honor, because I can’t seem to stick to one stance with the mouse. Controllers, particularly the XBox line, just aren’t comfortable for me.

      • Kitsunin says:

        I mean, Dustforce and Wings of Vi both involve 2D platforming combat and are actually best played with a keyboard by far. It’s a reasonable question, although I’ve no clue in the heavens why one would insist on not using a controller.

        • aepervius says:

          I can’t speak for the other poster, but in my case because my articulations are in pain with a controller, but not with a keyboard where I decide the layout of where my finger are. Now I could abandon such game genre utterly and completely, or try to find out if keyboard is well supported.

      • RuySan says:

        Keyboard is actually the most precise control method, hence why some of the best bullet hell players play with keyboards.

        I prefer controllers myself, though.

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      John Walker says:

      It wouldn’t even occur to me to try, sorry.

      • Laurentius says:

        And why not? You lost or sell your keyboard, or is it broken? if so how did you wrote that comment?

        • Barfo says:

          It didn’t occur to him to try to play the game with his keyboard for a reason similar to why it didn’t occur to him to try to write the review with his controller.

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            MajorLag says:

            Keyboard is the native controller of a PC, so I don’t think it is unreasonable to ask a reviewer to put a little effort into seeing how a game works with one. It’s a minor thing, on the whole though.

      • Urthman says:

        I don’t ever expect a reviewer to try a game with controls they aren’t comfortable with, but it’s always a nice bonus when a PC game review mentions how a game plays for those who don’t prefer or own a controller.

        • Kitsunin says:

          But the problem is that it’s not easy to judge. I played nearly all the way through Dustforce with a controller because it felt much better. Only later, coming back to it did I read, then learn for myself, that a keyboard works far better. You can’t just swap control schemes and really know whether it worked, because it’s gonna feel terrible while you’re getting used to it no matter what. And it can take hours and hours to get past that.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      Unless the game has any need for analogue control, I can’t imagine it not being perfectly playable on a keyboard. Ignore the naysayers I say.

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      deadbob says:

      Its fine on keyboard, already through the first two bosses, though I am mainly used to keyboard for most things from my ZX Spectrum days ;)

    • GeoX says:

      I’d just like to point out that this NEVER goes in reverse: no one ever demands to know if an RTS game or text adventure or whatnot can be played with a controller. Just an observation.

      • ThePuzzler says:

        Unlike a keyboard (which are basically compulsory), controllers are optional extras you have to buy and learn how to use. (They’re not particularly expensive or difficult, but to someone who’s never owned one, it’s still a bit off-putting.)

        And it’s partly because people like me have been platforming with keyboard since Killer Gorilla in 1983 and think of it as standard, but very few people have ever tried to use a joypad for text adventures.

        • Freud says:

          Using keyboard for platform games is like eating soup with a fork.

          Expecting reviewers shouldt play games in a less enjoyable and suboptimal ways for completeness is something we should be way past. It’s 2017. A gamepad is more or less standard gaming equipment these days.

          • Kitsunin says:

            Except for sometimes, when the salad was masquerading as a soup and the platformer is actually better with a keyboard.

          • wcq says:

            Since most retro-style platformers use strictly digital inputs, a keyboard might actually be superior for many of them since you can use all of your fingers instead of trying to do everything with your thumbs.

            Mostly a matter of taste.

          • InternetBatman says:

            I’m not crazy about the OP’s tone, but the reactions in response are ridiculous. I love platformers, play them frequently, and find that the vast majority of them work very well on a keyboard. It might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but a sizeable portion of the platforming population on the PC manages just fine.

            The idea that you must use a controller for anything but twin stick shooters is ridiculous.

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            DelrueOfDetroit says:

            Wait… when did M+KB become the ideal way to play a twin-stick shooter? It would seem to me that a device with I dunno… twin sticks might work?

  3. Kitsunin says:

    Oh yay! And right when I’ve just about finished Hollow Knight, too. I don’t expect it to bring tears to my eyes through environments alone, but who knows.

