Review by Vick97

Reviewed: 08/21/17

Mind Games

The great thing about games are the way that they are able to tell interesting stories. They are able to take interesting concepts and present them in a way that no other entertainment medium is able to. This is exactly what Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice excels at doing. At the very beginning of the game you are greeted by a dark and dreary landscape that is filled with death and despair. You are also shown the first opening credits of the game which belong to a mental health adviser and a historical adviser. This opening credit gives you a good idea as to the care that was put into this well-crafted experience.

Hellbade: Senua’s Sacrifice is more than just your average game. Its more akin to character study, a deep dive into the mind of an individual with psychosis. Now it is important to state that this subject matter was treated with great respect throughout. You can tell that this game was created to educate just as much as it is meant to entertain.

Senua’s story is one that is better left shown, rather than told, but with that being said there are some details that can be shared. Senua is a Celtic woman who is steeped in the world of Norse mythology. This mythology is laced around the world you inhabit while also getting the opportunity to hear classic Norse stories, if you desire to. Senua’s story unravels like a visual novel, and is captured beautifully with some of the best motion capture work I’ve witnessed to date. This, alongside some astounding light and weather aspects in the game, definitely make it one of the most graphically impressive experiences I’ve gotten to take part in. There is no mini-map in Hellblade either, just Senua in her environment as it unfolds. This adds to the experience by immersing you into her world, and makes it feel fully realized and believable. This added believability helps you become emotionally attached to the Senua, as she experiences her trials and tribulations throughout her journey.

Senua’s harrowing tale of struggle and adversity is one that is definitely captivated by smart nuanced gameplay mechanics. The game uses audio and visual tricks to really immerse you into the mind of a character of psychosis. This allowed you to work out some interesting puzzles throughout the game, in which you find interesting patterns in the natural world. Whether it was seeing walls vanish at a second glance or seeing specters throughout the woods, the game definitely uses these tactics to keep the player on their toes. There are also no health bars or written hints for you in the game either, these are instead replaced by the many voices that take place in Senua’s head. You hear them continually throughout her journey while they constantly add input to whatever the player is doing in the game. Whether they are contradicting or questioning every action you perform in the game, or simply making astute observations on your surroundings. These voices added a level of tension throughout the game that will make even the most seasoned players uneasy. The feeling of having individuals constantly over your shoulder questioning what you’re doing slowly chisels away at you as you play leaving you questioning your own actions as a player.

With this game being developed by Ninja Theory, one would expect this game to be steeped with arcade hack and slash action like DMC, but sadly this is not the case. The camera is placed directly over the shoulder of Senua, and it does not give the player much room to breathe. This does add a welcoming level of tension to the rather shallow combat mechanics, and makes the brief encounters feel dangerous each time. The combat given to you with a few simple actions that include a light attack, a heavy attack, a dodge, a block, and a stun. There aren’t any very stylish combos throughout and the same 5 enemy types are given to you throughout your journey at scripted moments in time. Needless to say I was never surprised by a combat section, because it is telegraphed as you are approaching it. While the feeling of Senua swinging here sword does feel good, towards the end of the game it becomes quite repetitive. Luckily these combat portions are small in the game, and won’t take up too much of your time, so you can get back to exploring the intriguing contents of this world.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is an interesting game unlike any Ninja Theory has developed thus far. It gives a compelling and thought provoking narrative, that is going to stick with me for a while. Although the combat may be a bit disappointing, the subject matter is handled and executed in such an interesting way, that I find it hard to give this game anything less than a ringing endorsement.

Rating:   4.0 - Great

Product Release: Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice (US, 08/08/17)

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