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Severed Review: Living Swords

/ Apr 26th, 2016 No Comments


The PS Vita died an unceremonious death. Sony designated it a legacy console last year and the support has slowly been drying up. What still comes out for the handheld is largely PlayStation 4 cross-buy ports — although it seems that for every port that comes out for the system, another one is canceled. As a result, when a true Vita exclusive comes out, it is important to take notice.

Severed primarily works due to the Vita’s unique features. The responsive touchscreen and physical controls allow for an immersive first-person experience. While other touch devices could approximate the game’s gesture-based combat, they couldn’t replicate the ability to move fluidly in combat with the same touch responsiveness. What results is a complex, deep combat system wrapped in satisfying dungeon exploration and an engaging story.

I Fall Apart

How do you cope when you’ve lost everyone you loved? What happens after the shock has settled?

Sasha, for her part, wakes up in a bizarre and twisted world with one of her arms missing. The one thing she knows for sure is her family is dead. A mysterious creature tells her she’ll find her mother, father and brother within this new world. He also gives her the power she’ll need to face the dangers awaiting her on her journey.


This mysterious figure guides Sasha as she tries to reclaim her family.

By taking the stranger’s living sword, Sasha will be able to slash and slice her way through the massive amount of monsters that stand between her and reclaiming her family’s bodies. While the need to recover her family drives her, there is the lingering question of what happens after she achieves her goal? By the end of her journey, Sasha will need to make a difficult decision that will determine her fate.

Severed’s story is minimalistic in many respects, but wonderfully rich. Sasha is a silent protagonist, but she isn’t without depth. The lengths she goes to save her family from the clutches of horrible monsters requires an insane amount of courage and determination. As well, her entire journey feels like a way of processing and dealing with a great trauma, which is powerful.


Sasha learns early on what type of world she really is in.

Outside of Sasha’s personal journey, there is the information and background of this twisted fantasy world that occurs as Sasha goes about her goal. On her quest, she runs into a few fascinating characters that both help and warn her, in addition to fleshing out the world. It is a textured world with a dark history that is exciting to learn about.

Cuts and Gouges

Sasha must learn how to utilize the living sword attached to her arm in order to recover the bodies of her lost family. Her quest takes her to a number of different dungeons full of puzzles to solve and monsters to slay. Without making smart use of her slashes and cuts, she will be trounced.

The combat eases you into the gesture based swordplay, allowing you to tackle the game’s different enemies one at a time. Combat one-on-one is satisfying enough. There is a visceral feeling to claiming victory over your opponent by cutting off parts of their body to improve your skills.


Severed has some challenging and strategic fights.

The simplicity of going toe to toe with a singular adversary doesn’t last long. The crux of combat in Severed involves fighting multiple, varied enemies at a time. Juggling these different enemy types requires deft reflexes and a strategic approach. Choosing what enemy to focus on while keeping the others from killing you is a tricky task, but it results in a challenging and invigorating gameplay system.

Tougher still are the game’s boss fights, which truly put your skills and reflexes to the test. The touch-based swordplay in Severed is some of the most exhilarating sword fighting ever.

While the combat is a lot of fun, one of the most exciting aspects of Severed is exploring this twisted fantasy world. When you first embark into Severed’s initial dungeon, it feels like a typical dungeon crawler. You battle monsters, solve a few puzzles, gain some loot, and try to make it to the boss. Sure, there are some dead ends and odd rooms, but you think nothing of it. It isn’t until you defeat the first boss and gain your first extra ability that you realize what the game actually is.


The boss fights will test your sword fighting skills.

Severed ultimately is a first-person Metroidvania game. Given Drinkbox Studios’ history with the genre (having made one of the best modern Metroidvania games in Guacamelee!), developers threaded the needle well in terms of constructing areas you’ll need to revisit once you’ve progressed further into the game. Revisiting previous areas with new abilities allows players to uncover more secrets and unlock additional upgrades. This approach gives a good deal of extra depth to the dungeon exploration.


Severed is another gem for the PlayStation Vita. It makes excellent use of the system’s features to create an experience that feels complete and unique. The game’s combat is extremely satisfying with a good challenge and a need for strategy. It also has some of the coolest swordplay around. More than anything, however, Severed features a POC female protagonist that is strong with a good deal of depth.

Severed is a game every Vita owner should play.

Severed was reviewed on PlayStation Vita using a code for the game provided by the developer.


Kalvin Martinez

Kalvin Martinez

Senior Editor at Gaming Illustrated
Kalvin Martinez studied Creative Writing at the University of California, Santa Cruz. He writes reviews, prose and filthy limericks. While he is Orange County born, he now resides in Portland, OR. He is still wondering what it would be like to work at a real police department. Follow Kalvin on Twitter @freepartysubs
Kalvin Martinez

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Gaming Illustrated RATING



Severed offers a truly unique gameplay experience with plenty of complexity and magnificently done gesture based sword play.


Severed looks amazing with an eye catching visual style that pops with color.


The soundtrack is a good fit for the style of gameplay and visuals. You'll feel properly amped to explore the game's dungeons thanks to the tunes.


Sasha's journey to reclaim her family in a twisted fantasy world is highly compelling and full of intriguing ancillary characters that make you wonder what reality she truly is in.

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