April 27, 2016

Severed Review: A Cut Above the Rest

Drinkbox Studios, the developers behind great games like Guacamelee! and Mutant Blobs, serves up this Vita exclusive. Get ready to hack, slash, and swipe in this visual treat. But does everything about this game make the cut?

Severed is a game about a girl who has lost her family to a mysterious land. Your brother and your parents have been abducted and trapped in separate corners of it all. Your arm has also been taken, but you have been given a strange sword to claim your family and begin your quest.


And within moments of the game starting you are swept away to explore this tale. The art style is reminiscent of Guacamelee, vibrant colors on bizarre creatures are quite familiar to their last title. But what is vastly different is the game play. Dungeon crawling is the best way for me to describe it. Maps are explored in a room by room fashion, unlike the Mutant Blobs and Guacamelee's side scrolling action. No jump button, no attack "button," instead you battle your enemies and solve puzzles through literally hacking and slashing your Vita's screen. 

Very helpful map system
Jars need to be smashed, puzzles are solved, chains and other environmental changers are all activated with touch screen. And it is all quite intuitive. Battles are fought strategically. There are multiple enemy types and they all attack the same way so you can develop strategies for hitting their weak spots. 

Learn the enemy's attack patterns to predict and parry!
You do more damage for longer swipes, but you get less precision with them. Yes, enemies block and you have to wait for their weak spots to be exposed. And yes, they do attack you. Some enemies can be blocked... wait for a creature to attack and you have to parry their blow from the opposite direction. It is all about the timing and accuracy of your swipe if you succeed. 

Enemies ahead...
Some enemies can't be countered, instead you have to attack them before they can explode or cause damage. Battles begin simply with one enemy, but as you progress you will get two or up to four total enemies. You can't just finish one enemy off, you have to keep an eye on the enemy attack meters on the screen. Wait too long and you might miss an enemy attacking from the side or behind. Again, timing is key to this!

Colorful visuals and detailed lands. Immersive!
What about the loot they drop when you defeat them? Well, this is the best part of the game for me. If you build up a focus meter during a battle (make lots of connected hits in a row and don't get blocked) you can then finish off your enemy when they are defeated. A mini sever moment opens... the creature is exposed and you can see the lines you need to slash on screen to obtain their precious body parts. Initially you have a short time to do this, but get upgrades and you can extend that. 

You'll have a short time to complete the slashes to get the parts!
Upgrades? Earn enough body parts or "giblets" and you can upgrade your various stats. You start off being able to tweak your attack stats. Different body parts are needed to increase your damage or decrease the enemy's. Want to increase the slice time? You can do this. There are a lot of things to upgrade and you'll have to spend your parts wisely as there aren't random monster battles. Once you clear an area, enemies don't respawn. So I recommend upgrading the extend sever time stat first so you can take advantage of the part collection. 



And that is one issue I have with the game. There doesn't seem a lot of places to practice this, and it isn't clear to me at times how to slash the lines needed to get multiple parts from an enemy. Through necessity I have gotten better though, so I guess it is a good training method! 

If you continue down this path, what will you become?
Each family member is guarded by a boss. Defeat them and you get their body part to don and use on your travels. I have played for about 2.5 hours and have gotten a new skill... a blinding spell. And once you have that can be used against enemies, and that skill tree can also be upgraded. How to spend your giblets... good question! It all depends on how you play the game. 

Each body part gets you new perks. Spend parts wisely!
As you progress through a dungeon/level, you might see a strange symbol on a wall. Come on back later! You might earn a power that unlocks that secret door you were trying so long to open and get a health upgrade. Just don't get lost easily. Use your map, and be prepared to take a lot of time to get back there after you get the upgrade. There is no quick travel option, or at least I haven't gotten one yet. The labyrinth gets convoluted with the upstairs and open/close portions of some mazes. Like I said, use your map!

So Vita owners, we rarely get exclusives anymore. If you like dungeon crawlers with tons of upgrade potential, spells and swords, and intuitive touch controls, go ahead and give this game a go. You'll spend hours on this, getting better with each upgrade and practice with your timing and parrying, 

Verdict: 
This is a game made just for the Vita, and is a perfect fit! If you like games that have a good story, immersive environment, skills that can be upgraded... you'll love this. 
  • Spend time on your combat skills and you'll find the going becomes easier. Strategy is key!
  • Also be aware that if you get lost easily in games you'll have a tough time keeping on track, especially if you have to backtrack. 


Thank you, Drinkbox, for the review code! 

Let us know in the comments what you think. Would you play this game? 

 
                     
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