HELLBLADE: SENUA'S SACRIFICE
By Diana "DumeeGamer" Dumee on April 16, 2018
From the very first time I saw a trailer for Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, I just knew I had to play this game. The girl in the trailer was looking so fierce and bad ass and she was slaying all kinds of evil looking monsters! Plus, the game looked really, really, REALLY good. No surprise, because it is developed by Ninja Theory, the same studio that brought us games like Heavenly Sword and Enslaved Odyssey to the West! Who doesn't want to play a game like that?! Exactly... Count me in!
But alas, as these things sometimes come to transpire, I missed out on the game's original release in August of last year and kind of forgot about it. Well, I say forgot, but that's not entirely true. It would cross my mind from time to time, but I never got around to actually playing it. Lucky for me, the Xbox One version of this grim and foreboding adventure was released just a few days ago and I finally got a chance to play the game I had been excited to try for so long!
I started my adventure by boat or, to be more precise, a short hollowed out tree trunk that served as my boat. While floating on a calm river through breathtaking landscapes, I realize that something's amiss. it is almost too quiet. The intro is beautiful, intense and disturbing all at the same time. Your surroundings get more and more eerie as you drift along the river. It is also a very informative intro, because the names and titles of the development team are shown along the bank. And, to complete the picture, at least three different voices are heard talking to you and about you. So, to sum it all up, I daresay the intro is nothing short of impressive!
Senua is searching for her beloved Dillion. He has been sacrificed to Hela, daughter of Loki. But Senua wants him back, so she has to face Hela. Now, this may present a tiny problem, because Hela chose Hell as her comfy home. And, as our good friend Sean Bean would say; One does not simply walk into Hell! No sir, blood has to be spilled, and spilled quite a lot, in order to open the door to Hell! So, let's go forth and spill some, shall we?
It soon becomes clear that Senua suffers from psychosis. To bring this concept to life as realistically as possible, the team has called in the help of real-life psychologists and mental coaches. As a way to thank these people and to help those who suffer from similar conditions, the development team will donate a certain amount of money to Mental Health America. I think the developers did their job very well. As I mentioned earlier, the intro is so eerie and disturbing and you'll hear several voices whispering and talking. You just know that something isn't right. And the coolest part is that Senua doesn't always respond to the voices, it's you who's hearing them all the time.
During her quest, Senua gets infected by rot, which leads me to the side of the game that makes it really tricky. Each time you fail a battle, the rot will spread across your arm. When it reaches your head, you will die and all progress will be lost, meaning you'll have to start all over again! Blast, this game won't be very forgiving when it comes to making mistakes! Are you kidding me? I mean, trial and error is my preferred learning style! So, in other words, I'm toast! But, to restore the balance a bit, the game offers the possibility to configure the controls the way they suit you best. So you can't blame the control scheme for your mistakes. And, just a little tip from me to you; make sure you remember to use your focus, it can be a big help during combat, because it will slow time, giving you the chance to do some real damage.
Especially for someone like me, Hellblade presents a tricky concept. I'm loving the art and the gameplay but, every step of the way, I'm dreading the moment that I fail one too many times and have to start all over again! Plus, normally when I have too much trouble with a game, I'll quit and try it later. Or I decide it's not my kind of game and never play it again. But there's something about Hellblade that kept me going, despite the difficulties I had from time to time. For me, the main reason for this persistence is definitely Senua; she's is a special character. She's is not a heavily armed hero who saves the day. Quite the opposite, actually; she's a young woman who is trying to find the one she loves while, at the same time, dealing with all the confusing stuff that's going on in her mind. You can easily connect to her, because she has a goal and has to overcome all kinds of obstacles, both physical and mental.
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice combines all the best traits of a walking sim, entwined with cool combat action and clever puzzles. The combat is relatively easy when you manage to evade or block the first attack of your enemies, but evading/blocking exactly at the right time is easier said than done and takes some finesse. Once you get the hang of it, the combat is truly worthwhile and you feel awesome when you have defeated a couple of enemies that decided to attack you simultaneously. But, no matter how much I liked the combat, the puzzles in Hellblade are really my cup of, albeit slightly disturbing, tea.
At certain points in the game you'll need to search for rune symbols in the world around you. You'll need these symbols to open magically sealed doors. Be sure to keep a keen eye on the environment. Maybe some trees will form a symbol, if you look at them just right? Light, shadows, blood, fire, everything around you can be part of the puzzle at hand. And, let's be honest, just simply walking around and searching for symbols is already a treat in the amazing looking world of Hellblade. except when it gets very dark, spooky and dangerous. If that happens, then this brave little princess is in definite need of the comforting safety of her pillow fortress!
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is an amazing game and I had a blast playing it. But boy, oh boy, this is a hard nut to crack and you will constantly be nervously checking the rot on Senua's arm, because you don't want to see "game over" before you reach the proverbial finish line. This fact is constantly breathing down your neck, but you have to stay cool during combat so you can time your evades and blocks right. The concept of permadeath and the game's features individually are not that uncommon, but it's the combination that makes this game outstanding! Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice offers you nothing less than stunning graphics, a near-perfect combination of several gaming elements and last but not least; an awesome leading lady!
HELLBLADE: SENUA'S SACRIFICE
August 8, 2017 (PC / PS4)
April 11, 2018 (Xbox One)