Severed preview: taking up arms

Drinkbox Studios came to PlayStation Experience with the first playable build of their second game, Severed. Shacknews went hands-on.

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Drinkbox Studios made a grand impression with their debut effort, the lucha libre-inspired Metroidvania known as Guacamelee. Part of the reason it resonated so well was because of its bright and colorful art style. Those that enjoyed it will be happy to hear that the studio won't be leaving it behind for their next effort.

Severed was originally unveiled back in April of this year, but this past weekend's PlayStation Experience was the first opportunity for folks to try it out. For those unfamiliar with the Vita-exclusive, it's a first-person dungeon crawler that retains the colorful Guacamelee art style, while also delving into a much darker story. To see what was on the horizon, Shacknews went hands-on.

Severed centers around a girl named Sasha, who is noticeably missing a piece of her arm. After reminiscing about her warrior training, Sasha journeys out to find her missing family. Along the way, she'll encounter various supernatural enemies that must be dealt with through slicing and dicing.

Fighting is done purely through the touch screen, offering a decidedly Fruit Ninja-like aesthetic. The idea is to wait for enemies to expose their weaknesses before slicing frantically to take them out. While early enemies can be chopped up easily, later foes will do more to protect their weak spots and also go on the offense themselves. Parrying is an important principle, one that is performed similarly to a standard strike. The idea is to slice at the right moment and angle in order to successfully parry a blow, leaving foes open to attack. The complication comes when multiple enemies appear at a time, with timers on the bottom indicating how close they are to striking. Sasha needs to manage her strikes carefully in order to parry attacks from multiple foes and escape without harm.

The other main mechanic of Severed involves actual severing. If Sasha performs enough successful strikes and parries without missing, a special meter will allow her to tap on an enemy, leaving them momentarily stunned. This is where the Fruit Ninja-style concept goes further, with time slowing down and allowing Sasha to sever her enemy's limbs, resulting in their doom and in a lot of item drops that can be used to upgrade her skills later.

Many of the standard dungeon crawling elements can be found, including keys, loot drops, and a labyrinthine layout. The demo ended with a boss that was comprised of a demon whose body was made up of a murder of crows. The boss would strike hard and when his core was exposed, the crows would fly about and attempt to block any strikes. The crows would also try and surround Sasha, forcing her to deal with foes on all sides. It's cleverly designed and a good indicator of what can be expected throughout the game.

Of course, Severed is still early in development and needs some refinement. For example, there was one rune-like enemy that wasn't responding to parries and the developers noted that enemies like him would either need to be re-adjusted or removed entirely.

Aside from a few enemy annoyances, Severed appears to be on its way towards becoming a solid sophomore effort for Drinkbox. They are quickly owning the cel-shaded art style, while the game's narrative looks to show some additional range, beyond the silly slapstick comedy that Guacamelee was known for. The touch mechanics are also pleasantly responsive and a great use of the Vita's capabilities.

Severed is set to come exclusively to Vita in 2015, with Drinkbox aiming for a spring release.

Senior Editor

Ozzie has been playing video games since picking up his first NES controller at age 5. He has been into games ever since, only briefly stepping away during his college years. But he was pulled back in after spending years in QA circles for both THQ and Activision, mostly spending time helping to push forward the Guitar Hero series at its peak. Ozzie has become a big fan of platformers, puzzle games, shooters, and RPGs, just to name a few genres, but he’s also a huge sucker for anything with a good, compelling narrative behind it. Because what are video games if you can't enjoy a good story with a fresh Cherry Coke?

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