Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: Ninja Theory
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is an atmospheric adventure experience that journeys into madness.
You play as a viking warrior named Senua, and you are trying to save the soul of your lover from the clutches of the underworld. You hear voices in your head and they intensify, and grow more frequent; the psychosis gets more and more severe, the deeper into Helheim you go. I don’t want to give any spoilers, but the story is outstanding. I loved the way the story developed, and I was fascinated by the Norse mythology.
Hellblade is a very interactive experience. A lot of the gameplay throughout Hellblade is walking around, climbing, exploring, watching cinematics, and listening to dialog. There are also several pseudo-puzzles where you’ll need to match up patterns with their corresponding shapes in the actual environment. I don’t really consider them puzzles, but rather more like eye-spy’s. I didn’t mind the mechanic for the most part, but it gets repetitive.
There are extended periods where you will not encounter any enemies at all, but there is a significant amount of combat throughout the game. Very early on in the game, you die, and the darkness takes hold of you, and every time you die, this rot of darkness spreads further. The game tells you that when the rot gets to your head, that you will die permanently. This perceived threat of permadeath is ever present, and it makes the combat feel very intense and quite enjoyable.
The frequency of combat increases as the game progresses. The combat system is very simple, but I still found it extremely satisfying. The combat is fast-paced, and does require some timing. All of the attacks are clearly choreographed, so it’s just a matter of learning what to expect and reacting accordingly. You only have two attacks, light and heavy, and then you can dodge or block. A well-timed block allows you parry and swiftly counter attack the enemy. As the game progresses, more enemy types are introduced, and the number of enemies you fight at one increases.
As you fight, you build up focus. This focus allows you to activate your focus ability, which drastically slows your enemies movements. This ability is really awesome, and it’s extremely helpful when fighting multiple enemies, and is necessary for defeating some enemy types. The boss fights are crazy, and each boss encounter is completely unique, and the bosses are badass. There was one boss that I struggled with, but I think that was largely my own fault for not staying in the proper area while fighting the boss. The combat feels very intense, and the threat of death is ever present which makes it quite enjoyable.
- immensely immersive atmosphere and excellent story that keeps you enthralled from start to finish
- the graphics are stunningly gorgeous: the world as a whole is truly magnificent – everything from breathtakingly beautiful landscapes to the grotesque areas of Helheim provide a visual treat all around
- impeccable character design: the main character animations are absolutely fantastic the main protagonist looks and feels so real, and the emotions she conveys really makes you form a connection with her, and care about the characters and the events in the story
- the enemy designs are awesome, especially the gruesome and creepy-looking bosses with well choreographed attacks
- the perceived threat of permadeath is ever present, and it makes the combat feel very intense and quite enjoyable despite its simplicity (this may not be the case for some)
- soundtrack and ambience are spectacular, and the binaural audio is implemented extremely well – it feels like the voices are talking to you from different directions, and the constant voices in your head bickering amongst each other really screw with you (These voice telling you what to do, and what not to do simultaneously creating both doubt and confidence in the player giving you this perpetual state of uncertainty as you play.)
- the voice acting is terrific; the conversations feel authentic, and even though the voices in your head speak so often, they don’t feel repetitive
- performance is solid (Win10, GTX 1070, i7-6700k, 32GB RAM)
- controls are fully customizable, and there is full controller support
- combat is simplistic, and may feel repetitive at times (this won’t be an issue for some)
- repetitive “puzzles” that are more like Eye-Spy’s can get a bit tedious
The game took me about 7.5 hours to complete, but I did miss a few of the runes that tell you about some of the lore. The linear story doesn’t necessarily need to be replayed, but the game is so good that I can definitely see some people wanting to replay it.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a fantastic game and experience. Although the action increases as the game progresses, just don’t expect it to be mainly focused around combat. With that being said, I highly recommend this game to anyone looking to experience some fun, yet simple combat, an excellent, immersive story, and a gorgeous world that is sure to wow you. Hellblade is a work of art, and it has the quality of a AAA game at a very reasonable price. Hellblade is really something special. I absolutely loved the game, and frankly, I would have been perfectly ok spending a bit more on it.