Light theme

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice review
Exceptional
by iBarin

It's hard to say why people removes one A from the AAA when describe this game. It feels like a typical Playstation exclusive, trying to look like a movie. From the very beginning, we are told that this is a serious story, aimed for many awards and make you write long reviews after you finish it (Oops). Usualy when focus goes to story, gameplay always suffers. So, what I get this time? Female God of War, Death Stranding with swords or Grim Lollipop Chainsaw?

True, here is "no fun allowed" club, but you must be know about that and be in right mood before you start playing. The topic is important. Main focus of the game are mental disorders that built twisted reality of main character — Senua. This is not just buzz words, and the consultants writen in the credits really helped to convey realistic hallucinations and posible source of this problem.
At second layer same old story of fathers and children, but being told within fictional dark ages feels fresh and adds a lots of nuances.
While playing, we are constantly told by the myths and legends of the Vikings, which in some ways resemble the fate of Senua herself. There are many, but most likely you already know them. But as a little distraction, during constant walking just fine.
Well, what kind of movie can be without lovestory? The strongest motivation that drives the hero forward through monstrous trials is salvation of the soul of the beloved, whose head hangs on her waist. And it realy works! I belived that this is very important goal and worth all this suffering.


I played in headphones, as recommended and it's really impressive: the sound here deffinetly works on a new quality level, which no one has yet approached! The whispers of inner voices comes from different sides and actors' play make you believe in Senua's teared personality. Voices speak contradictory phrases, forcing player to doubt his actions and wait for a threat that didn't exist. I've been caught once, when they make me to believe that the torch can go out — bravo! Also, voices are clever used as pointers, suggesting where to go and what to do.
Visual style is also beautiful, but we've already seen this. All these cold rocks, moss, wild plants and shackled together wood logs have appeared many times in many games. Even Viking castles not surprise anyone. But still visuals are impressive: I stopped many times, just to look at the sunlight reflected in the puddles. Btw, Ninja theory continue to use live action footage. This time actors placed right in scene and camera matches with their position so they didn't looks flat (like in Myst). Very clever.


As new thing, developers have made original puzzles, playing with enviroment. Finding symbols in the environment is fresh idea (if you didn't play The Witness before), and perfectly illustrates real mental problems when a person searches for unnecessary patterns around before doing something. Unfortunately, to get this working and to be sure that player didn't stuck somewhere, puzzles have to make very simplistic. The necessary objects always in sight, and when you stand next to the right place screen start to flow with lights. It is difficult to imagine how to do it different, so I assume that developers did alright.

I heard many complained about combat system, but I was quite satisfied with the fighting. It allows you to maneuver between enemies, constuct effective series of attacks and at the same time become hard when you get damage by adding long pauses between attacks. The set of movement will even increase slightly during the game. However, you still get bored from constant repetition of the same enemies.
It's less a game and more of a story than you might think, but without interactivity, it would never be so immersive. I was scared, angered, amazed and confused for real so this is definitly worth playing. 
«Can’t stop playing»
«Sit back and relax»
Serge Ulankin
Thank you for the review. I was going to play it anyways, but now I know I can discuss it with you afterwards! 🙂
Reply

Other reviews29

The story, atmosphere and visuals are amazing! The game takes place in some very interesting places. But the actual gameplay... While the puzzles and combat feel OK in the beginning, towards the end I just felt annoyed when I saw a door with runes on it or Senua drew her sword. And the length of the combat phases as well as their frequency just went up in the last chapters. 
Definitly a must play if you like story based games.
«Blew my mind»
«Sit back and relax»
As far as post-millennial awareness games go, this could've been far worse, especially considering it comes from Ninja Theory. Slow and whispery with ham and cheese acting accompanied by a stale hack and slash system doesn't make up for how pretty it looks but that's ok because it's about psychosis. I'm thankful I don't suffer from similar issues myself but I can't imagine this makes people more appreciative of how able they are when they have to deal with pretentious narrative trumping the "message." It checks off a bunch of boxes you have to expect from AAA-Indie at this point - if you love tearing up when female protags find their strength like the lyrics to Fight Song, you'll probably also enjoy this. The very definition of meh. Imagine Dear Esther but you can mash X.
«Disappointment of the year»
«Waste of time»
One of the best games I've played. The story, the music and the art are flawless, the combat is a bit underwhelming but it is not the main focus of the game so it barely matters. I cannot recommend it enough.
«Blew my mind»
«OST on repeat»
An incredibly original game that really tries something new with it's story and character(s). Gameplay however isn't the greatest and neither was it the games main focus. What it lacks in fluid combat it makes up for in story. The detail that both you and your enemies get weary during a fight is amazing and i'd love to see that more in other titles. Can't wait for part 2. 
What a Tour de force!
«Blew my mind»
«That ending!»
7/10 - fighting with half of the Norse mythology while experiencing psychosis. 
«Blew my mind»
«Underrated»
Not worth the money.
«Disappointment of the year»
«Waste of time»
This game drew me in right from the get go. I loved the vibe. Visually it looked amazing. The combat is very simple but still feels pretty good. The puzzles in this game were clever and much more enjoyable than I expected. The story was interesting and unique.

Final Score: A-
OMG, I don't know how I haven't played this game earlier.

For those who don't know, this game is about a Celtic warrior with schizophrenia/psychosis that goes to Hellhiem to retrieve her loved one's soul.

I love mythology and theology. Greek is my favorite, but Norse is a close second.
Then there is the mental health theme.
This are two topics that, at first I thought wouldn't work together but Ninja Theory nailed it.
The mental illness part is very well handed and fells real. I really happy to see this theme handled with the care and respect it deserves.

The gameplay is simple works well.
Some say that the combat is janky and not that good. I disagree. 
The slashes fell powerful and meaty. The parry is heavy and you fell the force of the impact.
The only thing I don't like about the combat system is the enemy lock. I really hate that part, and it took a long type to get used to it.

The graphics are pretty damn good looking for a (technically) indie studio.
The facial animations are amazing and really life like.

The voice acting and performance are top notch. You fell what Senua is felling. You look in her eyes and you undestand her.  

Now, the sound, the FRICKING SOUND. It is probably the best technical part of the game.
The music is amazing. It fells grandiose and big. I have the Hellblade's OST on Spotify and I have been listening to it non stop.
The ASMR like voices that circle your head all the time while you play are a great way to make you enter Senua's head space. The ambient sounds really suck you in to that scenery.

This is something I have to say.
I can praise this game for hours, but there is a big problem for me.
I can't replay it.
It is such a heavy and gut punching game that it's really difficult for me to get though it again.
If you have some problem, like for example autism it might be difficult to play it at all.

Overall it's a really immersive, engaging experience that will captivate you, while punch you in the gut all though out it's 8 hour duration.
Read more...
«Blew my mind»
«Constantly dying and enjoy it»
Very nice vikingish story and setting but not only that, it's much more and deeper, with high quality sound design and voice acting.
«Blew my mind»
«OST on repeat»
Good quests, perfect fights.
Actor's game is really nice!
Senua's story won't leave you indifferent!
P.S. I recommend to watch a film about the game after you will finish it. It's available from a main menu of the game.  Rather interesting.