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    DantronLesotho says:

    I’ve been enjoying the hell out of this since it came out. I’ve gotten a little frustrated a few times with some of the enemy placement and distribution; stuff like soldiers being a lot farther away than I feel they should be for still being able to target you, or how in some areas the enemies don’t stop coming until you accomplish some goal (flipping a switch, etc) and that’s not clear sometime. But aside from those little couple of frustrations, I love the game. It hits on so many points that I love about games (fluid movement, meaningful upgrades, responsive actions, clever boss fights) that I can’t stop playing and enjoying it. It’s exquisitely done, and that’s not even touching on the great sound and music work done in it. I backed this on kickstarter because I loved Jotun and trusted the studio to deliver something amazing, and they definitely did that.

    I can’t even imagine what kind of game they make next but I will be hotly anticipating that one as well.

  5. haldolium says:

    “But they would be for nought if it weren’t fun to control, and here is where this truly shines. As soon as you’ve unlocked the double-jump, Sundered becomes one of the most satisfying to control platformers I can remember, your rapidly-responding movement precision perfect.”

    Tbh this is exactly what put me off. I haven’t unlocked double jump, but coming from Dead Cells, Sundered feels so TERRIBLE that I just couldn’t continue playing. I can imagine it gets a bit better with double jump, but the weird momentum+sensitivity of character control (+horrible outdated 2D “jump beyond the invisible ground to be able to stand on it”-mechanic) still puts me off this one. Especially after Dead Cells, which I consider near perfect as long as the level provides enough room.

    • Kitsunin says:

      Tbh I feel the same for now, just started, myself. But considering how incredibly much Hollow Knight improved once I got the dash, then once I got the wall jump, then once I got…etc. I’m willing to be patient.

  6. tbs says:

    I’m torn on this. I love the genre. But Super Bunnyhop’s review paints the “waves of enemies” as more of a negative than as a positive. In order to deal with them, it plays like a button masher.

    Not sure; will wait and see.

    • internisus says:

      Yeah, I found the criticisms of Super Bunnyhop’s video review quite compelling and immediately took Sundered off my wishlist. It helps that I didn’t think much of Jotun. I very much recommend watching that review as a counterpoint to this one. I love Metroid-likes, but I have a lot of them and don’t need a mediocre one.

      • Procrastination Giant says:

        Another good counterpoint would be ACG’s review. The criticism he levels at the game largely coincides with Superbunnygeorge’s review and some of the written reviews I’ve had a look at. Between those two it was pretty easy to justify removing this one from the wishlist.

        And there’s also the fact that John gave Hollow Knight (Which i consider to be one of the best Metroidvanias since Symphony of the Night) a rather lukewarm review, so I get the feeling that he simply wants something completely different out of Metroidvanias than most avid fans of the genre.

        • onodera says:

          That’s probably because the start of Hollow Knight (until you get the dash move) is rather lukewarm and the fight for that move is quite unforgiving. It really opens up only when you get to the city.

  7. RichUncleSkeleton says:

    I don’t understand why so many otherwise talented indie developers are jumping headlong into such a creatively bankrupt, overdone genre. How could anyone get excited to play, much less make, a new Metroidvania when there’s such a glut of them? I wish some of these devs would show some love to the old-school, linear 2D platformer instead.

    • GeoX says:

      How could anyone get excited to play, much less make, a new Metroidvania when there’s such a glut of them?

      You do realize you could insert literally any genre whatsoever in place of “Metroidvania” and ask the same question. I don’t think “why do people keep making X when there’s already X?” is a particularly useful thing to ask, but you could.

      • RichUncleSkeleton says:

        You do realize you could insert literally any genre whatsoever in place of “Metroidvania” and ask the same question.

        You could, but most developers working in the popular indie genres aren’t bringing the kind of artistic creativity that Oni, Sundered, Owlboy and many other contemporary “Metroidvanias” have. The point is, I’m seeing this incredible mismatch between great talent and low ambition that is especially prevalent in one stale genre.

        • Ashabel says:

          Owlboy isn’t a Metroidvania. It has a sort of “open” hub, but the vast majority of it is completely linear. It’s about as much of a Metroidvania as Hue or Braid are.

          Complaining about “lack of ambition” is generally baffling when you direct it at a genre that was completely barren until four years ago and is widely considered to still be in its adolescent phase. Are you sure your point isn’t actually that you don’t like the genre and decided to be needlessly acerbic about it?

          • RichUncleSkeleton says:

            I like the genre just fine. I liked it when it was invented and perfected decades ago, and I like it now, in moderation. I just think it’s unfortunate to see it reduced to one of the go-to indie genres, at the expense of becoming formulaic and trite, and to the detriment of other, overlooked styles of 2D action platformers.

