First things first, I absolutely loved Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.
Okay, now to review it…
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice follows a young Celtic woman as she travels to save her lover’s soul from the grasp of the Viking goddess, Hela, and release him to the Celt version of the afterlife.
What makes Hellblade so unique is that Senua suffers from mental illness. She experiences hallucinations, delusions, hears voices and more.
It is suggested that players use headphones so that they can hear the voices in Senua’s head. It is a suggestion that I fully support, as the experience is one you won’t soon forget.
There were times when I was playing that the voices just overwhelmed me. I couldn’t focus on the fight because the voices were too distracting to ignore. They were always with me. Every minute of the game, each step of Senua’s journey, the voices were there.
Towards the end of the game, I found myself relying on the voices, following their advice in battle and to solve puzzles. It began to feel as if they were a vital part of Senua’s mind and how she processed the world and of my journey with her.
Mental illness is still very much a taboo subject in our world. It is commendable that Ninja Theory was willing not only to tell this story, but to consult with both professionals and with people who had firsthand experience with mental illness.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice gives the player a glimpse into the world of mental illness, by allowing them to experience in some small way what these people must live with.
There are moments when Senua will turn and look directly at you, the player, as if you are just another voice in her head. It’s really interesting to think of yourself as just another thing that Senua has to deal with, even as you are helping her fulfill her quest.
The scenery is just as amazing as the story. From beautiful beaches and stunning fields of flowers to the horrific landscape of Hel with it’s endless masses of bodies writhing in endless suffering.
As for game play, I chose to play on Normal which worked out well for me. The puzzles are sufficiently difficult and really made you think about how you interacted with the world as you worked to solve them.
There are rune stones throughout the game that, when you interact with them, tell stories of the Viking heroes and gods. Honestly, these rune stones were sometimes a welcome relief to the darkness of the game and made it easier to continue playing.
While I enjoyed the soundtrack, the music sometimes would end abruptly, which felt disjointed and weird. I would love to listen to the entire soundtrack straight through, without the distraction of game play, and see what I think afterwards. Regardless, the musical element worked well in this game.
If I had one complaint of this game, it would be that combat was oftentimes unwieldy.
Having come directly from playing Star Wars Jedi: Fallen Order and it’s brilliant combat system (complete with blocking, dodging, and the ability to turn off auto-lock), it was really difficult for me to get a handle on combat in Hellblade.
It is fun to battle with the gods, though, so I was willing to suffer through the combat… although I did not restrain myself from verbally berating the game and Senua when things didn’t go my way, lol.
Ultimately, I feel like Hellblade is worth every minute you spend in-game. It is a compelling story told from a unique point-of-view that makes you wonder what is real and what is imagined as you aid Senua on her quest.
Stats (for nerds):
Title: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Developer: Ninja Theory
Genre: Action, Horror
Trophy difficulty: Easy