Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice


Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: Ninja Theory
PS4 Review

As a history student who is currently studying about journeys into the underworld in ancient mythology, I felt it was about time I started to play Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. As my comments above have hinted, Hellblade is a dark action-adventure game which was developed and published by Ninja Theory which has been described as an “independent AAA game”. The story is inspired by Celtic culture and Norse mythology and follows a female warrior called Senua (blue warpaint included of course) who makes a journey to Helheim, fighting creatures and facing challenges, to rescue the soul of her dead lover.


I would like to talk about my experience of this game so far. I am only about an hour into the game so this review does not contain any real spoilers. The game starts with Senua slowly paddling down a gloomy river into the outskirts of Helheim and the riverside is littered with the remains of the individuals trapped in the world of the dead. You sense that she is entering a dark and bleak place, both in her surroundings and in her mind, with every acceleration of the canoe until she reaches the end of the river. From here, there is no return and she must press on into the uncharted land of the dead.

From what I have seen so far, the game includes a mixture of sword fighting, puzzle solving, and eerie cutscenes. The fighting is an important feature of the game as you learn early on that if Senua loses a certain number of fights, it will be game over and your save file will be deleted. This does make you focus more on the battles to ensure that you are not forced to paddle back down the river at the start of the game again before you actually complete the story. It also slightly reminds me of video games back in the day when you did not have the option of saving and you had to start again at the beginning of a game every time you switched off your console. 


Another fresh concept in the game is that it almost acts as a metaphor for Senua’s struggle with psychosis. From what I have read about the game, it appears that she believes her condition to be a curse and that she is haunted by an entity known as the “Darkness”, voices in her head, and memories from her past. These voices sometimes encourage Senua and sometimes try to dishearten her as she proceeds on her quest. They also provide instructions on how to move forward in the game which is different from hints appearing in the corner of the screen in other games. I have also read that, to present the condition properly, the developers worked closely with neuroscientists, mental health specialists, and people suffering from the condition.

I am really enjoying this game so far because I don’t think I have played anything like it in the past. It has the combination of a well-designed game and a great story about the journey of a warrior into a dark and cold realm to be reunited with the light and warmth of her lover. I know that I am still quite early on in the game but I highly recommend that you start playing it, especially if you are interested in Norse mythology and fantasy worlds. I also recommend that you play it wearing headphones.

-David C

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