Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice – Xbox One Review
It is said sometimes that the gameing industry has gotten a little stale, that we get clone after clone of the same game. Well Ninja Theory is here to prove that there is still innovation in the gaming industry. Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice is like nothing that you have played before.
Right at the start of the game you are told that for the best experience to play the game is with headphones on and you should certainly do this. The main protagonist Senua, is plagued by mental health issues due to the extreme loss that has led her to the land of the dead, Helheim. This means that there are voices racing through her mind, offering you criticism, encouragement, advice and also misleading information. All in all it can be an overwhelming experience that does not make for a relaxing time.
The story is one that is both harrowing and touching. It is told through both the hallucinations that Senua suffers and also the touchstones that you find around the world. Sometimes you may miss a touchstone and have to backtrack to find it which can give the story a disjointed feeling which only heightens the sense of confusion that the game makes you feel.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice has no tutorial and thus, you must work out everything for yourself. This title doesn’t hold your hand but you do get hints and clues both from the environment and the voices in your head. This can feel a little jarring at first but soon it becomes second nature to look for the clues that you need to complete whatever task that you have to complete.
For the main part this is a puzzle game that has its puzzles broken up by the occasional bout of combat. The puzzles aren’t too complicated when you work out the mechanism that you need to follow to complete it. As the game progresses new mechanisms are added so that you never feel overwhelmed by what you have to do but there is also no periods of stagnation that can leave you bored. The pacing of progression feels perfect and you always feel like you are both achieving and striving for something. Often a puzzle can seem a little confusing at first but there are often portals that reveal the world in a different way and if you view it right then the path that you need to take becomes obvious.
The combat gives you a little bit of relief from solving puzzles and is a smooth and satisfying experience. The enemies come at you in waves and once you get the hang of the blocking and attacking mechanisms you shouldn’t have too much of a problem with it. The enemies are varied and well designed and you will have to use different tactics to defeat the different kinds meaning that you have to mix up how you fight and think about what you are doing all of the time. There is no radar or minimap in the game meaning that you have to rely on the voices in your head warning you about enemies behind you. They can also sometimes mislead you. On one occasion we heard a voice telling us that “she must run, she needs to run” so we tried to run away from the area and avoid the combat but this wasn’t possible, instead we ran ourselves into a corner that we had to fight our way out of.
The combat also has real consequence, this game has permadeath. Every time you die your body rots a little more. The rot will spread throughout your entire body and when it finally reaches your head the game is well and truly over and your progress is lost. This means that Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice basically has a lives system like the old school games of our childhood.
At the end of each section there is also a boss that can be intimidating due to their image and size but once again, once you work out there moves and patterns they shouldn’t be too much of a problem as long as you are patient. The bosses are a work of art and if they weren’t trying to kill you then they would be a sight to behold.
The whole game world is beautiful and well constructed. The backgrounds will often make you stop and marvel at them and the immediate world will draw you in with it’s beauty. The same can be said for the animation which is also seamlessly blended with real life actors. This is done incredibly well and is a testament to the love that has gone into the creation of this game. The voice acting is also always superb with no lines feeling forced and no part of the script feels forced or surplus to requirements.
The only real issue that we have with the game is the viewpoint that you get. This is a third person game that has the camera placed in a slightly strange angle over Senua’s shoulder. This felt a little wrong at first but we soon got used to it and it didn’t really take away from the experience.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is an incredible game if a little short. The length of it is probably perfect as it leaves you wanting more rather than dragging on.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is available to download from the Microsoft Store, priced at £24.99.