When you are not logged into Steam, and you try to open pages of certain games, the system will ask you for age verification. If you come across something like that, you know that the game in question is pretty dark. That’s just the case with Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, the new release created by Ninja Theory. You might know the developers from such titles like Devil May Cry and Heavenly Sword, but Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice might be the darkest game they will ever make.
Prepare for the Viking Hell
The game follows Senua, a Celtic goddess and an extremely charming character that has one goal – fight for the soul of her dead lover. The game is set in the Viking age, and our hero is about to go on a quest into Viking Hell. A journey which will be both physically and mentally exhausting.
At the very beginning, you will have the opportunity to enjoy the misty views of buildings over rotting coastlines, while birds are flying around over mountain paths. So, perhaps it’s better if we clear up one thing immediately; Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice looks breathtaking. The scenery will have you reaching for the screenshot button and sharing it immediately.
It’s Not Just a Game; It’s an Experience
Aside from looking astonishing, the scenery instantly makes a startling effect on a player. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice focuses on a narrative offering a complex and profound story that is perfectly combined with the atmosphere. I can’t say too much, but I can tell you that Senua is deeply messed up. She hears voices and even you are only one of them (it’s a rather uncomfortable moment when she becomes aware of that).
Ninja Theory consulted with experts in neuroscience, as well as people who got through psychosis, to make sure to portray her condition properly. The result is pretty dark, and you can expect a convincing story about losses and them driving you into madness. It’s almost incredible that something so deep came out from a studio with a headcount of 20 people. However, we have already seen that Ninja Theory knows how to make fantastic games.
The Biggest Fight Is In Your Mind
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice starts after Vikings raid Senua’s village and kills everybody, including her lover. The action and adventure game sets her up for a journey across familiar places from Viking mythology, such as Jötunheimr and Niflheim. While you move around the misty world that is alone enough to give you the creeps, you are also a witness to the fight happening in Senua’s mind.
Due to psychosis, she hears voices that talk about her all the time (and rarely to her). The developers admitted that they didn’t originally think of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice that way. They wanted to implement a good and evil voice, but when they talked to experts, they realized that people in psychosis experience multiple voices with them often being in a cacophony.
The amount of fear (and a bit of madness) that the game manages to create is phenomenal. Whenever Senua tries to do something, the voices argue whether she will succeed and if she is even competent for it. Try using the headphones, and you will feel like voices come directly into your ears which can be terrifying.
Senua Is a Fighter
Despite the fact that she is in a broken state of mind, Senua is a fighter with envious combat skills. The starting moments of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice focus on her skills with a sword. As for the combat system, it’s the over-the-shoulder, close method we have seen in many games. You can combine basic and more powerful attacks on the offensive front, and carry out parry and dodge actions on the defensive end.
The combat system is rather simple, but it is fun enough to keep the adventure going. It feels satisfying to swing your sword around and the times when multiple creatures attacks you will require strategy and swift movement, making it a considerable challenge even for experienced players. The voices will come to the rescue sometimes. For example, some of them will warn you with ‘behind you’ that your enemy is getting closer.
Meet the Boss
Aside from the combat itself, Senua will also have some challenging puzzles to solve. There are also occasional encounters with bosses. During my testing of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, I took on the god of fire Surtr and the god of illusion Valravn.
Once I managed to defeat the two gods, I opened the doors of hell. I can’t discover any more than that, but I can tell you that the game spices it up a notch from there and becomes even more addicting, challenging and frightening at the same time.
Mid-Sized Game with AAA Elements
Ninja Theory is modest when they talk about Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and they claim that it’s a mid-sized game. However, it undoubtedly has a bunch of AAA elements. Starting from the fact that the campaign will probably last for 9-10 hours. There is also the 4K support that the game offers, which not many indie games do.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is released on PC and PlayStation 4, but as for the latter, the PS4 Pro owners will have a special reason to celebrate because the game will use the most out of console’s possibilities. You shouldn’t worry if you have ultra-wide 21:9 screens either because Hellblade also supports that aspect ratio.
Totally Worth Buying
Overall, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice manages to deliver what the developers intended. The adventure Senua embarks on is full of action and various challenges that wait around every corner. Despite that, the primary reason why this game is incredible is the main character. The creators managed to capture her broken state of mind completely, and they presented it to the player in a way that it is easy to bond with Senua. On the other hand, the stunning graphics portray the world of Vikings brilliantly bringing the atmosphere of Viking Hell to your screens. When you combine that with all the voices that Senua keeps hearing, you’ve got yourself a whole lot of horror.
Considering that it has all the elements of an AAA title, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is not an expensive game. For the money, you are paying you to get an excellent adventure in which Senua will suck you into her world completely, and you won’t be able to leave until you help her save her dead lover’s soul and recover from psychosis. If you love this genre, make sure you also check out Assasin’s Creed Origins and the new Dishonored Expansion.