Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
August 8th, 2017
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice intrigued me enough to drop the $30 to buy the game off of steam and give it a shot. The fact that it was being advertised at only 8 hours didn’t turn me away, since the price was right, I could knock it out in a week. I am not disappointed in my choice in getting this game. The game was fantastic and well worth the purchase price in my view. In fact, I’ll go out there and say that it’s a must play game.
Hellblade is made by Ninja Theory who are better known for making Devil May Cry and Heavenly Sword. This time though, they decided to self publish Hellblade, stepping into the indie category. Not only that, the main character, Senua, suffers from psychosis, where she not only has voices in her head, but also sees things that aren’t there. Ninja Theory approached this sensitive subject by working with neuroscientists and people who suffer from psychosis to accurately portray the mental illness.
In order to do this, they used binaural audio to portray the several voices that live in your head. They recommend at the beginning to wear headphones, and that is an absolute must. This allows the narrator to talk in your left ear, as well as making the voices mean so much more as they bounce around your head. This isn’t annoying like Navi yelling Hey! Listen!, but rather really helps bring you into being Senua.
This is accentuated by the phenomenal acting of Senua, which was captured using real time motion capture, allowing them to see in real time what the motion capture actor looked like in the game, fully modeled. The emotions Senua portrays is very well done, and you can see the pain she is going through as she travels to Viking Hell to save the soul of her dead lover. Several cutscenes are littered throughout the game where she goes through visions, sees people from her past talking to her, some of which help guide her on her quest.
When you are not in a cutscene and are instead actually playing the game, you do a lot of walking. Majority of the game is in fact just walking. It’s when you are walking that most of the voices talk to you. The rest of the time you are either in combat or solving puzzles. The combat is fluid as a lot of fun. You have a light attack, heavy attack, kick for breaking blocks and such, block, and evade. Time the block right and you can counter attack, or use your focus to slow down time. Not only does focus slow down time, but it can also make enemies that have gone into a wraith like form, where you can’t hit them but they can hit you, and turn them back into physical form. Boss battles are challenging and the amount of enemies increase as the game progresses. These battles, while fun and challenging, are few and far between. The puzzles that you face also take various forms. Some involve you finding Norse runes in the environment, while others have you looking through gates to change the environment. The puzzles can be challenging at times and you run around looking to line everything up just right and figure out how to get to certain areas.
A lot has been made recently of a permadeath in the game where if you die enough, the game will erase your save. PCGamesN put this to the test, and wasn’t able to trigger this permadeath. Throughout my playthrough I died despite my best efforts. Some from figuring out exactly how to tackle a certain challenge or what all my abilities were, but mostly just because I suck. As the rot grew up my arm, which the game states that if it reaches your head it will trigger the permadeath, I noticed it sometimes didn’t really grow. In fact, I believe that is just a system used by Ninja Theory to get you to take your life seriously, to push you further into the head of the mentally ill Senua.
On that note, what are my final thoughts of the game after ALL the walking, multiple deaths, solving puzzles and slaying beasts? Like I said earlier, this is a must play game. In fact, this game tops my list of games I’ve played this year. It’s a trippy experience that must be experienced. The story pulls you through this game, combined with the visuals and audio, this game becomes more art than game. Its an interactive mini-series that tackles mental illness with finesse to create a compelling AAA game. If there’s one anime I can’t recommend enough, it’s Erased, and this game has me feeling the same way. So put you headphones on, crank the volume up, and dive into the visceral experience knowing that according to the internet…I Beat It First.
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- Binaural Audio that brings you into Senua's head
- Fantastic Graphics
- Engaging Combat
- Phenominal Story
- Clever Puzzles
- Low Price ($30)
- Short (~7-8 hours)
- ALL the walking, minimal action