Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice Reviews

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Titanium Dragon
106,299
Titanium Dragon
TSA Score for this game: 195
Posted on 23 January 18 at 02:42
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Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a strikingly high-fidelity game; the graphics, particularly of the main character and some of the enemies, are quite impressive. Unfortunately, the beauty is only skin deep; this game is a slow-paced slog with poor gameplay.

You play as Senua, a mentally ill young warrior woman who is travelling to Helheim – the Norse hell – to battle Hel for the soul of her dead lover. She has voices in her head, constantly talking to her – encouraging her, telling her what to do, whispering about how she is going to fail or how she should turn back, or even telling her that everything is all her fault.

This game seems to be very impressed with itself in its depiction of mental illness, and indeed, it is pretty well-executed on the whole – the whispering voices both work to reinforce the protagonist’s psychosis, as well as to help direct the player towards what they should be doing.

And the game is very graphically beautiful – there are a lot of nicely rendered enemies, and Senua herself has a very impressive character model. That being said, I feel like Senua might be entering in on the uncanny valley – she looks kind of wrong on some level, despite her highly realistic appearance, and there is just something a little bit off about her visually which is constantly unsettling.

Unfortunately, this is about where the game’s pros end.

The gameplay consists more or less of four things – walking through long corridors, solving environmental puzzles by lining up environmental features to make “runes” that unlock doors or piece together objects in the environment, walking through gates to reveal some change in the environment, and fighting a series of battles against pretty samey enemies with not-so-great controls.

The environmental puzzles are vaguely clever – walking around to line stuff up in the environment is a vaguely interesting idea that I’ve seen a few times. Unfortunately, it is only vaguely interesting, and the game has a very large number of these puzzles. Most of them are not particularly interesting, either – oftentimes, you’ll simply do a series of simple tasks, following through to the end of the path to get the assembled piece. Only on rare occasion does this require much in the way of actual problem solving, and after a while it becomes very old hat.

This is not assisted by the protagonist’s slow walking speed – the character, even when running, simply does not move very fast, and this is constantly wearing, as navigating the environment is something of a bore and it only further stretches out the already slow-paced game.

The combat is quite bad as well. The protagonist and their enemies move pretty slowly on the whole, with only a few moving at any real speed – while Senua herself is pretty slow. She has a weak slash, a powerful slash, a kick that can stun enemies (useful against the enemy with a shield), and has a “slow down time” ability that also serves to make some enemies tangible and thus possible to attack.

Unfortunately, the combat is very, very bland. Most of the combat time is spent fighting pretty samey enemies – there’s only five types of base enemy, and you end up fighting them quite a bit. Unfortunately, there’s not much to mix things up there – two of them are pretty similar to each other, and none of them are particularly interesting to fight, as most of them are just defeated either by dodging an attack then counterattacking, or simply kicking them to stun them and then attacking. Due to the general clunkiness of the system, the various fights against the normal enemies feel extremely similar to each other. The slogginess of the combat is particularly evident towards the end, as there are two long combat sequences towards the end of the game which involve killing large numbers of these enemies back-to-back, and it is quite dull.

The combat simultaneously also feels difficult and easy. Difficult because the enemies will often attack you at the same time, and the rather clunky controls makes it hard to position yourself in the way that you’d really want. But it also was easy, both because of the power of the slow time ability and simply because it seems extremely difficult to actually die. In theory, a few hits will kill Senua, but in practice, I could always stand back up after getting knocked down – in fact, I only died once in combat outside of the two battles in which you *must* die in order to progress, and I’m not really sure why I even died there.

There are three real boss fights in the game, but of them, one felt rather similar on the whole to fights against the normal enemies, leaving only two which were really distinct in any meaningful fashion. They were okay, but neither felt great, and the general slow movement of Senua made them feel kind of slow and tedious.

As for the story itself – it was okay, but nothing spectacular. Going to the underworld to save the soul of your lover is a very old story idea indeed, and while the main character having voices in their head and having been messed up as a result of parental abuse from their father was okay, it honestly didn’t ever engage me as a piece. Senua is just not someone I really could bring myself to empathize with as a person – she’s very violent and shouty, and while she was obviously troubled, it was hard to really care about her struggle, as she didn’t really give me a strong reason to empathize with her.

Clocking in at about seven and a half hours, the only reason I completed this game was because I thought I was halfway done when I was, in fact, probably less than a third of the way through the game. I didn’t feel like the time I spent on this was well-spent, and nothing about it felt especially memorable save for the idea of using voices in a character’s head as a means of helping to direct the player.

In short, this was a neat idea whose execution bored me. Good aesthetics, but poor gameplay and a not-so-memorable story left me feeling empty at the end, and like I should have done something else with my time.
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Kinglink
196,341
Kinglink
TSA Score for this game: 174
Posted on 12 July 18 at 19:34
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Full Review -- Curator Site

Video Review:


I heard a lot about Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and its treatment of mental illness. Now everyone talks about this with Hellblade and I feel mental illness is an important topic. I both advocate for destigmatizing it, and treatment of it, but I also really get nervous when pop culture talks about it because the fact is people treat the topic of Mental Illness as a story element and not a deeper topic. So when I approached Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice I was nervous.

