While I haven’t played the original PS Vita version of DrinkBox Studio’s brilliant touchscreen action game Severed, I not so sure if I’ll be able to after slicing through it on the Wii U, which I believe will end up coming the definitive version of the game.
For the core games itself, I have very little to add on top of Joey’s original review for the Vita now that I have spent a fair amount of time cutting through horrific beasts, and I agree with him on all counts. Severed is now one of my favorite games of 2016, and I believe that it will survive the longest as the pinnacle of DrinkBox’s indie gaming library, easily beating out Guacamelee.
Of course, this is unless the indie studio somehow surpasses it with its next game!
Exploration in Severed’s first-person world feels perfect, never too overbearing on players with its size and never too obtuse in its hints. DrinkBox graciously has a secrets tally in the top corner, hinting how many more hidden rooms you’ll need to uncover in the game’s different zones for a perfect run, and the map does a pretty decent job of pointing players in the right direction without totally giving answers away.
Combat too feels perfect, and slashing through enemies with the touch-pad is about as satisfying as a the genre gets. I expected the game to resemble a majority of the other slashing titles out there like Fruit Ninja, but thanks to the enemies’ blocking patterns and DrinkBox’s brilliant Focus system, Severed provides a much needed brain behind the slashing. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword is the best example I can think of for comparison, and those looking to hack mindlessly through the game will miss out on all the depth that it has to offer.
Anybody can kill monsters in Severed. It is those who find ways to reap all the benefits of battle by collecting as many limbs as possible who are going to get the most out of combat. Failing to fill the all-important Focus meter means monsters will just explode in a pool of blood when their life runs out, leaving you no chance to harvest their body parts for important upgrades. Only when that meter is filled will you have the option to hack away when they die, and to fill it, you’ll need to learn how to block attacks, balance your attention between two or three beasts, and learn to get in just enough hits without actually killing anything.
Trust me, only when that Focus meter is full do you want monsters to die in Severed. Otherwise, each scuffle becomes a totally pointless affair, and the game will drag.
More strategy means more rewards, which ultimately means a stronger character through excessive upgrades. Severed is a game that can be played at a casual level, but those who really dig in and max out their skills are rewarded so much more for their efforts. What you put in is what you get out, and DrinkBox has that balance down perfectly.
Now, for the differences between the Wii U and the PS Vita version. Why should you pick the game up for Nintendo’s home console instead of Sony’s portable or your tablet? Well, the Wii U has two huge benefits over its rivals in this regard.
One is the stylus. Playing through Severed can be a very intense experience, especially when you have four enemies on the ropes surrounding you and you’re about three attacks away from a massive payday once that Focus meter fills.
Knowing my physiology, I’m going to get very sweaty in a tense moment like this, and I know my finger is just going to stick to the screen, meaning I might take an unnecessary hit and lose my Focus points. Another scenario if my fingers jam, I could miss out on vital milliseconds when chopping off body parts since the ability to do that is only available for a brief time.
With the stylus, I have nothing to worry about. It feels very natural gliding over the Wii U gamepad’s screen, and it better represents the feeling of holding a weapon than just my fingers alone. It’s no different than comparing actual buttons and virtual d-pads in that regard. My skin and touchscreens just don’t mesh well, and having something between them makes my game experiences so much better. The Wii U’s stylus allows just that.
And DrinkBox has also mastered the use of the Wii U’s dual-screen capabilities. Severed’s gameplay is locked onto the gamepad since you’ll need to touch enemies to kill them in the game. It can’t be thrown up onto a big screen like other Wii U offerings, but you probably wouldn’t want to with all the information that’s up there.
Pausing to look at a map is a thing of the past in this Wii U build because it’s all right in front of your face on the television. The map is so huge, I sometimes even pulled my eyes away from the hauntingly beautiful artwork and just navigated via the map and arrows. Worked just as well as staring into the game.
Having the map available at all times is a wonderful addition, an improvement we’ve known about since Castlevania showed us how to do it in the days of the original DS.
These two important additions would make it hard for me to go back and play the game on the PS Vita, but sadly, the Wii U version also must sacrifice portability in the process of defining itself. A Nintendo 3DS port is also on the way, but that comes with the downside of no HD graphics! Severed just can’t win!
The PS Vita doesn’t allow for a stylus and has no second screen. The Wii U isn’t portable. The Nintendo 3DS isn’t HD. I’m wondering if the handheld-console hybrid NX will be able to provide the benefits of all three options. Theoretically, it could support the portability of the Nintendo 3DS and Vita versions, temporarily sacrificing the second screen while you play the game on the train, and then, after you get home, the Wii U’s stylus, television options, and the HD graphics are all waiting for you.
Now, we just need to know if the NX is capable of such functions and if DrinkBox plans to support it. Until then, my guess is that this Wii U version will stand as the best of the bunch, but if all you have is the PS Vita or the Nintendo 3DS, they should also be fine. I might even swap to the Nintendo 3DS since I don’t mind the lack of HD. Anyway you can though, play this game.
Severed is one of the best games of 2016, and no matter how you play it, you’ll surely enjoy it.