Severed (Nintendo 3DS) Review

By Seumidh MacDonald 02.12.2016

Review for Severed on Nintendo 3DS

Severed is a game with plenty to offer. While it clearly borrows from a number of other popular series, it never feels derivative. From its surreal art, to its pensive tone, to its unique combat mechanics that see the player slashing enemies with the stylus, Severed could never be described as conventional. However, it does have a number of shortcomings that prevent it from being met with unreserved enthusiasm. Following Cubed3's Wii U version review, read on for the Nintendo 3DS verdict.

For anybody that has played DrinkBox Studios' previous venture, Guacamelee!, Severed will seem very familiar. Both deal with a vengeful protagonist who must travel through the world of the dead; both use the same bold, angular art style; even the method of upgrading your health is almost identical in both premise and execution. The genius of Severed is how it takes these ostensibly similar ideas and uses them to create a much darker and more melancholy experience. While Guacamelee! is a bombastic homage to and pastiche of Mexican culture, Severed is instead a quieter, more introspective tale.

The protagonist, Sasha, finds herself wandering a strange and cruel otherworld following an unspoken tragedy. She is tasked by a mysterious figure with recovering the dead bodies of her family and bringing them back to their remains of their house, so that they may be resurrected. While Sasha is never fleshed out enough to make her a compelling character, her bravery and determination make her a likeable avatar, and the simple premise helps make her plight sympathetic.

Screenshot for Severed on Nintendo 3DS

Often, stories that rely so heavily on visuals and symbolism to tell their stories can be difficult to understand. Not so in Severed, where every character (including Sasha herself) has an identifiable and relatable arc. While the writing is lean, with the number of friendly characters being countable on one hand (even if one includes the two-headed crow twice), this gives each character the room to be interesting and even a sympathetic. It's surprising how enjoyable the two-headed crow's company ends up being considering his grotesque appearance. Helping this is the incredible visual design, which uses sickly secondary colours to create a thick atmosphere. This is clearly not a natural world, if the floating eyeballs and two-headed crows didn't give that away already.

Severed is so named because of its unique combat mechanics, with swipes on the touchscreen translating to slices with Sasha's sword. It is reminiscent of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword in a lot of respects: enemies will guard certain sections of their body, leaving the onus on the player to quickly and accurately take advantage of any holes in their defences. The game's major advantage over Skyward Sword is its use of the touchscreen rather than motion controls. Unlike the Wii Remote, the stylus never misinterprets an action, so exploiting an enemy's weakness and then slicing them to ribbons is made all the more cathartic. There's no chance of the game misunderstanding an input: every mistake is squarely on the player.

Screenshot for Severed on Nintendo 3DS

Deftly parrying attacks and counterattacking creates a satisfying flow during battles. Doing so also fills Sasha's "focus" meter, which, when full, allows her to sever limbs, eyes, wings, and other body parts which can then be harvested for use in the game's upgrade system. Severing your adversaries' body parts is immensely satisfying, a stylish flourish to end difficult battles. The upgrade system itself is less satisfying, as each bonus is so incremental that it's difficult to notice an improvement the moment you upgrade: there's very little difference between a 7% chance to critical hit and a 10% chance.

While there's a lot of freedom in swinging the sword, moving Sasha is quite restrictive. She moves on a grid, with the player only able to turn her or move forward by one whole tile. Despite how limited the movement options feel at first, they're easy to get the hang of, and most importantly they don't hinder the level design. DrinkBox has created a lot of interesting puzzles using this modular design. These puzzles are reminiscent of the Zelda series as well, insofar as they won't require a Mensa membership to solve, but they do force the player to interact with the mechanics in a new or interesting way.

Screenshot for Severed on Nintendo 3DS

Severed does a lot right, then, and is also polished until it sparkles, but the game is not without some pretty severe downsides. Getting around the map can be a chore due to Sasha's slow and staccato movement. There is no way to speed up the animation or take shortcuts, so exploration and backtracking can become extremely tedious, especially when looking for those last few secrets before the final boss. This also discourages experimentation with the puzzles, with backtracking often being involved when a timed puzzle is failed or a sequence is done out of order. The map resides permanently on the top screen on the 3DS, and is so useful that it's easy to become fixated on it, to the point that the bottom screen can be ignored for huge stretches of the adventure.

Combat comes with its own minor shortcomings as well. There are a number of sections that force the player to take damage as they push through them, meaning that players with low health are forced to die at certain points. Fortunately, there is no penalty for death and checkpoints are frequent, but that comes with its own problems: with no consequences, death feels like a momentary inconvenience, and so none of the enemies ever feel threatening, not even the excellent bosses.

Finally, Severed comes at a pretty hefty price point for Nintendo systems. While it is only £4.99 on iOS, it is £11.99 on the eShop. This complaint does come with the small caveat that Severed is one of the few games that can be bought for the 3DS and played on the Wii U without having to buy a separate version, but even so, for a game between four to six hours long, that price point will put a lot of people off.

Screenshot for Severed on Nintendo 3DS

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

Severed is a game that benefits from hindsight, when all of the longueurs are forgotten and only the highlights remain. Those willing to put up with a bit of tedium and a high price point will find Severed to be a unique and memorable experience. Whether or not it's worth putting up with its shortcomings for the sake of the experience will differ from person to person, but with its vibrant presentation and interesting mechanics, this comes with a hearty recommendation for those looking for something a bit different.

Developer

DrinkBox

Publisher

DrinkBox

Genre

Adventure

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

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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