There's a renaissance taking place in the gaming industry. 

We’ve spent years comparing pixels, downloading DLC, and battling online servers, but now independent gaming studios are beginning to make an enormous impact on the modern gaming landscape. Better yet? They’re doing so by embracing the very ideas that made many of us fall in love with games in the first place. As much as I love to sit down with a sprawling AAA epic, there’s something remarkably refreshing about stripping away the cinematics and getting back into raw gameplay. There are many promising titles on the horizon, but perhaps none are more promising than Thunder Lotus Games’ SUNDERED.

I’ve now spent around 2 hours with a preview build of the Lovecratian throwback, and I swear that it felt like 15 minutes. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a very good thing.

SUNDERED entered Kickstarter earlier this week and absolutely annihilated their final goal in roughly 6 hours. I suppose a hand-drawn, metroid-style platformer sounds like a dream to a lot of people out there, and let me tell you: this one is the real deal. If you’re interested in supplying feedback and scoring eventual beta access, swing over to the campaign page and show some support. Either way, here’s what we’ve learned, and what you can expect, from the beautiful hellscape found in SUNDERED.

It Feels Familiar.

Demon blaster…

If you’re like me, you probably spent a great deal of the 90s playing games in the Metroid and Castlevania franchises. If so, SUNDERED should feel familiar. Intricate platforming is paired with waves of various enemies that supply you with currency upon defeating them. That currency can then be used to level up your character each time you die (you will absolutely die).

In the build that I’ve been playing (which is the 2nd stage of the actual game) things start off relatively slow. I found myself slightly disappointed at just how easily I was progressing through the nightmarish world… but then things got serious. The procedurally generated enemies begin to flock to you without warning as you dive deeper into the abyss. It’s at this point that you begin to realize just how important upgrading (and dying) is.

It’s Beautiful.

Watching the hand-drawn art of the Thunder Lotus design team spring to life is a thing of beauty. Demonic creatures whirl through the sky as cloaked tentacle monsters manifest out of thin air. There are times when the camera pans out to allow players to grasp the enormity of it all, and it’s an impressive sight. There were situations when the pre-alpha struggled to maintain its framerate, but this was typically rectified after a few seconds, and I’m positive that this will be addressed as the developers continue to optimize.

There’s no denying that a lot of SUNDERED’s appeal comes from it’s gorgeous art style, and I can’t wait to find myself even deeper in its environment; face to face with even more unspeakable creations. For now; though, I’ve only crossed paths with roughly 4 or 5 enemy types in my first two hours with the game. I’d like for that number to be higher, but I understand the real-world need of spreading enemy types out–especially at the rate at which they can flood the screen from time to time. When a new enemy finally makes an appearance, you feel like you’ve accomplished something, and that’s a small victory in its own right.

My God…

It’s Fun.

The pre-alpha includes no story or lore, and while that was initially disheartening, I’m told that the final game will have those bits added. Luckily, none of that really seemed to matter after I started playing. For the first time in ages, I was having a blast by simply hacking and slashing my way through hordes of beasts. The mechanics are simple, and that’s the way it should be. From what I understand, there will come a time when I learn a few new moves, but for now, the procedurally-generated levels keep things fresh and engaging enough to hold my attention without the need for much else. It’s challenging, but it never feels impossible knowing that an upgrade likely hides behind each death.

It’s important to note that Sony is a marketing partner on SUNDERED, so don’t expect it to come to the newly announced Nintendo Switch anytime soon. That’s a shame, though, as I feel that this is the perfect kind of game to have with you on-the-go. So here’s to hoping something can be worked out in the future. For what it’s worth, a Switch question was met with a smirk and a generic “no comment” sort of answer on the team’s recent AMA. So… maybe.

It’s Almost Done.

You can expect SUNDERED to hit Windows, macOS, and the PS4 in July of 2017. That’s not too far to go, but you can get in on the action early by swinging over to the Kickstarter campaign and backing the project. Certain tiers are rewarded with Beta access when the campaign comes to an end. You want to play this one. I promise.

Stay tuned for additional coverage in the near future. We’ll have some gameplay footage of our time with the game hitting the site soon, but until then, have a look at the latest trailer below.

Sundered is a horrifying fight for survival and sanity, a hand­-drawn epic from the ​creators of ​​Jotun. You play Eshe, a wanderer in a ruined world, trapped in ever­changing caverns teeming with eldritch horrors. Harness the power of corrupted relics to defeat gigantic bosses, at the cost of your humanity. Resist or embrace.