Severed Hands-On Preview: A Gorgeous Nightmare World
While the public facing Severed demo wasn’t something radically different from what I played at the end of the year 2014, DrinkBox has done a lot of work behind the scenes, and gave me a glimpse into the late game content.
For those unfamiliar, Severed relies heavily on the touch screen when in combat, which unfolds from a first person perspective. The player is required to time swipes on the screen to parry enemy attacks and avoid damage, as well as lay it on them when an opening appears. You will also frequently juggle multiple enemies and have to rotate between them to keep each in check, helped by a handy circular timer on the bottom of the screen that fills up, alerting you to how close a certain foe is to attacking.
As far as the general gameplay demo I got to go hands on with, some minor changes were implemented, such as the grid based eye enemy (forgive me for no bestiary was present to give me specific names) now had singular eyes open up to make it vulnerable instead of just opening itself up for attack last year. Another change was monster parts were now able to be used in a skill tree which upgraded a variety of stats such as attack power, recovery rate, and time spent in slow-motion during dismemberment.
As for the late game, DrinkBox showed off one of the multiple dungeons, three to four will make up the final product, that contains a very large map full of secret rooms and puzzles that impede progression. If the rather linear nature of the beginning turned you off, worry not, as the dungeons more than make up for that in its complex maze of rooms and hallways.
Frequently you will encounter doors that only contain an icon on the minimap to notify the player of what is needed to proceed through it. One of which is a talisman that, when used in a certain room, would change day to night, or night to day. This would cause moon doors to open and sun doors to close, letting you access previously locked off areas. Smaller clues also help guide the player forward, such as a small map showing a circular pathway that must be traversed three times. Once the player does so, a former wall vanishes leading to more rooms with more monsters to fight.
As the forces you take on become more and more advanced, so does your offensive abilities. A rage meter can be activated that requires precise timing. Striking when it is near full rewards you with massive damage, but wait to long and let it overcharge causes paralysis, leaving you open to attacks. The late game also includes various buffs and debuffs, which the Devour option can take those boosters and apply them to your own character. And if you aren’t very fond of parring enemy attacks, or are just bad at timing, you can stun enemies temporarily. Don’t expect these abilities to work on every enemy however.
The graphics are still that distinct DrinkBox art style, recognizable by anyone who has spent time with Guacamelee or Mutant Blobs. The artwork is beautiful and very unique, with the design of this strange otherworld and monsters setting itself apart from any other game. While I don’t believe enemies have official names, they each have a radically different style from the other. This allows the player to quickly learn which is which and remember the strategy to quickly take it down. They are hoping for a Spring 2016 release, as previously the game was expected to come to PlayStation Vita in 2015. Despite the long wait, Severed remains perhaps the most anticipated PlayStation Vita game, thanks to DrinkBox’s pedigree and its status as one of the last Vita exclusive games that really utilizes the touch screen in a smart way.