Game Review: Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice

For those of you who haven’t heard of this game, please take a moment to view the amazingly epic trailer above.

There is a lot of different reasons why I love this video game.  I’m going to make a list.

  1. It features a Pict as the main character and while it stretches the religion of the Norse, it doesn’t really break it.  The myths themselves are accurate and portrayed fairly well within the context of the game.  The Norse are the ‘bad guys’ in so much as they are the ones who caused the events that set off the story that you play in the game.  The Norse themselves are absent from the game itself.
  2. The graphics were stunning, but what made those graphics so amazing is that the game was actually acted.  The graphics are CGI, but the animations are motion captured and boy does it show.  This is one of the few games where it felt like the characters were actual people, and not something created to behave like people.  The eyes are what usually break that illusion and in this game, they eyes are nigh on perfect.
  3. This game explores mental illness.  The creators actually studied mental illness and had a group of people who actually experience mental illness who consulted on the gameplay and effects.  It explores it in a way that doesn’t pass judgement on those who suffer from these things, but as a way to show folks what these people deal with on a daily basis.  I have yet to find a game that addresses mental illness in a similar way.
  4. It is a shamanistic journey.  Outside of the mental illness aspects, this is a story of a woman going on a journey to save her loved one.  It hits several basic core aspects of shamanism and mysticism in varying different ways.  Combine that with the nordic mythology and it’s no wonder why this game is one of my favorites.
    The puzzles were fun and engaging.  Each area required you to think a little differently, yet still allowed you to utilize the skills you had gained in the previous areas.
  5. There are no levels in this game, so you didn’t have to worry about skill trees or equipment.  You immersed yourself into this world and just enjoyed the ride.  It was fantastic.  I didn’t have to worry about character build, the story told you all you needed to know.

It’s not open world, so there is certainly a specific path you had to take, but the story it wove made up for the more ridged outline.  It couldn’t have told the story with the same depth and engagement without giving you a little nudge every now and then.

They added a mechanic where there was a possibility of losing your game saves if you died too much.  I died a LOT and never lost the saves, so I don’t know what that threshold was but it was more than should be needed for sure.

If there was one complaint I had about the game and that was the fighting mechanics.  Senua is slow, and the monsters are fast.  That is okay but it means that in order to beat the fighting scenes you spend most of your time doing two things, dodging the incoming hit, and then following through with a slash of your sword.  No matter what you are fighting, that is pretty much the totality of the combat mechanics.  There is also no way to change target focus until you are hit, or you just so happen to hit the monster on your way to your current target.  It’s not a game killer, but it’s certainly less than ideal.  Luckily the combat was balanced by the puzzles, so in the end the clunky combat didn’t take up the majority of the game.

10/10  I would HIGHLY recommend this game.

Once you have completed your play through make sure to check out the little trailer included with the game, it goes into more detail with how the game was made and the various consultants that they had to make sure it was as true to life as they could make it.  Just be certain to do it AFTER you finish the game as it contains spoilers.