Truly unique first-person dungeon crawlers are hard to come by yet this new portable title is quite promising. Get your finger ready for some furious swiping and let's see if Severed is worth accidentally scratching up your Vita screen.
Upon first glance, Severed seems like a vibrant game. You may assume that you'll be in for a lighthearted dungeon adventure yet the world in which it takes place is brutally dark. You play as a young woman named Sasha who's not only missing an arm, her family is ripped apart from her, too. Therefore, it's up to her to traverse the diabolical lands ahead in search of her brother, father, and mother. You'll come across many disturbing sights, creepy characters, and mysterious puzzles along the way. The colourful visuals contrast with the atmospherically eerie music to create a constantly unsettling vibe. My only issue with the presentation is that the environments lack personality since they mostly look the same. This is due to the overwhelmingly stylish visual design which is fantastic but I still wish that each location felt distinct. Complaints aside, there's no denying how captivating this world is no matter how uneasy it makes you.
The majority of the gameplay consists of walking through the grid-based dungeon maps and battling enemies. There are plenty of puzzles to figure out yet none of them are especially challenging. Thankfully, the battle system is one of the most involving ones that I've ever come across. Basically, you have to swipe furiously at your foes in order to defeat them. However, each enemy type requires a certain method to take down effectively. For example, some become unshielded after attacking them with a charged attack while others expose their weak spot after you attack certain features. Whenever an enemy is about to attack, you can cancel their blow if you react in time. Considering you eventually take on four (or even more) enemies at once, juggling between them is a very taxing exercise. It gets substantially more difficult when enemies start to recover health. You'll be swiping like mad on one enemy with an exposed weak point then quickly rotate to cancel a tough foe's charged attack only to realise that another enemy is readying their attack at the same time and before you know it; your finger is cramping up due to the rather intense workout.
After you defeat an enemy, you can slash their limbs off and collect them to upgrade Sasha's abilities. It makes me wonder: how does she carry around hundreds of body parts and battle hordes of dastardly creatures at the same time? Anyway, levelling up is extremely rewarding as you slowly increase each individual component of Sasha's arsenal. Just having that slight attack boost or allowing a spell to work for an extra split second may give you the upper-hand. Speaking of spells, you'll acquire three that allow you to freeze and debuff enemies as well as temporarily increase your attack power. On top of this, you'll find pieces of hearts and brains that extend your health and magic bars. Listening to Sasha eat them isn't easy but the end result is worth it.
Although Severed is a solid game, it has a few downsides that frankly annoyed me. The first of which is that there are battles later in the adventure that amp up the difficulty way too high. Don't get me wrong, I love a challenge but when a game decides to make certain encounters insanely difficult then it just doesn't feel fair. Seeing as the battles are set in stone and not randomly generated, this component is even tougher to swallow. I wish that some of these fights were optional because they can be downright infuriating. On the other end of the spectrum, backtracking is way too boring. You don't necessarily have to do it but if you want to discover everything or just power-up a little, working your way through dungeons with all of their enemies already cleared out is tedious to say the least. They could have at least implemented a warp system or something to take the monotony out of the equation.
Severed is a worthwhile dungeon exploration experience. The mix of frantic battles and satisfying character development while traversing its creepy world will surely captivate you. However, there are times when you'll feel like cutting off your own arm in a fit of rage.
- + Awesome combination of colourful style and eerie atmosphere set in a brutal world
- + Solid and hectic combat system
- + Rewarding character growth
- - Difficulty spikes make some of the later battles feel like juggling chainsaws
- - Backtracking can be a huge pain
- - Environments lack variety