Originally published on Trevor Trove on May 1, 2016
TL; DR(eview) – Severed is a great new title from the team behind Guacamelee! If it is indeed the PlayStation Vita’s swan song title, it’s a pretty solid game to go out on.
Severed mixes the art-style of Drinkbox Studios’ previous game Guacamelee! with the first-person dungeon crawling exploration, a hint of Metroidvania map progression, and a Fruit Ninja-like combat system. All of these items work incredibly well in concert with one another. The most disappointing aspect of the title is that it left me wanting more.
Despite the vibrant colors and art style, Severed is a very dark game thematically. You play as Sasha, a young one-armed girl in search of her family. While on your quest you meet very few allies and a whole host of enemies out to kill you. As you progress through the game, the world of Severed becomes an increasingly dark and desolate place.
Combat is fairly straight-forward and new enemies and the strategies you will need to incorporate to defeat them are introduced at a solid pace throughout the entire game. Enemies start out simple: after a few slashes they might reposition their body such that you’ll need to slash from a particular angle in order to inflict damage. Similarly, the different ways an enemy attacks might start out simple, requiring you to counter-slash against their attack to parry. But as new enemy types are introduced and encounters begin featuring more and varied enemies, Severed trusts that it has given the player all of the pieces they need to walk away victorious.
As you defeat enemies in battle, you’ll be given brief moments in which you can slash assorted limbs and body parts from your foes. These arms, eyes, wings, etc. feed into the game’s character progression system, allowing you to strengthen Sasha and her various skills. You’ll also gain new magical skills throughout the game allowing you the ability to temporarily paralyze enemies or absorb the status boosts that late-game foes posess like Attack Boosts or Health Regeneration.
These new skills also tie into the game’s map progression as certain areas and hidden secrets will initially be locked away behind these barriers, giving you reason to revisit areas to find components that will boost your health and mana. Unfortunately, this also means a lot of backtracking through areas and time spent conferring with the game map to figure out where to head to next. And since enemy encounters do not, for the most part, respawn, a lot of this time is just spent moving from screen to screen without any other action.
This ties into my only real complaint about the game: it’s brevity. Now, up front, let me address my feelings on the typical “oh the game’s too short” argument. When people complain that a game like The Order 1886 is bad because you can beat the game in 6 hours, I’m of the mindset that their issue is not with the length of the game but that the other components of the game weren’t fun. But it’s way easier to boil an argument down to “the game’s only six hours” instead of “the game is a mediocre third-person shooter that poured too much focus into cinematic storytelling and setting up a potential franchise instead of engaging gameplay.” So when I say my complaint with Severed is that the game is too short, it’s because I wanted more of the great experience I got and felt a bit let down that I reached the end of the tale so quickly.
As I wrote a couple weeks back, it’s entirely possible that Severed will be the last Vita exclusive of note. If that is indeed how the cards fall as Sony shifts its focus to PlayStation VR, then Vita owners were incredibly fortunate to get this game as a final send off for the much beloved, if not much owned, Sony handheld.