DrinkBox Studio’s Severed takes the PlayStation Vita and its touch based controls, and not only uses them, but perfects them.
From the start Severed drops you into a world that puts its hooks in you; the art is beautiful, and the music does an excellent job of setting the discomforting tone that Severed sets. Sasha is on a journey in some kind of (unexplained) alternate reality to find her family, who has passed away; it does not get more unsettling than that, and the music and weird blend of colors increases that tone significantly. I wanted to explore this world, and it gives you reasons to do so.
Severed’s main attraction is not the story, but the combat. The combat is first-person, and touched based, where the player has to use the touchscreen to defeat enemies by swiping the screen. While it sounds off-putting, it is far from it; the touchscreen controls are exceptionally responsive. I never once had a problem with any of my swipes; if I mis-swiped it is because it was my own fault, not because of any response issues from the screen. It is also extremely satisfying as well.
That sense of satisfaction left me feeling a strong sense of progression as I advanced throughout the game; I struggled with the combat in the early stages of the game, especially with the timing aspect, but as I went on I felt as though I was actually getting better with every fight, until it clicked.
The game does a good job of progressing with the player; the enemies get tougher as the game goes on, the addition of fighting more than one enemy at a time, and the eventual addition of magic buffs (which are acquired after boss fights) add another elements that further enhance the challenge. The enemies themselves also advance; while the enemies are recognizable, they may add a shield, or an extra attack, or something of the sort. The game does not let you get complacent as a gamer; once I finished a dungeon, something new was thrown my way almost immediately, either in the form of a new enemy, a new power, or the inclusion of multiple enemies, which makes for a fun challenge.
While the first time you face three or four enemies at once can be overwhelming at times, it gives the player a strong sense of progression when you finally beat four enemies at once. The game almost becomes a quasi-strategy game at that point; I constantly find myself internally (and sometimes externally) debating which enemy to attack first, what I should hit them with, and, when magic buffs are introduced, which magic buffs to use, and when. On top of that, enemies attack at fast speeds, so often I found myself thinking on my feet much more than I thought I was going to before I started. The game can get downright frantic when you notice multiple enemies are loading up to attack you, but there is a method to the madness. I understood what I did wrong every time I died, and I was able to formulate a plan to see how to conquer that battle.
The exploration aspect of the game is also tied in with the magic buffs. As you obtain magic buffs, you are able to use them to access new rooms and other secrets (again, no spoilers!), and it gives you an incentive to go back to old dungeons and find what is hidden behind those walls. As soon as I got a new magic buff (there are three total), I instantly stopped what I was doing to go back and explore all of the old dungeons.
Of course, no game is perfect, and Severed is no exception. While the traversal is not the worst in gaming history, it is not exactly fun either; also, sometimes it can take a long time to get from point A to point B, which can be a little dull, especially when you are travelling through already completed areas. Another thing I am compelled to discuss, despite it not bothering me personally all too much, is the lack of a substantial story. I wish DrinkBox went more in-depth on the story, because it had the makings of something really interesting. While I have my theories about the story, it does not tell you outright. Regardless of the light story, the gameplay was more than enough to keep me interested.
The replayability is a little lacking, too. I got the platinum trophy (for all of you trophy hunters out there, it’s a very acquirable one, needing only one playthrough) in a little over 8 hours, and there is not much to do except start the game over at that point.
Severed is easily one of my favorite games of 2016, and one of my favorite Vita games of all time. It is a fun game, filled with challenges, and one of the most responsive and satisfying touch-screen experiences to date.
Go play this game.