Platforms: PlayStation Vita
It's fitting that Severed is on the Vita, because it's exactly the kind of game that handheld touchscreen devices were made for. That comes as a positive and a negative, though. As much fun as the latest offering from Guacamelee developer DrinkBox Studios may be, it's designed in such a way that it's more enjoyable if you play it in short bursts. Longer play sessions aren't as much fun, even if you may be instantly wowed by the novelty of the gameplay. Still, it's hard not to actually like what Severed brings throughout its six-hour campaign.
Revenge and Dragons and Hacking and Slashing
Severed is a revenge tale — or rather, a revenge mystery. You play as Sasha, a young warrior whose arm has been cut off. Her family missing and her home in shambles, Sasha sets out to find the ones responsible, save her family, and piece together her life. The foundations for a pretty interesting story are all there, but Severed is actually quite light on story elements. There are a few character interactions and text boxes here and there, but nothing especially riveting from a narrative standpoint.
The game is actually a nice throwback to old-school PC dungeon crawlers. You traverse down straight halls in first-person perspective throughout the whole game, with various branching paths and locked corridors for you to return to. Navigating these tight spaces can seem intimidating when you first encounter various multiple halls, but the game features a super-useful map at the top-right corner of the Vita's screen that's easy to read and can be opened up to examine entire areas.
Though the left analog stick or D-pad are used to move around, every other action is mapped to the Vita's touchscreen. So opening up your map, upgrading abilities, and attacking are done sans face buttons. It's nice to play a Vita game that uses the touchscreen primarily. As a result, Severed has a bit of a mobile feel to it — not that that's a bad thing, but it's worth mentioning as the game is definitely more geared toward shorter, on-the-go sessions.
Attacking in Severed is quite simple as all you do is swipe at the Vita's touchscreen. Short swipes allow for quick flurries, while longer swipes obviously take longer to pull off while doling out more damage. That's where the bulk of the game's action lies, which is a positive and a negative. The intuitive nature of this mechanic — which you'll be using a whole lot — makes the game easy to jump into. Unfortunately, it can also get tedious, repetitive, and a touch uninteresting once you've been doing it for a few hours.
The final dungeon is especially taxing, as you have to constantly battle a lot of enemies at once. Multiple baddies are handled in a tricky manner — you can only face one enemy at a time, so if you want to attack another monster, you'll have to turn to face it. That's cool initially because it adds an intense dynamic. Once enemies begin equipping buffs like increased speed or attack power, things get frustrating. There were several moments when I felt overwhelmed and was done in almost immediately. This added an element of trial-and-error that wasn't all that great.
A Fantasy World Rich in Color but Lacking Diversity
The art style employed in Severed is outstanding. In terms of its aesthetic direction, the game looks really good. The environments are all fantastical, and enemies are dreadful. There's plenty of grotesque, nightmarish imagery throughout. Even though there are visual nods to Guacamelee, the end result is a much darker-looking game.
Despite the great styling, you'll see a lot of the same types of enemies and environments. It's a shame, because the game looks more than solid otherwise. The lack of variety leaves a bit to be desired. The same goes for the soundtrack, which features some good tunes but is also pretty bare.
I greatly enjoyed my first three hours playing Severed, but as I played through the second half of the game, my fascination diminished. It's a shame, because the whole thing feels quite refreshing at first. It just sort of loses its luster the longer it goes on. My hands also cramped up a couple of times as a result of holding the not-so-light Vita with one hand while swiping with the other.
If you like old school dungeon crawlers or have a fondness for titles that utilize touchscreens extensively, Severed is a worthy adventure. Heck, if you're looking for something cool to play on your Vita, I'd certainly urge you to give the game a look. Just keep in mind that it's best when played an hour or less at a time as opposed to longer stretches. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't slightly disappointed as I neared the end of Severed. But even then, those first three hours were a rush.