Severed (PS Vita Review)
Severed is the story of a woman whose family have been taken by monsters. Her brother, father and mother are all gone, abducted by strange creatures and hidden across the land. Using the mysterious, magical power of the Vita’s touch screen she must explore dungeons and slice lots of monsters into tiny pieces in order to save her family.
At its heart, Severed is an old school dungeon crawler. Movement is all grid based and there are multiple big, puzzle filled dungeons in which to explore, find upgrades and fight enemies. Mainly fight enemies, everything else often feels like it is just there to facilitate hacking enemies to bits. To be fair though, the combat is pretty great. Attacking is handled by swiping on the Vita’s touch screen and enemies each have unique movement patterns which will let them block from certain directions or block entirely for a couple of seconds before revealing their weak spot. Enemies also have a yellow gauge underneath them which will fill up and go red, signalling they are about to attack. Some enemies can be prevented from attacking by hitting their weak spots before the bar is filled and most enemies attacks can be parried by swiping in the same direction as their attack. One on one fights are a rare occurrence, most fights have at least two if not three or more enemies in them and when fighting multiple enemies, all of their gauges are visible at the bottom of the screen, but only one enemy is shown on screen at a time. This forces you to turn to face them individually while also keeping check on the others around you. It works great and prevents the simplicity of the combat system from making it dull with what feels like a rhythm game element to it. Surrounded by three enemies? Turn and start attacking one of them. But the mushroom guy’s gauge is nearly full, so turn and slice the fungus off him to lower it. The giant weird eyeball monster is getting up there too, so turn and slice through the gaps in its rotating shield to take it down a bit, then get back to focusing down the big guy. Spin, spin, spin your way to victory. It can be a lot of fun and pretty intense in later encounters.
Later in Severed there are a couple of spell unlocks which let you remove buffs from enemies or freeze them in place for a brief period of time, but neither of them really had a massive impact on the combat in my experience – except that it means all the enemies you start encounter are just buffed versions of the early game monsters unfortunately, even with buffed enemies there isn’t much in the way of difficulty. There are some really great boss fights at the end of dungeons though. These are pretty much the best examples of the combat combined with some unique mechanics and are easily the most enjoyable parts of Severed.
The combat is definitely the main focus of Severed but it’s not all there is. There are some puzzles scattered throughout each dungeon too. Usually these are variations of opening and closing gates in specific orders and unbelievably rewarding to solve. Again, none of them are super difficult but I definitely had to sit and think about one or two of the more hidden, optional puzzles. Personally, I would have liked more intricate and complex puzzles in the dungeons nonetheless what is there is done well.
There’s one thing that Severed completely nails and that’s the art. It’s an absolutely beautiful game which uses an art style with a lot of Mexican inspirations akin to the developer Drinkbox Studio’s previous game, Guacamelee. Every monster is a twisted, creepy looking amalgamation of limbs that animates brilliantly and adds a majorly creepy vibe to the whole game. The upgrade system uses monster limbs as upgrade points for skills and so when you defeat an enemy you are rewarded with the chance to near surgically slice off their limbs for later use. It’s pretty grotesque despite the cartoony nature of everything and there are some moments that if you’re a bit squeamish, might make it advisable that you avoid this game. Personally, I took my time to sit and look at everything I passed just because it looked so damn pretty.
It seems somewhat amazing that Severed exists at all, given the lack of support for the Vita in the west outside of cross platform indie games. It stumbles in a few places, like lack of variety in its enemies, yet the combat system itself is a refreshing take on first person dungeon crawler combat and one of the few fantastic uses of the Vita’s touch screen. It’s a pretty great game and definitely worth dusting off your Vita for.
Editor’s Note: Severed was covered by @Protome on twitter. You can find his work and a wonderful podcast over at GlitchFreeGaming if you want to read any other articles by this awesome writer or wanted to hear what he sounds like, I heard he sounds like a GMA nominated podcaster.