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.


Enslaved Odyssey to the West: A great but flawed gem

I never finished my first play through of Ninja Theory’s Enslaved Odyssey to West: It’s niggles & frustrations just got too much for me, despite me really enjoying the journey tale of main characters Monkey and Trip.

Last weekend, I decided to reinstall it on Steam and make my way through it again. I’m really glad I did. Sure, the niggles & frustrations are still annoying me from time to time but I’ve put those aside to focus on the story and the relationship that develops between the two lead characters. That’s the really stellar thing about the game: The relationship.

The game takes place in an apocalyptic world 150 years into the future where robots still present the biggest challenge and danger and very few humans exist anymore. The world is one full of danger at almost every turn.

One of the game’s biggest strengths is its combat, which while relatively simplistic, sees monkey battle a variety of mechanical beasts using a staff that can not only bash the shite out of foes but can fire plasma bolts that can stun and blast enemies. Chain enough hits and Monkey can perform a takedown move which will short circuit larger foes. The story is written by Alex Garland, the same writer behind one of my favourite movies, Dredd, and features Andy Serkis (he who did the motion capture work and voice of Gollum in the Lord of the Rings movies) and Lindsey Shaw.

I think what really sells me on Enslaved is the developing relationship between Monkey and Trip and the emotions that develop as their bond grows and the pair learn to trust each other and work together. It’s a game that treats its players like mature adults not reliant on clichés and gimmicks to move the narrative along. There was some DLC released featuring a character called Piggy but I haven’t got that yet. Maybe I might pick it up.

Sometimes, taking a break between playing a game can make you enjoy it more the second time around. That’s definitely the case with Enslaved Odyssey to the West. Hopefully, Ninja Theory might decide to make a sequel. I’d pay to play that.