Review by NellytheHoof
Enjoyable, but just lacking in the major areas
Senua’s Sacrifice certainly does a lot right. The graphics are great, the world design is marvellous, and the sound is something truly memorable. But it’s also lacklustre in a few too many areas.
While not a long game, it’s still padded with the same (fairly mundane) puzzles over and over again with every new area you enter, and the enemies you face quickly become repetitive. Even the few bosses on offer get used multiple times. It feels like a game that’s ram-packed with imagination in terms of plot, themes, and storytelling, but then didn’t have enough gameplay ideas to back it all up.
I took the game’s recommendation to play with headphones on, and if possible then that is certainly the way to experience it. The voices in Senua’s head become your own guardians, commentators, and taunters, and really do add a lot in terms of immersing you into the story. A story which, I might add, is wonderfully deep and emotional. The levels are designed masterfully to tell as much of the story as they can on their own through metaphor and symbolism, with the rest filled in through cut-scenes and narration.
Hellblade is a linear game, but doesn’t hold your hand through HUDs or prompts, and relies on the voices in Senua’s head to guide you as much as possible. As such, it took a while for me to get used to the combat – but when I did I actually found it to be a very enjoyable system. Unfortunately, there are times the waves and waves of enemies drag on for just a tad too long which eventually causes it to go stale. This isn’t helped by the lack of any significant developments to freshen things up, such as new foes that require different approaches, or weapons offering varying fighting styles. I also died several times in boss encounters by getting stuck outside the combat ‘arena’, and having the enemy freely attack me while I was desperately rolling around trying to regain control. The constant lock-on to enemies didn’t help here, particularly in a battle that took place in a very confined environment – meaning that I couldn’t lock-off the boss to check whereabouts I was in the zone and therefore was unaware if I was actually close to the edge or not.
Aside from the combat, the gameplay consists of very basic puzzle solving that never really changes or develops. A locked door needs certain symbols to be found before it unlocks, so you scour the environment looking for these symbols. That’s about as complicated as it gets, though a couple of novelties are added to it in certain instances. It does get tedious quickly though, and more fresh and interesting puzzles would have been welcomed.
I give full credit to Hellblade for trying something new, and its take on mental illness is handled delicately; while also interweaving with the gameplay and actually feeling like a vital element. It’s just a shame that the bread and butter – the combat and puzzles – aren’t handled as well and let the game down. It’s a game that feels like it was eager not to be labelled a walking simulator, but the gameplay that was added was so shallow that I have to feel it would have been better off just committing to one way or the other.
Rating: 3.0 - Fair
Product Release: Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice (EU, 08/08/17)
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