Severed (Wii U) Review

By Nikola Suprak 28.11.2016

Review for Severed on Wii U

DrinkBox Studios previously found wide acclaim with their Metroidvania title Guacamelee! It was a brilliant mixture of exploration and combat, and distinguished itself from the constant stream of similar titles that have come out in recent years. Their newest project, Severed, seems much more of a gamble than their past work. Originally released for the Vita, Severed is an action RPG dungeon crawler that relies almost entirely on the touch screen.

Sasha starts Severed severely… stressed. Alliteration aside, Sasha is in bad shape. Her family is missing, she's trapped in some weird netherworld, and one of her arms has been chopped off, or, as the kids call it, "severed." A weird creature tells her that if she wants to rescue her family, she must hurry through the dangerous land beyond the house, but to be wary, as many dangerous creatures await her out there. Sasha soon discovers a sword, and it becomes the only tool she has at her disposal to fight off monsters and save her family. Cutting through hordes of monsters is never easy, so hopefully the arm she's missing isn't her good one.

The story is fairly minimal, with only brief snippets of dialogue here and there as Sasha makes her way deeper and deeper into whatever land she's been unfortunate enough to find herself in. Even though there might not be a ton in terms of actual plot, what DrinkBox did a remarkable job of was making the adventure memorable through imagery and a striking aesthetic. The visuals harken back their earlier success in Guacamelee!, and the same sort of art style that worked there works even better here. The design of characters, friends and foes alike, is creative, and the world is genuinely interesting and beautiful, yet haunting at the same time. The plot is fairly good, but made much better by all the work that was done in terms of the artistic design.

Screenshot for Severed on Wii U

Combat deviates from the traditional approach typically found in action RPGs. It is done entirely using the touch screen and visual cues, and it is possible to get through every fight without getting hit if the player is skilled enough. Each enemy requires a specific method to hit, and randomly swiping on the screen is a good way to get Sasha killed (well, killed again). Different characters have different weaknesses and tactics; a multi-armed monster will block his body from incoming attacks from only one side, while a rotating eye demon needs to be hit in every open eye before it is possible to start dealing damage. Monsters can appear from up to four sides, although it is possible to only focus on one at a time. The bottom of the screen will provide alerts when a creature is gearing up to attack, and every single attack is possible to block by swiping in the right direction at the right time.

Combat is a lot of fun, to the point where most people will likely go around seeking it out to get their fix. Things start off simple enough, and learning the basics of combat against one enemy at a time is a good way to warm the player up to the challenges that lie ahead. When multiple enemies get thrown into the mix is when things really get fun. It becomes important to begin attacking whichever creature feels the most dangerous, while at the same time looking at warnings for attacks from the sides or the rear. Using the touch screen at first sounds like a silly gimmick, but it works wonderfully here, and because of the emphasis on skill and proper reaction time, getting good at combat feels rewarding. It is a point of pride to dispatch enemies while taking as little damage as possible, and clearing out four while avoiding all their hits is immensely satisfying.

Screenshot for Severed on Wii U

There is a surprising amount of depth here as well. As the game progresses, Sasha learns more skills that allow her to deal with monsters more easily. She can freeze a monster temporarily, or devour whatever power-ups the enemy has and gain them for herself. It adds another layer of depth to the combat, and mastering these skills proves to be important for the later dungeons. Additionally, once a monster is defeated, there is a brief moment where Sasha can hack off certain outlined appendages. Doing so allows her to pick up these monster bits after battle, and luckily this isn't just because Sasha is a weird monster part hoarder; these bits can be used to upgrade various stats or abilities. They can let Sasha deal out more and takes less damage from foes, or provides boosts, like allowing for devouring two power-ups at one time, or making it so that the time freeze affects all foes, and not just the one that is currently targeted. It is a great way to provide character growth, and the skills make Sasha more powerful without completely breaking the game. It is a very well-balanced system that makes the already addictive battles even more addictive.

Screenshot for Severed on Wii U

Outside of the combat, Severed is a dungeon crawler with some interesting twists. Action takes place from a first-person perspective, and Sasha will travel through a room with up to four potential paths. Monster encounters will block the way at times, and at others the path will be blocked by doors that must be unlocked using a variety of straightforward puzzles that typically involve levers or tricks of some kind. There are plenty of secrets to find as well, and backtracking is a must, as more abilities are unlocked if you want to find all the health and magic power-ups. There is definitely a Metroidvania element, and backtracking to find all of the goodies is a lot of fun for anyone with completionist tendencies. There are some really clever puzzles guarding some of the better hidden items, although the interface proves just a bit limiting here. Since there isn't a ton in terms of controls, a lot of the hidden extras are found either by using one of Sasha's abilities that was unlocked later on, or by following simple maps that require her to move in specific routes. A bit more variety in puzzle type would have been nice, but there is no denying that Severed nails the exploration aspect, and it is absolutely worth going back and combing through the map to find everything.

There is very little to complain about here, and most of the problems with the game are relatively minor. For example, enemy variety is somewhat lacking; there are really only a handful of different types to bump into. Each monster typically has an upgrade or two in later areas, like dealing more damage or requiring charged attacks to break apart impenetrable barriers, but they aren't significantly different from the ones found earlier in the game. As such, later areas don't pack quite the same punch as earlier ones, as by this time it is likely players will be accustomed to what the monsters are throwing their way. The game is somewhat short as well, and although brief adventures are expected from indie games, it really feels like it's missing a dungeon or two. It is probably a good sign that the biggest complaint about a game is that more of it would be better, but some of the brilliant ideas it throws out don't feel entirely fleshed out because of the brevity.

Screenshot for Severed on Wii U

Cubed3 Rating

9/10
Rated 9 out of 10

Exceptional - Gold Award

Rated 9 out of 10

Severed sounds like it should be some cheap gimmick. So many other games have tried to base their identity around touch screen functionality and failed miserably, and yet for Severed it works. Not only is the touch screen-based combat incredibly enjoyable and addictive, it makes the game significantly better. It doesn't feel like it was shoehorned in, and this is perhaps the best example of touch screen controls to date. There are some other issues, but these are so minor that they're barely worth mentioning, and this is simply a fantastic experience from beginning to end. The combat, combined with the haunting, memorable aesthetic, makes the game stand out as one of the better indie titles available on the Wii U. So grab your stylus and be prepared, because Severed is a cut above the competition.

Developer

DrinkBox

Publisher

DrinkBox

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  9/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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