Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice Review – Disturbingly Brilliant
Ninja Theory hopes to bring the AAA experience with an indie price tag, as they both developed and published Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. It’s a noble goal, but was the team able to maintain the AAA quality they’ve become known for with the lesser price tag? Check out our Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice Review to find out!
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a deep, disturbing, and often eye-opening journey through loss, self discovery, and mental illness. The protagonist, Senua, spends much of the game battling inner demons as psychosis takes grip in a dark and unforgiving world fueled by Nordic mythology. She begins her journey with one goal: to reclaim the lost soul of her lover from the very depths of Helheim itself. And while this 8-10 hour journey may appear short to an outsider, its ability to grip and immerse you from start to finish creates an enjoyably exhausting and thrilling experience that rivals anything out of Ninja Theory’s past works.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice presents players with a cinematic experience, supported by a fantastic narrative and a fascinating take on ones journey through mental illness. It touches on areas very few games dare to tread, and does so with accuracy and understanding. Players explore the ruins of a Nordic world heavily imbued with mythology and lore, enjoying a multitude of basic, but well designed, game mechanics.
For the majority of the game, you’ll be walking – yes it’s one of those titles. However, the beautifully crafted environment and constant narrative from the voices within Senua’s head continues to excite and immerse the entire way through. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice does feature combat, and while it looks basic at first glance, it’s delivery is top class. Basic, heavy, and counter attacks act as the meat of the combat, while a restrictive camera and seriously impactful swing make it challenging, rewarding, and immersive.
Between the combat and the long walks are a number of puzzles, which are a mix of genius and utter frustration. While some puzzles focus on the merging of dimensions and the exploring of different eras, others expect you to find runic shapes in vast and detailed environments. While the former adds a good amount of depth and keeps the pacing of the game balanced between combat and exploration, the latter creates for some of the most frustratingly pointless hours of gameplay I’ve ever experienced. They are the kind of puzzles that you could just spot and solve instantly, but you could also miss the seemingly random wooden beams conjoining to make a R shadow on the floor and spend the next 20 minutes running around completely clueless.
Frustration often built to the point where I stepped away for 20 minutes to come back with a fresh perspective. More often than not, after several incidents of that nature, I’d typically walk away from a game. That’s where Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice narrative steps in to save the day.
Between her own thoughts, the impending darkness, and the voices of loved and lost ones, Senua is constantly torn in every direction. Never sure of what’s real and what’s an illusion, created to forever engulf her in darkness is never clear, even right up to the end of the game.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was just a few short steps from a masterpiece. Poorly constructed puzzles and a number of frustratingly pointless illusion mechanics seriously hinder the experience at times, but a disturbingly brilliant narrative and plot make for a truly worthwhile experience. Even now, hours after putting down the pad, the game has invoked a deep discussion between the voices in my own head – and that’s no small feat.