Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is about a Celtic warrior named Senua and her very personal and treacherous journey of discovering the fate of a loved one. While Hellblade’s combat is intense, punishing, and very strong mechanically, it’s the scarcity of it moments that make the game so special.
Before jumping into Hellblade, I thought it was going to be a lot more action-oriented. And I was fine with that sentiment. Luckily, the game wasn’t what I or most people expected, and that’s what Hellblade does best, it keeps you on your toes, never knowing what’s next, but anxiously curious and a wee-bit scared to find out. It’s pacing at its finest.
Growing as a Character, and a Player
Hellblade opens up very slow, which works out splendidly for this story-driven psychological action game. The game doesn’t hold your hand at all and there’s not an on-screen HUD at any point. All you have for guidance is the pause menu with button information. You basically begin your journey not knowing anything, yet, by the end of the game, you feel as if you’ve mastered Senua’s moves. Even though you (pretty much) have the same fighting skills the entire game, you constantly feel as if you’re progressing Senua. Actually, almost as if you (the player) and Senua are both growing stronger simultaneously throughout the game.
There’s surprisingly very little combat in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, you spend most of your time solving puzzles and threading together story pieces. But when it is time for combat, things get insane, fast. The movement of the characters and presentation overall make you feel like you’re part of a Viking blockbuster movie. Developer Ninja Theory went out of their way to make every fight feel unique. Even though you’re essentially doing the same thing over and over during combat, the variety of environments and the diverse musical score make every battle feel like a fresh experience. I’ll never forget a specific moment in the game where I had to listen to my surroundings in an almost pitch-black room in order to make out where my enemies were. Or being surrounded by flames and screams while destroying foes in the heat of combat. The handful of ‘boss fights’ that there are also feel extremely unique …and stressful. And don’t even get me started on the final battle, I’m still trying to recover.
There’s even a moment where Senua isn’t seeing things clearly and monsters start to come toward you. You think you’re supposed to engage in combat but then you realize the monsters won’t hurt you if you walk past them. It has got to be one of the creepiest and intense moments of walking I’ve ever had in a video game. I wish more developers would make bold decisions like this in their games.
Ninja Theory could have taken the easy way out with Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Adding more combat sections could have added hours of additional gameplay; slap in a few upgrades and you have a run-of-the-mill RPG they could have charged $60 for. But they didn’t. They had a vision and went for it. They created a beautiful, unique, well written and acted video game. A game that truly pushes the medium forward in sound design, presentation, and storytelling.
Over the years we’ve gotten a handful of requests to cover PS Vita remote play titles. The time has finally come to cater that niche PS Vita crowd. Today, we reviewed how well Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice plays on the PlayStation Vita, via remote play.