          • GeoX says:

            Serious question: what “style” of 2-D platformers would you like to see more of?

          • RichUncleSkeleton says:

            Linear combat-oriented action platformers in the vain of old Ninja Gaiden and pre-SoTN Castlevania.

          • GeoX says:

            …oh. So you want them to make more of the only kind of platformer that already exists in greater abundance than Metroidvanias.

        • Josh W says:

          To answer a different version of that question, part of the reason that we see games with detailed and dramatic environmental art styles in this genre is that it actually assists with gameplay:

          Compared to a linear 2d platformer, levels will naturally be backtracked through, and landmarks or details in the background will be useful for navigation, and in general, part of the skill is committing different places to memory so as to be able to revisit them when you have new powers, so the effort put by the creators into making the places distinct, and even, themed according to linked and overlapping themes so as to offer navigation hints, will be felt by the players as they try to build their own mental maps of the place.

          Non-linear 2D platformers care about the larger scale differences between places in a practical way that allows players to echo the investment of the art team, and during development allows them to combine playing the game with improving that art within the same headspace, knowing that a reasonable subset of their player base will share the experience they are having.

  8. Clipz says:

    As a complete stranger to thee Metroidvania genre, I’d love if anyone has any recommendations for the best place to start? I’m assuming one of the old Metroid games would obviously be a good bet but I’m not really feeling ‘retro’ games at the moment, so any ideas?

    Ps. First time commenter here!

    • gabrielonuris says:

      I would actually recommend you to play Castlevania – Symphony of The Night, but as you said you aren’t feeling like playing anything retro right now, well, you could try Ori And The Blind Forest, Dust: An Elysian Tale, Aquaria, Hollow Knight…

      Or, you know, you should really try Symphony of The Night.

      • AutonomyLost says:

        C:SoTN is great.

      • mOrs says:

        I agree with Castlevania – SOTN. But if it absolutly mustn’t be oldschool, Hollow Knight does everything right. Good pacing, fair difficulty, great atmosphere, tight controls (and decent combat), always something to do (in my experience, most Metroidvanias grind to a halt at one point or another when you missed that one particular semi-hidden door behind which that one upgrade is found that you need to progress any further at all…)

        • durrbluh says:

          I wanted to like Hollow Knight, I really did… but after a while I felt aimless and unmotivated to continue smooshing bugs. I’m an enthusiast of the metroidvania genre and I loved the art and ambience of the Hollow Knight trailers, but the finished product left me feeling a bit hollow myself.

      • Clipz says:

        Can see there’s a lot of love for C:SOTN so I’ll have to give it a try, must be honest I’ve had a quick look and I do like what I see, thank you!

    • RichUncleSkeleton says:

      SotN is the absolute place to start and it doesn’t feel remotely ‘retro’ or dated. It’s not like a late 90’s Resident Evil or something that has inspired fresher takes on the same formula. It’s literally the roadmap for every single game in its style that has followed, down to the smallest detail.

      • Clipz says:

        I’ll definitely check it out, thank you all for the suggestions!

        • Zanchito says:

          Mentioned before, but I absolutely cannot recommend Aquaria enough. It’s lovely, gorgeous, mysterious and compelling. One other idea, in case you like the style would be Guacamelee. But seriously, Aquaria.

          • floogles says:

            Seconded. Aquaria is stunning in many ways, and sticks in your brain long after its finished.

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      John Walker says:

      I second the suggestion of Ori & The Blind Forest.

    • haldolium says:

      I’d throw Ghost 1.0 in the mix. Might not be the best metroidvania, but I personally enjoyed it a more as other suggestions.

      • durrbluh says:

        I enjoyed the developer’s previous title UnEpic, despite the puerile humour and occasionally jarring storyline shifts, but Ghost 1.0 left me feeling flat.

    • Frank says:

      If you can get your hands on Metroid Prime or Arkham Asylum, I’d start there. The 2D Metroids are also great, but Castlevania and its descendants are for masochists, all about combat skill and hardly at all about the good Metroid-flavored stuff — exploration and movement.

      • GeoX says:

        Have you ever actually PLAYED a Metroidvania-style Castlevania? There’s loads of exploration, and the difficulty level by and large isn’t high.

