Why I love: Severed's two-headed bird

The world of Severed is gorgeous, but really kind of awful. As protagonist Sasha, your arm’s been ripped off, your family is dead, and their bodies have been stolen by various monsters as keepsakes. So, yeah, everything is brightly colored and really interesting to look at, but it’s also a pretty goddamn grim situation. You’re hacking monsters to bits so you can use their eyeballs, jaws and arms to upgrade your gear. You’re wearing something’s mouth as armor (ew, god, that’s nasty) and when you’re not fighting for your life you’re crawling through worm intestines. Nobody and nothing in this land wants you there. Except, maybe, the two-headed bird.

The two-headed bird is an awkward conglomeration of teeth, neck, and feathers and isn’t shy about sharing its expectation that you’ll be dead soon. Not that it’s wrong, of course, but it’s a bit rude for it to keep showing surprise that you haven’t been eaten by something yet. It flaps in, comments on the odds of your rapidly becoming pulse-free, and flaps away again. As the game progresses, however, your survival eventually comes as a pleasant surprise for the two-headed bird and he becomes quite fond of you. He helps you navigate through the Citadel despite being quite afraid of it, and when it seems like it's time for you to go, it's clear that he'll miss you if you do.

Severed is a phenomenal game; challenging, creative, and smart. But it’s also rather heartbreaking. Its version of a happy ending is you reclaiming the corpses of your mother, father, and brother so you can lay them to their final rest. Your quest is noble, but lonely. The creatures you encounter on your search are at best indifferent to your presence and more often openly hostile towards you. Despite the constant threats to your survival, the overwhelming feeling isn’t one of fear, but of sadness. This is a very, very sad realm, its air thick with loss.

And then comes a tiny light of friendship from this bizarre little bird. He goes from being an annoyance you can’t ignore to an emotional respite  you genuinely look forward to seeing. Each new area you explore has fresh dangers in store, but your pal will be there to encourage you. His support tends more towards the sardonic than the sappy, and he’s not really much of a hugger, but his presence is comforting nonetheless. 

Other games would illustrate the two-headed bird’s feelings for you by having him join your party, or fight alongside you, or maybe even sacrifice himself to save you. But Severed is about Sasha, and this awful thing she must do by herself, and so the two-headed bird shows his friendship the only way he really can: by just being there, every step of the way, right up to the very end. However it works out, he’ll be there to bear witness so that somebody knows that Sasha tried. And maybe to scoop up any giblets that get left behind. Hey, a bird’s gotta eat.

Susan Arendt

Susan was once Managing Editor US at GamesRadar, but has since gone on to become a skilled freelance journalist, editor, producer, and content manager. She is now 1/3 of @Continuepod, 1/2 of @BeastiesLl, co-founder of @TakeThisOrg, and Apex Editor, Fluid Group.