The fact is I don’t feel that I have a right or at least a proper knowledge and background with mental illness or psychosis to discuss that angle of this game, and a lot of people have talked about Hellblade in that way, at least some of them should be more qualified for that discussion. I do feel it’s well covered and done by professionals in the mental health field that I will sidestep that, but I will delve into the story and how it deals with many of these issues because as a game reviewer that’s what I do.

Now I’m going to give a big spoiler warning. The ONLY way I feel I can properly review Senua’s Sacrifice is by diving deep down into the game and really talking about almost every part of the game. This means I will have to give a lot of spoilers, and I need to discuss the final areas and the bosses. It’s just how Hellblade is developed that I only feel right in discussing everything.

But I also believe this is a game that players should experience fresh, and not be spoiled. As such, I’m going to do something different in this review, because Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is such a special game with a major focus on story, and it’s worth playing I’m going to give a score at the beginning and so you can judge Hellblade based on that, hopefully, play it and hopefully one day return to see my opinion.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice gets a

4.5/5
It’s almost a perfect game and well worth the price of admission. If you want to check it out, please go play it and don’t let anyone spoil the experience. I have a first look that spoils almost nothing check it out if you’re curious.



That was for the people who only wanted the score and the first look out of the way. Now, let’s begin with the beginning of Hellblade

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a Norse story, involving a woman named Senua as she travels to Helheim. This relies on the same legends as the Marvel movie Thor, and now the mythology that Kratos from the recent God of War(2018) is now murdering his way through.

I’m going to give a rather long recounting of the story here. This isn’t the ENTIRE story, however, it is many of the major events that happen to her, the reason I am doing this is that the story should give context for the rest of the review.

Hellblade starts with Senua already on her quest to Helheim. We’re not greeted by Senua but rather a long opening where we are told about Senua’s quest by a guiding voice. It’s not one Senua openly acknowledges often but the one who talks directly to the player informing him of the story and important facts. Senua is on a wooden log, used almost as a canoe, as the back story is imparted to the player.

In addition, there are also the “Furies” as they are listed in the credits of Hellblade. A set of voices who gives us our first really impressive connection to psychosis. For the entire game these Furies will talk and try to impart information but often give conflicting accounts in short bursts. It brings the viewer into Senua’s head, where the player now will constantly be pestered by these voices, almost unable to focus on what’s important due to their noise.

Senua finally reaches a shore and we start to see her react to the voices, it’s a rare occurrence and as such it’s powerful because, for the most part of Hellblade, we observe Senua, though see the game alongside the voices that she must always hear. In fact, the experience is quite well done because Senua becomes vulnerable. We not only see her story, but we experience it. We see her suffer, we see her pain, and we see her fears play out through Hellblade, and each step of the way, I felt a bond forming with her.

The player will walk on for about thirty minutes through areas and gets started with a small piece of combat in front of a large door with Hel’s face on the front. Hel is the ruler of Helheim and we learn that Senua came to get her beloved “Dillion” back from Hel. The collective “we” of all her voices are joined by a new friend that we meet called Druth, a friend of Senua. He joins the choir just as each voice must have before him. He fills in much of the story of the world outside of Senua’s experiences, and the Celtic and wilderness life that Senua also must have some knowledge of.

There are also a number of signposts throughout Hellblade that offers the player a chance to hear some of the tales of Norse mythology, and these are particularly good. I enjoyed almost every story, although it’s a little bit of a shame that you have to stick close to some of these posts. Still, they are entertaining and the stories are exciting. There are tales of Fafnir, Ragnarok, the entire Ring cycle that Wagner adapted for his famous operas, and quite a few other stories. I always looked for these because I was just fascinated by the storytelling.

So when the door to Helheim is found, we know we have to go defeat two gods. There’s Valravn the god of illusions and Surt the god of fire. Both of these areas are interesting and unique. Valravn plays with your mind with illusionary puzzles and Surt develops into pathfinding puzzles while the world is on fire. Both are interesting and unique experiences, but they both only take about an hour apiece. Still, they are very interesting experiences but in these areas, the story is a little light in my opinion.

However, the character development is on point. You see the furies are always with Senua, and they continue to make their presence known. There’s a point where I was having trouble and Hellblade taunts me with one of the voices saying “You’re stupid” and I was like “shit that’s not nice” but at the same time, I imagined hearing that often when I doubted myself. Sometimes I do feel like a world is silently judging me, but to actually hear it being thrown at you hurt just a bit, and again I empathize with Senua. It’s a powerful moment that I only thought about later.

There are other points where the furies show up, like a line of thoughts with Valravn’s evil illusions where you hear “It’s a trick” “Who’s helping her?” “No one” “Someone”. The voices in Hellblade aren’t just assisting the player. I almost felt like I had an audience. I wasn’t playing a single player game, instead, I was playing a game on a stage in front of a crowd of people and they all were talking about it at the same time. The discussion aspects really worked to bring me into the world.

Hellblade hides most of the backstory about what happened to Dillion until about the halfway point and then it starts to discuss more of its story and expand on it. We start to see Dillion and Senua’s meeting and get pieces of their backstory together. It’s more of a feeling of starting to understand Senua as a character to see what happened to her in the past, and it’s very effective.

If you want to read more, you can see the full review with pictures and video at https://kinglink-reviews.com/2018/07/10/hellblade-senuas-sac.... You can also check out my Curator page at If you want to hear more from me, you can show me that by following my curator at http://store.steampowered.com/curator/31803828-Kinglink-Revi...
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