All-female protagonist September: Severed’s Sasha

5 mins read

Blog by Lindsay M.

I’ve been steadily making my way through Severed as September moves forward. It’s not uncommon to find me (when I should be sleeping) with my iPad in one hand while the other furiously slashes at the screen. I was stoked when Severed was released on iOS a short time after its original release on the Vita, but knowing that the protagonist was female I somehow I managed to wait to play it. It taunted me for what felt like years, the little icon sitting at the bottom of my screen screaming “play me! play me!” The wait was so worth it.

Related: Read Matt’s full review of Severed for the iPhone

Severed is played in a first-person view, so it is only when looking in the mirror that one can assume the protagonist’s gender. Sasha is a one-armed warrior trying to piece together her family. At no point is the fact that she’s a woman the least bit relevant. At no point in any game I’ve played has being a man hindered a character’s ability but often it is so for females; for a woman’s gender to be entirely irrelevant as in Severed is a breath of fresh air. Sasha lives and breathes her title of warrior. Her sole focus is rescuing each member of her family by scouring nearby dungeons, destroying all enemies in her path while gathering severed body parts to upgrade her weapons and skills.

It all sounds very gory — what with the girl cutting off body parts of her enemies — but Sasha’s world is actually quite tame, with clean shapes and a ton of bright colours. Severed is what I imagine the world looked like to the LSD-laden brains of stereotypical San Francisco 60’s hippies. Where the folks at Canadian-based DrinkBox Studios came up with the look I’m unsure. But it works. The artwork is superb and seriously worth spending some time with, yet it compliments the narrative without detracting from it.

Sasha’s journey takes her through dungeon after dungeon, each filled with monsters and requiring puzzle-solving to continue. Floor after floor, she searches for her brother, mother, father. Floor after floor, Sasha is interrupted by strange monsters with bulging eyes or far too many limbs. Each new monster has new strengths to be avoided and new weaknesses to be attacked. Sasha cannot be stopped. Her perseverance is to be admired.

At first, I struggled to know what to think about Sasha. While the world around her is saturated, Sasha feels more like a blank canvas. She shows little emotion while methodically working to complete her mission. I, on the other hand, run around in life with little aim but an abundance of emotion that overflows consistently. But as we progressed together, I came to admire Sasha’s focus. She could halt my frustrations as she showed none. She is the prime example of putting your dead down and doing what you need to do, without surrender.

There’s something fascinating about how monster parts make Sasha stronger. Again, it’s as though she’s a blank canvas until she absorbs the properties of her deceased enemies. If the result of dismemberment was more physical for Sasha it would almost be like a status symbol; instead, the changes to her strength and skills are drawn out and subtle.

I’m going to spend more time with Severed, without a doubt, regardless of whether or not the game makes an appearance in my musings again. Sasha is fascinating as a mostly unknown character, and I am wondering how much more I will learn from her over time.

– Lindsay M.
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