Developer: DrinkBox Studios
Platform: Nintendo 3DS, Nintendo Switch, WiiU, iOS, Playstation Vita
Publisher: DrinkBox Studios
It came to me as a surprise when I was looking around the Nintendo 3DS store for new games to try out, but not having a clue what to play, I then looked up on the internet, lo and behold a game was presented that not only looked intriguing but also was a game type that I quite enjoy.
This game was none other than Severed, an indie game made by DrinkBox Studios of whom you might know have made Guacamelee back in 2013.
While not having much to show, the style itself made it clear that this game would be dark but colorful, with a personal story of how to handle loss.
The game starts out with you as the main protagonist Sasha waking and arriving back home to see her house burned, her family gone, her left arm severed and everything she knew had been destroyed. Suddenly a mysterious figure tells her that by taking up arms, it will guide her on the path of vengeance to get her family back. Agreeing to this, Sasha takes up the living sword presented by the mysterious figure and ventures out into a maze of nightmarish imagery in search of her lost family.
The game itself presents the tragedy of the quite beautiful world in its artistic colour pallet and though the design of Sasha, her family, the few NPCs and monsters that you meet in the game kept making me think I was playing something that had an inspiration from Samurai Jack. It also managed to make me believe there was a certain element of South American culture being shown through the way dialog was being presented both directly as well as internally in lore.
Severed is clearly a classic dungeon crawler, though the traditional RPG elements have been stripped away in lieu of you “upgrading” Sasha with the various components that you cleave of the monsters encountered around the world.
So, what is the real meat of the game? It’s the combat that Severed presents to you in a well explained tutorial in the beginning, however as you progress through the story and are accustomed to the combat, the later tutorials become more of a small hindrance. From the first monster I encountered and all the way to the last boss, every. single. fight. was….simply captivating in being able to keep you entertained. No fight felt the same and every time I kept pushing myself to always get it perfect for gathering components, not losing any focus or getting hit.
Since this was played on a 3DS, the combat was done via the touchpad on the platform and it not only enhanced the experience, it also made it more precise as to how you would fight out each battle. That is not to say there weren’t any problems, but personally that is because I suffer from Carpal Tunnel, so by laying the 3DS on a flat surface and use the directional buttons, it became less frantic when playing the game.
By hitting certain parts of your foes, you are able to stop them from attacking in a block, stopping them from blocking you (which also gets switched up in gameplay the further in the game you move), help keeping an overview of the battle by lowering the rage bar that shows when the monster is about to unleash an attack. Now, for certain monsters that means you keep them in check, while with others it means that they will attack once the rage bar is full and you should focus your attention on them.
Fight with multiple monsters can happen and here you need to keep switching between them in order to manage their individual rage. Trying to block at an angle that isn’t exactly where your foe is coming from will also result in you losing health, so you need to be precise as well as timely.
I also talked about Focus and this is one of the most important mechanics in the game, as you fight the monsters by hitting them correct places and not being blocked, will build up your Focus meter in a chain, however if you get blocked or an enemy gets a hit on you. The chain is lost and you will need to build it up again.
Luckily it’s not that punishing but the faster you can build up the Focus before the monster is vanquished, the easier it will be to sever the parts off the monster that you need to further upgrade Sasha. All in all, it has the right amount to keep you entertained and feel it’s too repetitive.
The thing I enjoyed also was the traversal of the map, at first it will as if you are walking a very linear path (you technically are, but follow with me on this one), yet as you get more powers, you will discover that it’s suddenly possible to access hidden paths which leads to rooms of treasure, or collectibles that can further make Sasha stronger.
Yet, the one thing I will point out as a negative for me, was that the story forces you to be on a specific path, it was not until I had the chance to go fight the last boss that I was able to explore the whole world, in which Severed takes place. This might not be a huge problem for you, but it can hinder the complete experience as you will just follow the path towards the end and not stop up for a moment, expect a weird drawing of the wall that correspond with one of your powers to then reveal a new path with loot to boot…or even a puzzle to solve. Yes, there are puzzles in this game that made me think twice about walking a path or where I was in need to write things down, just so something wouldn’t go wrong.
Probably one thing that will be a positive experience is that the boss fights are very satisfying, each having specific ways you need to do in order to damage them. Especially the last boss and with no spoilers here, was nothing more than so satisfying to fight and win over in the end. By always taunting you as you traverse the world looking for your family, to the last encounter. He had all the necessary designs needed for a last boss to feel epic.
The sound design is simply well put together for the DigitalBox Studios, they managed to make the monsters sound terrifying and fascinating at the same time, the satisfying scream you hear when finishing it off as you sever its parts off, before moving on to the next foe in the fight. The sound of Sasha swinging her sword around, even the atmospheric sounds coming from entering certain areas, or how using objects give the necessary sound to relay info of something has happened.
The sound of music…or just the music was more of a hit an miss for me here, on certain parts the music enhanced the world and helped me become more invested in the story, while on other places it was kept being played on a loop of a melody short enough I became more irritated by it than enjoying it.
However, this could be an intentional decision by the developers which in that case, well done….just the real negative for me here was that the volume of the game was so low, even by having everything maxed out on my 3DS, using headphones, a headset or even plugging in speakers that were turned to the maximum output. The volume for the music, sounds and voices was very hard to hear but from what was possible, it didn’t hurt my experience in the end.
I was enjoying myself all throughout the game and even when finishing it with almost everything cleared. I still wanted to go back and see if I couldn’t find all the collectibles, explore all areas and just be able to experience it all over again. The only sad thing was there wasn’t a higher difficulty to play the game with, but for a small indie game. I felt invested in Sasha’s story of vengance, nothing became more satisfying than the defeating the last boss and see how the story could have concluded. It has been one of the best games I’ve played in 2018 and I look forward to more from developer DigitalBox Studios.
This is why Severed deserves the score of:
Severed is a unique game with a lot to offer in terms of story, world design, monster fighting and just being a really well made game. It tells a story of what it means to be human in a world distraught of everything being happy, where all you value has been taken away, only to leave a husk of a shallow personality left behind. The fear of being in an unfamiliar world where you could die at every turn of the corner. It has enough challenges in combat, exploration, puzzles and figuring out what is going on, that you will be entertained from the start and all the way to the final confrontation.
Have you played this game before? Or is this something that you would rather walk away from? Tell me down in the comments about what your thoughts are.
Stay Cozy and have a nice day!