Severed had been a title I had been looking forward to for a very long time. Its reveal immediately hooked me and the following previews assured me this was going to be something special, both visually and mechanically. Adding to that was the sobering truth that the Vita was losing its relevance. As Severed took its sweet time, the market changed and both Sony and gamers had lost a lot of interest in the aging portable.
Just a few days ago, Severed finally released and, just moments ago, I put it down for the last time. It was a cool ride, to be sure, but as I got further into the warped and depraved world of Severed, something about it was really getting to me.
For the sake of my vapid sense of pride, I tried to ignore it. Despite, some hours passed and that same nagging sensation was more present than it had ever been and I eventually realized how little stake I actually had in the experience that, at first, seemed so promising.
Unfortunately, Severed is a game more interested in itself than it is with the player.
The game's opening moments are ones that will stick with me for a very long time, coming at you quick and smooth as a Slip N' Slide. It didn't take long for me to sing this game's praises anywhere I could. Hey, who doesn't love a good first impression?
The combat was highly reminiscent of Skyward Sword, only actually good. It was just as fleshed out, but 10X faster and much easier on my geezer arms and wrists. Working around enemy movements in order to guard or hit weak points and slashing off limbs were, for those first couple hours, grand and super satisfying.
It's also a blast contextually. Attaching limbs to my character's emotionally-battered body to gain new powers, eating beastly hearts for health upgrades, snatching the corpses of my once happy family from the clutches of insane bosses in order to lay them to rest at home, etc. "Wholesome" would be underselling it.
The visuals and animation are signature Drinkbox, of Guacamelee and Mutant Blobs Attack fame, but punched up to 11.
It's as captivating as it is brutal. Character performances almost impossible to look away from, environments that beg to be explored, and enemies straight out of nightmares. The panoramic scenes that plaster each of the game's map "tiles" are, for many reasons, a wonder to behold.
Slowly, though, the glossy finish of those visuals became less blinding and I was having less and less fun.
Severed, at it's core, is a dungeon-crawler. So, to the surprise of nobody, you will be crawling in some dungeons. Combat in these dungeons, as I've previously stated, is great and hot biscuits. However, everything else that takes up your time in Severed does not exactly inspire.
Around 95% of this game's puzzles can be boiled down to "find where to go" or "push this, then pull that" and with little to no thought required. At best, it's busywork until the next awesome combat sequence. Some especially enticing mechanics are introduced, but never built upon significantly. Then some more, but always implemented at their most basic level.
The game's first puzzle mechanic, a gong that switches day to night (and vice versa) in order to open doors and close others, is nothing more than a way to convolute progress that is generally pretty linear. Most times, you will be stumped simply because you just hadn't noticed an icon on your map leading you to the right lever. Or you haven't explored every inch of your map. You can find yourself mindlessly going in circles just to open a door that will actually let you move forward.
As far as its exploration and puzzles go, it has ideas, but no interest in making many of them the least bit engaging.
The puzzles and exploration were so dull that whenever I happened upon one of the three (yes, I counted) instances where either aspect was almost vaguely enjoyable, it made me more relieved than it probably should have. Whatever to keep me moving through what is, even all things considered, never an ugly looking or bad game.
While on many of my treks back to older maps for collectables now within my grasp, I had considered that these maps were perhaps, by this point, so filled with stuff to go through, that it was sort of its own little puzzle finding my way back around. Even that, though, was more frustrating than stimulating. Some sort of warp system or a "clear all this fucking shit out of my way because I've done what I need to do here and I'll only be coming back for optional content" switch for each main area/hub is desperately needed.
To make matters worse, I came to find out that there is little risk in dying during combat. For the most part, you just start right back up a tile or several away from where you failed and back at full health.
In it's closing hours, Severed's combat does get pretty damn challenging. However, by that point, you are so mighty and invincible (depending on the upgrades you choose, mind you) that it's most efficient to just brute force your way through what could otherwise be some really tactical fights and it's so hard not to because there's so little recourse for such strategies.
The cherry on top is that I think even Drinkbox took advantage of that lack of recourse by making a couple fights absolutely masochistic in their difficulty. It's almost like they want me to brute force it, which I find to be a supreme waste of good design. Like the game's ideas around its puzzles or exploration, it has combat potential that is never fully capitalized on.
For all its visual niceties and its lovely ideas, Severed was a thorough disappointment. A memorable one, granted. Much in the same way I will always remember my disappointment with Saints Row: The Third, coming off of my insatiable lust for both Saints Row 1 and 2.
It's got punch to its opening couple hours, but it's soured almost completely by its later half.