Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice Review

Introduction

Hellblade is an action adventure game that was developed and published by Ninja Theory for consoles and PC in 2017.

Review

How far would you go to save a loved one? Would you walk through hell? Would you sacrifice yourself if that’s what was needed? Senua has taken on the heavy task of travelling to the realm of Helheim to rescue the soul of her beloved, Dillion. But in order to do that, she needs to offer something up to be able to cross the bridge to the realm of the dead.

The game takes place during Norse mythology, which honestly I did not know. Senua has psychosis and mental illness, which makes her struggle through the entire journey. Throughout the game, you hear the voices in her head, arguing back and forth. One side saying she can do it, the other side telling her to give up because she’s a failure. You see her tackle the fight with it all and slip further into darkness. I thoroughly enjoyed the depiction of it all. As it helped really show the true struggles of mental health. One slip and you’re further in a hole you’re digging for yourself. It’s not always your fault either.

In the game you learn that she ran away from her village to go survive in the wilderness and try to fight her demons. You learn bits and pieces, but it never truly delves deep into it all. One of my favourite things in the game was that you can find rune stones. If you interact with these, you learn more about the lesser known Norse gods, like Tyr for example. Or Fafnir and his battle against Sigurd. Not often do Norse related media dig deep into things like this. As they stick to more mainstream names, like Loki and Thor and so on. I absolutely loved every story aspect of the game. They even pair up actual live action actors into the game in such a seamless way in some cutscenes.

The game sort of plays like a walking sim, with small sections of combat. At least until you get to the end of the game, where the last stretch really turned action heavy. But when you’re not in combat, you’re walking on a pretty linear path, until you get to open sections where some light puzzle solving is required. This was all mostly laid back, except for a few areas of the game which really took me out of the experience. As in one section you’re meant to be “stealthy” as you run from a flame, but if it sees you, you have to hope you pick the right paths in this maze you’re running through, or else you’re dead.

When you die, the game has a mechanic where “the rot”, which is a disease of darkness, takes Senua over more. So the game tries to tell you, if you die too much, Senua will be completely overtaken and you’ll lose all progress. Except it’s not true. I died a whole lot in some combat sections, to the point that Senua’s entire right arm was overtaken, only for it to then be in only her hand again. So it kind of took away from some of the “scare factor” of the game.

The combat is very slow. In some sections you’ll have a few enemies that appear that you have to fight, and you have to learn their attack pattern, and learn when to parry their attacks to get attacks in for yourself. This was so fun to get used to, but at the same time, the game is very generous with the timing needed to parry enemy attacks. This is where the voices in Senuas head were a nice addition to the game. As the game has a minimalistic HUD. So there’s literally nothing on screen. The worst it gets is “blood” around the edges when you’re taking damage. But when enemies around you are about to attack, the voices warn you. So you can dodge or parry. 

Now I found this combat system worked when you only had to fight maybe six enemies in an encounter. But by the end of the game, you are fighting waves and waves of enemies. With how slow and methodical the combat is, it just didn’t work. So here you are fighting twenty enemies, and if you screw up even slightly, you have to restart the encounter. When Senua takes too much damage, she gets knocked down. You can then mash everything on the controller to get a second wind. But this makes your attacks and movements incredibly slow, which makes sense and is an awesome mechanic to show you’re incredibly hurt and on the precipice of death. But when there’s five enemies around you, it can be a bit of a pain. So you have to wait until you heal, by not taking damage for a certain amount of time, before you can truly start attacking again. There’s also no combo system in the game. So you can attack with a light attack, heavy attack, or in the odd needed case, kick something to put it off balance. So when you start meeting bigger enemies, they just become more of a pain because they take more basic hits to kill, and there’s no super combo to end them. So when the game is throwing everything and the kitchen sink at you, I was more aggravated than excited. But I feel you shouldn’t do that if you have a slow combat system. It sure felt good when you got it done though.

Rating

Rating: 8 out of 10.

Pros:

  • Excellent Lore To Less Talked About Norse Legends
  • Great Look At Mental Illness
  • Great Story
  • Rewarding Combat

Cons:

  • Some Areas That Feel Out Of Place
  • Combat Encounters With Waves Of Enemies
  • The Rot System Was Pointless

Summary

Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice was a bigger journey than I expected it to be. The deep look into mental health is really well done to show how people can struggle. The less known Norse Legends are talked about so long as you find lore stones. The combat is fun and rewarding until the end game. The game is all around a damn near perfect package. I cannot wait until the sequel hits now! I also highly recommend this game if you haven’t played it.

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Game & Developer Information

Developer/Publisher Website: Ninja Theory
Developer/Publisher Socials: Twitter
PSN Store Links: £24.99/€29.99 Europe / $29.99 North America
Trophy Information: 15. 40-platinum 1 / Gold 9 / Silver 5 / Bronze 0

Images – https://www.igdb.com/

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – Official Trailer | PS4

Published by oniwalker

Co-owner of NodeGamers(dot)com. Reviewer and Guide Writer. I'll play just about anything as I cry about my backlog!

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