Rating: An immersive and captivating visual journey.
Seldom does a game come along with the sole intention of changing the way you think, and let’s be honest, when they do they often miss the mark. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice has gone to GREAT lengths to make sure they don’t fall into that trap.
Hellblade sees you take on the role of Senua, a celtic warrior exposed to Norse beliefs and mythology. Your role as the player is to journey with Senua in her tragic struggle with severe psychosis, acting as another part of her already crowded mind.
Instantly you feel the pressure, and a strong connection to Senua.
At a glance, it might be easy to mistake Hellblade as another action/adventure game but the reality is that this plays such a small part in the game. If action is what you want, this isn’t for you- jog on. It’s your loss though. What you get instead is a tense and exciting visual thriller. And wow is it tense. Early on in the game you are informed that failing too often allows the “darkness” (essentially, Senua’s psychosis) to consume you and the journey is over. Done. No save files to load. Permadeath. Instantly you feel the pressure, and a strong connection to Senua. Every battle, every puzzle, every mistake has consequences for you as well as the character, and adds a whole new dimension to the game.
The tension doesn’t stop there though. Oh no. It’s taken to a whole new level by the talent of the acting team, and the graphic detail to back it up. The torment of Senua feels so real with every pained scream and facial distortion, involving the player in a way which is bound to make them feel uncomfortable yet building an even stronger connection, allowing the player to not only suspend disbelief, but completely shatter it.
Now, just because this is no action/adventure game, it doesn’t mean it is absent of any combat sequences. Although they are few and far between, they are smooth and satisfying with some amazing animations. Every fallen enemy feels like a real victory as opposed to a disconnected hack’n’slash. You feel the adrenaline and ready to take on the whole GOD DAMN WORLD. COME AT ME BRO. Well, it does. As soon as you start to feel comfortable with the battle system, Hellblade turns it up a notch and in no time you’ll be facing off against 15ft tall giants with double axes, jumping at you from the other side of the map. It’s a comfortable progression though, no extreme difficulty spikes. It’s all part of creating an experience which you don’t feel disconnected from at any point.
It’s all part of creating an experience which you don’t feel disconnected from at any point.
You can tell this has been a real labour of love from Ninja Theory (the team that also created Enslaved). Every detail has been about creating the most accurate portrayal of psychosis. All made possible due to the support of many medical professionals and consultants, as well as input and direction from sufferers of the illness itself. Yes the team made a game, but what they really wanted to create was an experience. And the passion involved in the project is backed up by the inclusion of a behind the scenes documentary. Not only did Ninja Theory want to accurately portray the often misrepresented issue, they wanted players to understand what all the details meant and why they were included.
This is a must-have to any gamer’s collection and with a story of only around 8-10 hours long, there is no excuse for anyone not to give it a go.