Severed is one of those games that’s been on my radar for a while. I was fortunate enough to try it out a year or so ago while it was still in development, and I’ve been playing it on the Playstation Vita since its official release. Now it’s on my phone — and it honestly feels like this is where it’s always belonged.
Severed launches right into things when you, playing as a young woman named Sasha, wake up in the smoldering ruins of what looks like home. Your parents and brother are gone, everything is destroyed, and your left arm is missing. Not a great way to start the day, to be sure.
There is hope, however. A mysterious (and monstrous) figure appears to give Sasha an odd looking sword, then tells her that she still has a chance to find her family – before promptly disappearing and leaving you with more questions. From there, it’s off to the wilds as you try to track down Sasha’s family, possibly get revenge, and maybe even find her missing arm.
Exploration is a big part of getting around Severed’s bizarre world. Many of the gorgeously strange environments, particularly the temples/dungeons, are full of little secrets and side areas you won’t be able to access until you inevitably find the appropriate gear. In most cases it’s not strictly necessary to backtrack if you don’t want to, but you might miss out on crafting materials, health boosts, and so on.
Seriously though, the art style in this game is fantastic. Environments, enemies, and even puzzle elements are as surreal as they are distinct. It’s also really impressive how, even with doors that are made up of ichor and teeth or switches that look like fleshy barnacles, everything makes sense. Visually speaking, I mean. Stuff like switches and doors that are color-coded to match.
Combat is the other, arguably larger, focus. It’s easy to compare it to games like Infinity Blade, but not entirely accurate. Yes, you have to swipe the screen to attack and swipe against enemy attacks in order to defend, but here the challenge comes from enemy numbers rather than complex attack patterns. It’s not uncommon to face three or four of Severed’s monsters at once, and you’ll need to learn how best to prioritize your targets if you want to survive. Switching between them is easy enough (just tap the appropriate enemy icon or tap the edges of the screen to turn), but there are a lot of different types of baddies that each post a unique threat.
True to the name, it’s also possible (downright essential, really) to sever enemy body parts. If you’ve managed to focus well – by landing enough hits and filling the meter – finishing off your target will slow down time and give you a small window with which to swipe along their limbs and cut them to pieces. These “trophies” can then be used to give Sasha new abilities or increase ones she already has, from defense and damage boosts to health leeching.
I’m seriously infatuated with this game, but there are two major things that bug me and are unfortunately still present in the mobile release. First is the fact that most enemy encounters only happen once. If you can’t chop off the limbs you want, or if you can’t focus quickly enough and miss out on the limb chopping entirely, you’re out of luck. Encounters aren’t exactly few and far between, and the “giblets” you can find scattered all over the place can eventually be used to make additional body parts, but it can be super frustrating to miss out on getting the parts you want when you know you won’t be able to farm for them.
Second, there’s the swiping. It works just fine for the most part and is on par with what you’d expect from a modern touch screen interface, but every now and then it doesn’t register properly. This sometimes results in a missed defense, which stinks, but it’s really obnoxious when it prevents you from slicing off limbs. Even with fully upgraded “sever time,” I still end up missing out on limbs.
The good far outweighs the bad, of course. Severed is a fantastic adventure in more ways than one. Combat is satisfying and serves a genuine purpose, there’s lots to explore and revisit, and everything looks both wonderful and strange. In short, consider this one a must play.