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        MajorLag says:

        I second Metroid Prime. It’s one of the best games ever made if you ask me.

    • RuySan says:

      Order of Ecclesia is easly the best of the castletroids (SOTN is way too easy).

      Hollow Knight is currently the game to beat on this genre on the pc. Much much deeper and interesting than Ori. Axiom Verge is also pretty cool and has an awesome soundtrack.

      Valdis Story and Guacamelee are probably the ones with better combat.

    • upupup says:

      Hollow Knight is excellent and doesn’t rely on being familiar with the genre. Ori & the Blind Forest is not as good, but easier. Aquaria is also very good. La-Mulana is very good and also bonkers hard if that’s your thing.

    • eljueta says:

      Castlevania:SotN turned my world upside down *wink*

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Super Metroid. It is the first game to perfect the formula. SotN is very good and worth playing but Super Metroid feels more pure as it doesn’t have any RPG elements.

    • Clipz says:

      Once again thank you all for the suggestions! Looks like I’ve got a load to play through now, much to the dismay of my wallet and spare time…

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      particlese says:

      Welcome, and thanks for the question leading to all these suggestions! Looks like I have a few I need to try out myself.

      I’ll enthusiastically echo the recommendations of Ori, Aquaria, and Super Metroid, and I’ll provisionally tack on the early-access Dead Cells if you fancy trading a bit of the traditional region gating with some rogueliking. The non-retro restriction will probably have to lift for at least the last two; possibly Aquaria, too, if Flash-esque rotating sprites are included. Also, Super Metroid is probably the least “hard game” of the ones I listed, if that matters to you.

      Have fun!

      • Clipz says:

        Ah yes Dead Cells I’m a massive fan of, think it’s what has peaked my interest in Metroidvanias. I do find it somewhat odd however, due to my hate for backtracking. I’m under the impression that Metroidvanias involve quite a bit of it. Dead Cells obviously removes this with the wonderfully placed teleporters that always appear. I’m torn between it I guess!

    • bacon seeker says:

      I don’t really like Sundered due to the obnoxious enemy spam and procedural generation but Metroid Prime and Hollow Knight are two of my favorites. Metroid Prime translates the genre to 3d perfectly, Hollow Knight has incredible music and atmosphere, and they both have solid exploration and combat.

  9. ShrikeMalakim says:

    So there are a few things about enemy distribution. It’s not location-based (with a few exceptions), it’s time-based. There’s an incrementing semi-random counter that starts tossing an enemy or two at you, then a few more, then when you hear the ominous bell tone, it’ll send a Horde. The enemy spawning system actually owes a lot more to Left 4 Dead than it does to any *vania game. The exceptions are: (1) specific event rooms (like the power rooms), where you have to kill everything in the rooms to open them back up; (2) the randomly-generated perk rooms, where you have a glowing corrupted treasure chest that you can choose to avoid or hit, and where hitting triggers walls to close and a Horde; and (3) specific location rooms where you may have to do something else to get the mobs to stop coming.

  10. noodlecake says:

    When I saw the recommended badge on this after seeing the generally decent but not great reviews from nearly every other site I knew this was a John Walker review. There’s a tendency for him to love games that nearly everyone else thinks are sort of decent, and hate games that everyone else thinks are great.

    • wcq says:

      Same here. Lines up well with his lukewarm reception of Hollow Knight, a game I think is brilliant, and his glowing review of Yonder, a game most reviewers seemed to think was kind of OK. Also, that article on Hyper Light Drifter…

      I’m not criticising John for having his own opinions, of course. I don’t get the feeling he’s giving out “hot takes” to generate views, unlike some writers I could mention. It’s just that his tastes seem to be quite different from most. And different from mine.

      • RuySan says:

        I always liked John’s reviews, and i respect him for not being afraid to be against the grain (like in the review of Walking Dead season 3, for calling telltale games what they really are).

        But both the hollow knight and hyper light drifter reviews rubbed me off the wrong way, not because i’m a fanboy (even though i loved both), but because it seemed he didn’t put enough effort into any of those games.

    • Urthman says:

      Isn’t that what makes him valuable? What use is a reviewer who just likes and dislikes the same things everyone else likes? Why even bother with reviews? Just buy whatever is at the top of the Steam charts.

