Severed Review - Beautiful Pain

When it comes to the beloved PS Vita, Drinkbox Studios might be its finest developer. Projects like 'Tales From Space' and 'Guacamelee!' showed the amount of consistency and quality the studio can offer. However, the real reason why I respect these guys so much is because they're true artists. Since the team's conception, they have avoided easy challenges, expectations and comfortable zones. Instead, they find a vision, and no matter how weird it may seem, they turn said vision into a great product. That's exactly what happened with Severed. On paper, I should hate it. But by the time I was done playing, it instantly left me with a smile on my face. Let me tell you why.

So...what is Severed all about? Well, it is a first-person dungeon crawler. In it, you play as Sasha. This one-armed warrior wakes up in a surreal fantasy world and sets off on an action-packed mission to find the missing members of her family. Using her sword, she must defeat countless, terrifying enemies in order to retrieve her loved ones.

The first thing I want to talk about is the presentation. They absolutely nailed it! First off, it runs flawlessly. No frame drops, glitches, or long loading screens. But looks fantastic. The art style is gorgeous. In many ways, it reminded me of Guacamelee. The color palette and character models share certain similarities, even if Severed is a first-person game. However, the real difference comes with the atmosphere. 'Guacamelee!' was bright and silly, whereas Severed is dark and extremely serious.

Indeed, Severed is particularly depressing. Justifiably so. You're a girl missing an limb, who wakes up in a bizarre location without your family. And if you want to see them again, you have to defeat the most hideous creatures in the history of humanity. Makes a lot of sense. Still, I was surprised by how far Drinkbox ran with it. Everything about the game screams: SAD. The music is dismal, the characters are miserable, and the scenery is gloomy. Overall, the uniqueness in the 'visuals' department is a welcomed breath of fresh air. Having such a detailed, focused atmosphere allows you to tell a compelling story, which is exactly what is done here.

Seriously, Severed's story was quite the ride. Now, Sasha is not a remarkable character. That's because you never learn much about her. You don't know where she comes from, why she lost her arm and other important details that would get you invested in her. Nevertheless, she experiences a tragic tale about love, death and redemption, right in front of your eyes. When things start to go left, you can't help but to connect with her on a human level. At times, she's in a tremendous amount of mental pain, and her reactions make your heart break. It's rare for a story to succeed without a complete character, but the atmosphere and the dark nature of the plot are more than enough to make this a powerful narrative.

Going into this game, I was expecting to hate the gameplay. I'm not a fan of touch controls. 99% of the time, they're full of gimmicky, buggy mechanics that present no challenge. Believe me, Severed is the 1%. The way the game controls is quite clever. Movement and camera are done with the buttons, but combat is handled with the touch screen. To my surprise, it's incredibly addictive, satisfying and smooth. Every time you face an enemy, you learn its pattern. The way they attack, their timing, and most importantly, their vulnerable areas. Eventually, you block an attack, and unleash at them with a furious sequence of slashes. Facing one monster is fairly easy. But when four adversaries come at once (all with different timings, attacks, abilities, and weak spots), it becomes a tactical game of chess. Attacking the right foe, at the right time, while keeping an eye on the other bad guys in case they make a move can be quite challenging, but always fair. Once you kill an opponent, you sever its body parts, which are used to upgrade equipment and abilities in an enjoyable, light RPG mechanic.

Finally, we get to the one negative I have: Severed is too short! It took me 7 hours to get platinum. While I can appreciate a game that fades away before overstaying its welcome, I just wanted more! I had the same issue with their previous project, so I'm praying that their next project gives us another couple of hours.

Verdict: If this is PS Vita's grand finale, it certainly goes out with a BANG. Severed is an emotional, powerful, fun experience that ranks amongst my favorite games on the console.

The Good
- Beautiful Art Style
- Dark Atmosphere
- Powerful Story
- Satisfying, Smooth Gameplay

The Bad
- Too Short

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