Severed Review

“Lost & Found”

Developer: DrinkBox Studios
Publisher: DrinkBox Studios
Format: PS Vita (reviewed)
Released: April 26, 2016
Copy supplied by publisher

Severed is a game built off taking chances. It’s apparent in both its melancholy-infused narrative, as well as its real world applications. DrinkBox’s much awaited follow-up to the excellent Guacamelee!, finds its home exclusively on Sony’s somewhat forgotten, yet incredibly solid handheld, PlayStation Vita. New and interesting titles are hard to come by when sifting through the platform’s lineup, with substantial exclusives having gone all but extinct over the last few years. This all changed when DrinkBox’s Severed saw the light of day. However, rather than sparking a new fire for Vita, Severed respectively lays it to rest, reflecting the nature of the platform’s history in a small, but smart experience. Swells of emotional resonance, stunning locales, and creatively presented mechanics keep the journey compelling, even when Severed’s more distracting and ultimately frustrating traits come knocking. It’s a bit of a tumultuous voyage–ripe with both tedium and wonder–but it’s one worth taking, if nothing else to see Vita’s abundant potential, one last time.Severed (Braxton Haugen) 1 While some of the essential pieces struggle to come together at times, Severed is by and large one of the Vita’s best offerings, acting as a solid package elevated by DrinkBox’s enticing stylistic decisions. It’s instantaneously recognizable, conveying a great deal of sadness and curiosity. Presented with a distinctive artistic flicker, Severed is the story of a young woman searching for her family within a fantastical world that is as beautiful as it is unforgiving. It’s an homage to classic first-person dungeon crawlers, incorporating creative touch controls and colorful environments to make gameplay pop. Full of surprises, Severed knowingly interjects new abilities, locations, and somber interactions that further add to the intrigue of the mysterious land. The level of meticulous thought put into the core mechanics of Severed comes as a somewhat surprising realization, considering the rather simplistic surface value they initially carried. Combat grows increasingly complex over the 6 plus hours it takes to complete the game, introducing new enemy types with multiple variations, giving them an upper hand come battle.

Although mostly enjoyable, these fights can grow excruciatingly monotonous at various junctures throughout the undertaking. Each fight is about time management and executing upon rhythm–a task that sometimes suffers from an onslaught of convoluted volume. Dealing with the small screen of the Vita made the more multiplex fights tough, adding another level of potential frustration on top of the already challenging confrontations. There’s a lot to learn behind Severed’s seemingly simplistic slashing methods, ensuring fights encompass a barrier of difficulty impassable without the necessary practice. It took a good while before I let it sink in, that brute forcing my way through combat wasn’t the way to approach an encounter. In fact, Severed requires a solid amount of tactical thinking to execute its touch-based combat with a level of finesse. Adversaries are capable of dealing ample amounts of damage, demanding you keep an eye on their charging attack meters below them. It can become overwhelming rather quickly when trying to engage each of the enemies in a room. Enjoyable one-on-one combat engagements ease you into facing four separate combatants at once, many of whom come with magic buffs that up their attack damage, regenerate their health, and more. With that said, it’s not as much the act of swiping the screen to send blows that is the problem, as much as it is the lack of cohesively ramping the difficulty.Severed (Braxton Haugen) 2 One of Severed’s best qualities is that of its map, offering a wealth of areas and secrets to pan over. In terms of size, the explorable and intricately crafted world is quite expansive. Ranging from damp forests coated in splashes of intoxicating blues, to daunting castles built upon rivers of lava–Severed’s visual diversity remains a strong suit through and through. Motivating me to return to past sections, were hidden secrets and special doorways that could only be opened with a certain ability that Sasha, our heroine, gains during the late game. Though rather than feeling like a cheap way to get more milage out of the same areas, exploring Severed’s spooky and often emotionally stirring environments again, was a treat. There’s something of profound sadness to be uncovered throughout Sasha’s quest to find her family. It’s expressed with stellar musical cues, evocative landscapes, and various solemn interactions with NPCs. The tone of the world is inescapable, lending a nightmarish quality to the experience that furthers its impact. Populating the strange and surreal multi-level environments, are hoards of aesthetically transfixing opponents out to stop Sasha in her tracks. While unique in terms of their design, the unexpected thrill of meeting new enemy types faded into the background far too prematurely. By the end, I was left fighting the same enemies for hours, a repetitive task that began to wear thin at a rapid pace. Fortunately, Severed wraps up before this potentially derailing gripe transforms it beyond return.Severed (Braxton Haugen) 3ConclusionDrinkBox has taken a chance with the creation of Severed and the final product is reminiscent of the challenges faced when doing so. It’s not quite as fully featured or robust in nature as the studio’s past efforts, but it’s certainly full of the signature quips and unique approach to gameplay that DrinkBox has established themselves with. Perhaps, Severed’s biggest achievement is how it handles introducing its fundamentals with a deceptively simple approach. There’s absolutely more here than meets the eye, and while the combat and lack of variety towards the latter half can be uninspiring, the mix of fast, touch-based action and somewhat deep role-playing, kept me invested. If Severed does indeed end up being the PlayStation Vita’s swan song, I can’t picture a more fitting way to say goodbye.

Connect with me on Twitter and let me know your thoughts on Severed. Find me @BraxHaugen.

7.5

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Braxton Haugen Written by:

Greetings friends! Welcome to my website. My name is Braxton Haugen. I’ve spent the last 4 years creating videos, writing, and podcasting about video games and culture. My goal as a creator is to give viewers a personal, substantive perspective on the gaming industry and beyond.