      • tnzk says:

        There is value to the varying tastes of professional reviewers. A film reviewer called Steven Greydanus reviewed The Lion King when it was re-released in 3D several years ago. Back then it was my favourite Disney film, and I argued it was my favourite film ever. In his review (link to decentfilms.com) he smacked my nostalgia back to reality. I could not believe he smashed my childhood dream and my BA-Majoring-In-Film-Studies critical thinking skills.

        But from then on, he became my favourite reviewer. I dropped The Lion King like a hot potato (the real GOAT cartoon is Pinocchio, by the way).

        Since then I’ve believed the best professional reviewers are the ones that you can relate to and be enlightened by. Steven Greydanus opened my eyes a bit more to how he sees the world and how I see the world, and while I don’t always agree with him (He thinks Dunkirk and those live Disney fairytales remakes are good films. I think they’re steaming piles), I appreciate his critical examinations and are still informed by them.

        That being said, I’m unsure about the tastes of Mr. Walker. I’ve been following this website for seven years now, and I personally feel that John’s reviews have become more and more irrelevant to my gaming interests as time goes on. Now, I *adore* contrarian views (I just read a review of how Metroid II was the best Metroid ever and how the AM2R remake was a mortal sin. It’s here (link to acriticalhit.com)), but I’m not the only one that has commented on John’s reviews of games. It’s not clickbait verdicts, and yet there’s little middle ground with the common consensus either that John’s reviews seem like an outlier. Moreover, because John’s reviews are more subjective and emotional than most other reviews, you can’t even see the logical reasons from where he’s coming from.Even with that Metroid II/AM2R polemic, it’s written in a dialectical manner that, should you probably disagree with it, you can still see where the reviewer is coming from.

        So John’s reviews now sit in a space in my head that is neither going with the grain or against the grain. It’s just somewhere out there where I can’t place my finger on and say ‘Aha, I get you!’. And that, practically, makes him irrelevant.

        I don’t want to make him feel like he’s on a downbuzz if he’s reading this, so John just consider yourself the musician Prince of video game journalism. A talented genius that made his own unique sound; Purple Rain was amazing when it came out. But you’re post-millenium Prince now, so make of that what you will.

        Current favourite reviewer on here is Alec. Don’t think I have his tastes in any way, shape, or form, but it’s fun reading his insights.

        • TheBetterStory says:

          I can understand what you’re saying; I also frequently end up enjoying games John didn’t and vice versa. But I disagree with your point that his reviews are too subjective to be useful. Even when he says things I vehemently disagree with, I can always see where that disagreement springs from.

          Take this review: I can tell that he liked the responsiveness of the controls, found the way death and combat were handled unique for the genre, and loved the graphics. He’s also quite fair with its flaws, even though they’re mentioned only fleetingly: the health bars don’t work, the story is poor, the map has annoying procedural generation, and the bosses seemed to be getting frustratingly difficult by the time he stopped playing. That last point in particular is what seems to have sparked most of the negative reviews on other sites.

          So taken together, I can see quite easily that the game isn’t for me, because I prioritize good storytelling and generally avoid games where the difficulty ramps up too high. But John’s take on it seems entirely fair and genuine, based on perfectly valid points that can be found in most other reviews. I don’t begrudge him for liking a game I wouldn’t, so long as I can tell whether it’s something *I’d* enjoy by the end.

  11. Sunjammer says:

    Nothing about this game looks appealing to me, and I love Lovecraft and Metroidvanias. I think the constant onslaught of enemies looks completely tiresome, and the visuals remind me weirdly of A Valley Without Wind. It’s just real messy looking to me.

  12. Premium User Badge

    Neurotic says:

    If there’s one thing I wish I’d known from the beginning — or perhaps that was more intuitive — is how you open certain doors by smashing the big round thing by the door. When I worked that out finally, all the empty rings in the background suddenly made sense. :D

  13. eLBlaise says:

    I’m curious why there’s no mention of the one-sided game rules imposed solely on the player-character? Enemy mobs usually include flying enemies who lack collision detection and ranged units who shoot through platforms and always spawn off screen. Sometimes those units are one and the same. Sundered combat too quickly devolves into an unrecognizable panic as the game dumps every enemy ever onto you. I honestly don’t understand the appeal of such a combat system.