Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice: A trip into the mind

I took the plunge over the weekend and pre-ordered Ninja Theory’s Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice from Steam (it’s also available on PS4). It cost me $35.99, not unreasonable for a game from a studio known for games like Enslaved Odyssey to the West,  Heavenly Sword and the DmC (Devil may Cry).

While I’m not usually a fan of pre-ordering games – I don’t think it’s a practice we should encourage – I was OK with this one. It was from a developer whose games I have enjoyed in the past and with Hellblade, Ninja Theory is trying something different by tackling the difficult subject of mental health.

Plus, it’s only available digitally, meaning no manufacturing costs and it it was only $35. I would have been less sure of taking the risk on it if it had been $60. Or $100 (and to show how tight I am about how much I spend on games: I went with PC because it was cheaper than on PlayStation 4, despite the fact that my PC’s graphics card fell under the recommended specs).

The game unlocked on Steam this morning and I started downloading it before I left for work.

This isn’t a review: I’ve only played it for about 1/2 an hour and haven’t even touched the sides of what the game is but so far it’s a harrowing tale into the mind of Senua, a young warrior battling with her inner demons in a game steeped in Nordic and Celtic mythology. It’s game world is dark and gritty, with a real sense of uncertainty about what is going on, and the game play is a mix of combat (with fast and heavy strikes), with Senua squaring off against the manifestations (and voices) in her head, and simple environmental puzzles that shouldn’t stump you if you know what you’re looking for.

Early on in the game, Senua fights a battle that is unwinnable but is infected by black tendrills on one of her arms from that point players are told that the tendrills will spread with each failure (I take that to mean with each in game death) and once the tendrills reach her head, it’s game over and the game starts you from the beginning, wiping your save game. I take that to mean if you die too many times, the game imposes permadeath on you, forcing you back to the beginning. It’s a bold move by Ninja Theory but one that was perhaps done to make Senua’s fight with her demons that more real and permanent.

Graphically, the game looks really nice with a moody atmosphere and harrowing sound design. I needn’t have worried about my GPU, either: Using the high graphics presets, I’m getting a stable 35 to 40 frames per second. The game actually started the game with the graphics presets at Very High by default, which still game me a pretty solid 30FPS, with the odd dip here and there. I’m happy with that performance given the age of my GPU.

Ninja Theory reckons Hellblade is between six to eight hours in length: Suits me. My time for gaming these days is precious so experiences that are short and sweet are just what I’m after.

I’m intrigued by Hellblade and what Ninja Theory are doing. I’ll let you know how I find it once I’ve gone deeper into the rabbit hole.

 

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