Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice has you play in a Norse/Celtic-inspired setting as Senua, a young woman who’s on a mission to rescue her dead partner’s soul from Helheim.
The already-grim subject matter is heightened by the fact that Senua is suffering from psychosis and the decision to include such a severe mental condition as part of the game was was definitely a bold decision by the studio.
It’s not easy to include such sensitive subject matter in a game so how did Ninja Theory manage it?
- Excellent Visuals
- Engaging story
- AAA-esque production
- Repetitive puzzles
- Too easy
- Lack of enemy variety
Firstly, I recommend playing this game with headphones on as the voices will echo in both ears. At times, the psychosis makes for an incredibly unsettling experience that will also distract you from the task at hand. While it’s not something that could be called “fun”, it does offer a level of incredibly tense engagement I’ve never experienced with any other game.
The game is incredibly bleak so it may not be everyone’s tastes. There are few moments of levity throughout the entire experience and although this isn’t necessarily a horror game, it will no doubt leave you feeling tense and uncomfortable.
The peaceful moments, though few and far between, help to establish the characters and give the player some time to breathe and relax. It’s a simple technique, but it does help stop the subject matter from being overwhelming.
Incredibly strong visuals help sell the cold dark setting of Hellblade and the character design of Senua is outstanding. The writing is also top-notch and, for me, Senua is one of the best character performances I’ve ever seen in a game.
As you move through the world, you’ll face a combination of combat and puzzle sections. While there isn’t that much combat, these sections are rather good. There’s a weight behind your movement that’s often forgotten about in games with a greater focus on fighting.
Unfortunately, the puzzles aren’t as well executed as the combat. Throughout the game, you’ll see the same puzzle ideas used a few times and while they aren’t that bad, they often feel like they’re padding out the length of the game.
I like a good puzzle, but seeing the same idea for the third or fourth time started to break my immersion in the world and story that Ninja Theory had so wonderfully crafted. However, I have to add that this is me desperately looking for complaint and it never came remotely close to ruining the game for me.
Despite a couple of minor flaws, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice stands out as an example of what an incredibly experienced and ambitious team can do when they have complete creative control. The game deals with some sensitive subject matter that may put some people off but it’s very tastefully done and I’m glad they stuck to their vision as I believe it’s one of the best action-adventure games ever made.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was developed by Ninja Theory and is available on PC, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch.