Games with roguelike elements are almost a dime a dozen these days. You can’t even open Steam’s homepage without being greeted with some game that touts “randomized, permadeath, super hardcore” gameplay. But every once in awhile, something truly spectacular rises to the top like Rogue Legacy, Binding of Isaac, Spelunky, or Enter The Gungeon. Games that take the roguelike concepts and do something special with them. Now in alpha, Sundered hopes to join them by taking the well known Metroidvania genre and combining it with gorgeous hand drawn animation.

Remember Dragon’s Lair, the '80s game with the beautiful animation where you controlled a knight through a cartoon? Sundered feels like the ultimate realization of that concept; controlling a highly detailed animated character through an adventure. Unlike the adventure of Dirk Daring rescuing a princess from a dragon, you take control of Eshe, a wandering warrior trapped in a hellish cavern hunted by monsters that appear out of the nether in hordes.

Thunder Lotus Games

The alpha demo didn’t give me much to go on in terms of story, but the world is oppressive in its structure with jagged spiky rocks jutting from the ground and on floating platforms, what look like thorny brambles speckle the landscape, and a shifting landscape and that plays into the roguelike design. Every time you die --- and you will die --- the world shifts around to a new configuration. This gave me a good reason to continue playing because if I had died numerous times only to trudge back through the same level, it would’ve been discouraging.

And I hope this continues in the full game. There were many points where I’d be hounded by large groups of beasts trying to devour my face meat, and it was a tense face off of dodging, slashing, shooting, and eventual dying as a Cthulu-faced elephant demon finally did me in. The enemies I faced had a nice variety of the flying hell-beasts that launched what looked like screaming skulls on fire, some sort of monster who was quadrupedal or perhaps bipedal (it was hard to tell with all the teeth and anger flying towards me), and of course the aforementioned Cthulhu elephant which was disguised by a giant cloak. When destroyed, these abominations exploded into a mass of shadows and tentacles. It’s really a sight to behold.

Thunder Lotus Games

When you die you’re taken back to a hub where you can spend experience gained from fighting through enemies and smashing vases and boxes in the environment. You can use that experience to upgrade your health, armor, damage, and slots for you to equip trinkets found out in the world. Getting experience is a joy because controlling Eshe is a blast. While you can just mash your way through monsters, it won’t get you very far as you must also dodge and use your massive gun to get through. It’s all very smooth to control and I would take down time between enemies to do attacks and watch the animations play out.

After a few hours in hell and I’m definitely looking forward to more Sundered. Between the beautiful animation, smooth combat, and mysterious story I’m very interested to see how things unfold.

Sundered is slated for release on PC and PlayStation 4 in July 2017. It's currently seeking funding on Kickstarter, and you can learn more about the game on the crowdfunding page. This preview is based on an alpha version of the game provided by the publisher.