An interesting topic Sundered explores is eldritch powers and corruption. It’s a defining theme of the game, in fact.
I’m going to skip over the plot— which I will cover in both a couple more articles and a video— and more literary elements in favor of just discussing the aspects involving eldritch energy.
In the game, The Shining Trapezohedron is your weapon. This is likely achieved through some kind of energetic and physical bond. I don’t think the energetic bond is as strong as a soul binding, but TST is also very tightly integrated into Eshe’s physical functions when fighting: he can wrap around her hands as a sword, become fists, etc.
When Eshe goes to a Shrine to get her powers corrupted, we see this scene:
Eldritch power is always represented in the Shrines as being purple, and tentacles (generally speaking) are always black. In both cases, these are symbolism for energetic and physical manifestation of eldritch power.
This power engulfs her entire being, levitates her, and then enters her body (usually along with some kind of screaming). At the end of some Shrines we have some examples of TST saying Eshe should be glad for the power she has received, or references to her making sacrifices.
So we are left with a few questions:
1. How does this eldritch power effect Eshe, in other words, how is this eldritch power effecting her energy body and her physical form?
2. What kind of sacrifice is entailed?
The eldritch power likely effects Eshe by modifying both her physical and energetic form. We can look more at the game itself to prove this.
Since it is revealed early on that General Waters incinerated Elder Shards, we may assume that these eldritchian crystals could safely be handled by humans without ill effect. (They are also handled by Eshe in this same manner.)
So the power of the Shards can only be used by one who is willing and wanting to use them, and in Eshe’s case, one who goes to these Shrines.
Moving on to how these actually effect Eshe: the Shard disintegrates, and the eldritch power wraps itself around her and enters through her heart. Most powers result in changes to both her physical and energetic forms, and all those powers are ones granted by gods.
Z’Toggua’s Wings, Ghatanothoa’s Strength, Azathoth’s Breath, and Atlach-Nacha’s Grip are powers which achieve the above. The only power which changes her form but is not granted by a god is Eldritch Pull, seen below:
(This pulls from her heart— I wasn’t able to get a clear screenshot of that, it’s clearer at an angle where she’s grappling from the left.)
Others are those that modify physical items she has on her, which are are Armageddon and Mi-Go Shield (Valkyrie Cannon and Reflecting Shield corruption, respectively).
So we can see that there are several effects to corruption, those being:
1. Eshe can successfully utilize eldritch energy without it overtaking her body.
2. She can utilize it to her benefit, allowing her to use it for modification of her Valkyrie Cannon and Reflecting Shield, and to change her physical form.
3. Therefore, eldritch energy/power allows for the modification of her physical form and energetic form.
Next, what does she lose from this power, what does she sacrifice?
This is very clearly illustrated by The Shining Trapezohedron’s remark after getting Z’Toggua’s Wings (which modifies her body and is likely the first corrupted ability many go for):
“Small sacrifices are nothing in exchange for such strength.”
The sacrifice is her physical pain, the destruction of her entirely human physical form. She can switch between the eldritch power granted by Z’Toggua, and her human form at will, but ultimately, she loses being totally human.
An important note is that these Shrines are altars. This is referenced by TST when he says:
“Eshe, I knew you were a clever girl! Put your Elder Shard on the altar.”
Symbolically, she is sacrificing both the Shard and a bit of her humanity every time she embraces eldritch power.
I also wanted to share some of my opinions on this topic as well! I think the concept of eldritch possession is really interesting.
This is basically what the below will describe (in part). The concept of a human physically or energetically changing because of eldritch energy is also very interesting to me, though sadly this isn’t explored much in literature..
For more information on a kind of eldritch possession, we can look at the 100% Embrace Ending.
There are major spoilers for this next part— I’d advise not reading if you’re planning on playing the game without having major spoilers.
At the beginning of the 100% Embrace battle, after going through the Nether Gauntlet, we are faced with Eshe (The Beacon of Hope). Eshe is forced to battle herself, and after that, her Beacon turns into her humanity, which she also kills.
Side note: there’s a reference early on that TST makes to this Beacon, when you pass a Shrine you can corrupt for the first time:
“These Shrines are your beacons of hope.
Corrupt the frail Valkyrie abilities with an Elder Shard
to unlock your true potential.”
(The interesting thing about this quote is that he blatantly lies to Eshe about this, which is one of the only times TST actually 100% lies to Eshe)
After Eshe defeats her Humanity, the crystal representing her humanity shatters, Eshe kills her bound self, and her Humanity is turned into darkness and is absorbed into her, opening the portal to the surface world. (For reference, the portal is never completely opened, so we never know what deity would have come out of it)
On this return to the surface world, Eshe destroys everything. I think one of the reasons I enjoy this ending in particular so much is because this is the ending where she becomes a pure conduit for eldritch energy and intention.
Every corruption gets you closer to this ending (in theory), but there is also clearly a sharp line drawn in TST’s mind about how “redeemable” you seem to him based on, well, if you totally corrupt, totally reject, or do a mix of this, expressed in all the endings.
Corruption = redeemable , Rejection= unacceptable. If you totally reject, he attempts to kill you, but if you even corrupt once, you are seen as worthy of a kind of mercy.