It’s very rare, for me, to find a game that immediately pulls my attention to the story it’s creating. Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice accomplished that within the first 30 seconds. The slow rowing of the character through the gorgeous opening credits combined with the array of voices speaking to her was downright perfect. I was captivated and I had to know what happened next and as I came to realize I would be travelling into Helheim itself I had all the motivation I needed.
Hellblade is a journey
Once I got control of the character I realized everything I had been watching wasn’t a cutscene. That’s one of the things that really blew me away. The visuals are amazing and the animations feel very natural. Within the first few minutes of progressing forward I experienced some events that immersed me into the character’s psychosis. I felt uncomfortable progressing forwards, but strangely motivated to see what happens next. The voices you hear are important and give you ideas of how to proceed.
The first puzzle clued me in to how they are going to work. It was a simple shape matching puzzle but it wasn’t like finding a painting on a cave wall. I had to position my character correctly to make use of items in the scene to draw my shape. It’s like the art projects you’ll see in museums of sticks hanging from the ceiling that viewed in the correct angle make a picture. It was masterfully done and just adds a layer of game feel that many modern titles fail to capture.
The combat was another pleasant surprise – it was challenging and fun. Reminding me a little of Dark Souls, I found myself dodging left and right, jumping back, and furiously swinging my sword in the openings I created for myself. The enemies would sometimes block my attacks and sometimes they wouldn’t; it appears this is based on the difficulty you choose. Each enemy I killed would cause another to materialize behind me already in mid swing, so being vigilant in combat is a must. If you die it results in the progression of ‘rot’ on your character. Once that rot reaching Senua’s head, it’s game over and you lose all progress. Yes, that’s right, this game has a slightly forgiving form of perma-death. Getting skilled is a mandatory endeavour if you want to see the finale of the game and take my word for it, you do.
Overall I can’t recommend this game enough. I haven’t been invested in a game’s story since The Last of Us and it’s very refreshing to see a game do it right again. The balance of story, psychosis, combat, and puzzles are very well paced; I don’t feel fatigue from any one mechanic as the game progresses. I’m very happy with my purchase (we had no press keys) and for only $29.99 on Steam at the time of this writing it pays for it’s value in an amazing narrative experience.
Score – 9/10
- Gorgeous Graphics
- Unique puzzle experiences
- Engaging combat
- No guidance on controls outside manually looking at keybinds
- Long stretches without action can feel boring at times