From Canadian developer DrinkBox Studios – the creative force behind Metroidvania brawler, Guacamelee – comes Severed, an action-adventure game with RPG elements, real-time combat and a whole lot of slicing the body parts from various creatures onto the floor. The game was initially released on PlayStation Vita back in April last year, with releases on Wii U and Nintendo 3DS coming since then. Here at Nintendo Life we loved the Wii U version of the game, but do we still love it just as much on Switch? In short: yes.
For those who missed it on earlier consoles, let us indulge you with information on what the game is all about. You play as Sasha, a girl who has recently lost one of her arms and has been left in a world of despair. After realising that she has also seemingly lost her family, she sets off on a quest to find them. That’s pretty much everything the game tells you when you first start playing, leaving it up to you to head off and explore, figuring out how to play. The world around Sasha – as well as the imagery in certain plot points – is pretty gruesome to say the least, especially as you progress through the story. Whilst beautifully presented and done in a cartoony, artistic way, it is perhaps not the best of games for younger audiences.
Severed is packed with gameplay ideas; one primary example being the combat. Combat is a real-time adrenaline rush, with enemies attacking you from all sides. Each enemy type requires a different attack method to be used, different blocking procedures and an understanding of how they will act. You see, the game is primarily controlled using the touchscreen, with finger swipes acting as your sword to swipe at your opponents. The variety of enemies is pleasing, and you’ll soon be mastering which parts of enemies you need to swipe at and in which direction (similar to how The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword introduced finely-tuned, specific directions for swings of the Wii Remote).
The battles with enemies intensify as the game goes on, with new enemy designs being introduced occasionally, magic spells coming into play and even a set of skill trees that need to be levelled up if you’re going to stand a chance with harder fights. When in battle, perfect execution of strikes will fill your Focus Meter which, if filled, allows you to “sever” off parts of the monster when you defeat them. These parts can then be spent on upgrading your abilities, strength, health, defence – you name it. The skill trees are wonderfully presented; they're never overwhelming and really do make a difference. Thankfully all of this mayhem is introduced to you at a manageable pace, with new enemy types always being introduced in a one-on–one battle, giving you a chance to work out their movements.
The game also really focuses on exploration and puzzle solving which, again, even though they have a surprising amount of depth to them, present you with new ideas at just the perfect time to keep you entertained without getting overwhelmed. Puzzles are mostly similar affairs – locating switches to open gates for example – but just when you think you can start to predict exactly how the puzzle will play out, the game will change it up again. There are also more advanced puzzles that are teased in books located around the dungeons, showing you just enough advice to try and work out how to get the special item it’s likely hiding. Severed is the sort of game that makes you think “oh, that was actually pretty impressive” multiple times during its five or six-hour adventure.
As previously mentioned, the touchscreen is essential for this game with only the left analogue stick otherwise being used. Naturally with TV mode out of the question you’ll be forced to play the game in Handheld mode, although this is no disappointment whatsoever; Severed looks beautiful on the Switch’s screen with nicely designed monsters and an eye-pleasing colour palette. The audio is marvellous too; composed by experimental group ‘Yamantaka // Sonic Titan’, the soundtrack portrays the tension and longing exploration nicely and even has a full psychedelic pop song featuring a catchy chorus vocal over the credits.
Severed is a strange one; it is full of features that could have very easily made it suffer. Touchscreen combat, first-person corridor exploration and having to go back and forth between areas you’ve already visited can all make for a rather poor experience if done badly. Luckily, it manages to do all of these things perfectly, never once feeling like it is throwing pointless gimmicks in your face or adding on play time for the sake of it. It really is a beautifully designed video game from start to finish. It also features hidden secrets, achievements and a screen that indicates your completion rate for every area in the game, giving you an incentive to keep playing after completing the story. With all the same great content included in previous versions, now presented on an arguably superior console, this is the ultimate version of the game and most definitely deserves your time.
A joy to behold from start to finish, Severed is an almost perfectly executed action-adventure title. With very successfully designed dungeons full of rewarding puzzles and a combat system that is pleasing to carry out, you’ll likely find yourself wishing you could play more of the game when it is over. That’s the only real downside – you’ll be finished with the main story after six hours and be left wanting more – although wishing you could play more isn’t exactly a complaint. If you have the means to do so, we heartily recommend giving this one a go.