I am always intrigued by how developers can take ideas and mechanics from a variety of games, and meld them together into something new and different. Severed, from Drinkbox Studios, is one such game, where you combine classic dungeon-crawling from a game like Wizardry or Etrian Odyssey, and interesting touch screen combat by way of Fruit Ninja. While on the surface it seems as if there isn’t too much to the game (just swiping away at enemies), there is more depth to it than one might think, and there is a solid adventure-RPG for those that wish to accept the journey.
In Severed, you take on the role of Sasha, a one-armed woman who is on a mission to rescue her family from what seems to be a monster filled purgatory. Even though she is missing an arm, she is still adept at combat, and the player uses the touchscreen to slash and parry enemies for Sasha as she travels through a number of dungeons. Severed’s swiping combat is the same here as it has been on the other platforms it has been on; Vita, Wii U and mobile. You move around using the analog stick, and then when in combat, swipe to slash at enemies or parry the attacks. While in combat, your special meter builds. You see, as you connect with your attacks, and parry, and don’t miss, the meter fills up. When Sasha finishes off an enemy, and the meter is full, then the game enters into a slo-mo mini game where you sever the limbs off the monsters. It’s these limbs that are needed for Sasha to level up and gain better stats; thus, when in combat, it’s in your best interest to work on enemy strategies to keep that meter full to get the most limbs.
The game starts off fairly easily, just introducing a few simple enemies for you to fight. However, it quickly ramps up the challenge, and starts to add multiple monsters for you to face. The game then becomes even more strategic, as you need to be paying attention to the enemy meters that inform you of potential attacks, and you need to be quick to be parrying, or cooling down enemies before you start to take too much damage.
I really did enjoy this aspect to Severed, and it did feel fairly fluid for the most part. It was easy to zone out, and be on one enemy, and do the requisite amount of attacks before it goes into a solid block, and quickly move to the next enemy and attack in a different way. However, later on, some of the enemies get a bit tougher and have some serious buffs that can make for some harrowing combat. It was never too difficult, but sometimes Severed caught me off guard when combat difficulty would have a little spike compared to what I would be used to.
The combat is very satisfying, but one of the biggest things I had an issue with, was being comfortable playing the game. Severed can only be played in handheld mode, as you need the touchscreen to basically play the whole game. However, while the Switch seems fairly light, after holding it with one hand and swiping with the other, it became increasingly uncomfortable. Due to this I would only play the game in spurts, and would have to take regular breaks. I know that isn’t the biggest deal breaker for some, but when I sit down for a game I like to be able to sink some solid time into it, but I never could with Severed. Which is a shame, because the world of Severed is incredibly gorgeous and deserves some quality time spent with it.
Drinkbox Studios are known for having very visually appealing games, such as Guacamelee, which has a very simple and elegant style but are brimming with vibrant colours and cool character design. Severed is no exception, and it may be Drinkbox’s best looking game. The environments, while they should merely be boring dungeons, still have a wide variety of color to their palette, and the monsters all have some great designs behind them. The heavy use of reds and purples especially makes the game pop, and seems to make the blood and disturbing thought of severing limbs for power ups not seem so bad. The music is also phenomenal, and I often would sit in an area and just listen to the score before moving on to the next area.
Severed has a great story, a great protagonist, and lush art that makes every area just pop. This game makes you appreciate the talent that Drinkbox Studios has. Severed is fairly short, about 6 hours or so, with a bit of extra stuff to go back for, and even its own achievements that you can take on in-game. It’s a great journey worth taking, but it should be noted that it can be hard to get comfortable playing the game. Regardless, helping Sasha on her quest to find her parents was one thrilling adventure, and it makes me excited to see what Drinkbox has next up their sleeves.
A Nintendo Switch review copy of Severed was provided by Drinkbox Studios for the purpose of this review.