Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice review - a hellishly good story

Author: Przemysław Zamęcki
Date: 2017-08-08 09:00:00
The review was based on the PS4 version. Also valid for the XONE version

What is mental illness? How is it manifested? Is a mentally ill person insane? Or maybe just stupid? Madman. Freak. Nitwit. Idiot ... Surely in your life you have come across similar terms for people whose behavior differed in some way from the generally accepted norm. Meanwhile, the matter is much more complex than we think, who define ourselves as a normal, healthy part of society. Or maybe that's just what we think?

The Ninja Theory team decided to break the taboo and explore the mystery of psychotic behavior. Importantly, he did not approach this issue in a cursory manner, but consulted both recognized medical authorities and - perhaps more importantly - the people affected by these disorders themselves . Thanks to this, a story was born about Senua, a Celtic warrior from the Orkney Islands, who sets off on an expedition in ... I forgive myself the details of this story, because you should discover them yourself.

Ninja Theory about women

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice made a bigger impression on me with every hour I spent in the game world. First of all, because of the title character, so characteristic of Ninja Theory, designing specific female characters, always accompanied by some undefined element of madness.

Just remember Kai, the younger adopted sister of Nariko, the main character of the Heavenly Sword . Taciturn, brave, affected by a great tragedy, her behavior clearly suggests that the experienced trauma left a permanent mark on her psyche. Mention Trip, Monkey's companion in Enslaved: Odyssey to the West . She is strong, maybe even dominant. I have the impression that Senua could be a combination of both. If only her shoulders had not been so heavy as a child ...

What is madness?

Senua has gone so deeply maddened that she is completely unaware of it. He lives in his own inner world of psychotic behavior. The environment perceives completely differently than others, for her the same location is once a place illuminated with a feast of psychedelic colors and full of shapes, and after a while it becomes a dark place, arousing fear of the dark. In order to cope with the visualization of the environment, developers constantly apply new filters to the image - in this way, one room can even change its appearance several times. And the mood. In addition, there are hallucinations and internal voices constantly speaking in the girl's head. It makes an amazing impression, and it is just an introduction, a prelude to the correct interpretation of events.

Have you ever laughed at explaining dangerous criminals who became perpetrators of a terrible act because someone else's voice urged them to do so? In Senua's consciousness, these voices multiply and are her constant companions. And also an extremely important game mechanics , which is a kind of hints for the player. They address the heroine directly, but repeatedly suggest that you do something while exploring, and even dodge while fighting enemies!

Why was this solution chosen? Well, Hellblade does not have any user interface visible on the game screen (with one exception, described below). Not a single icon, a small map, a question mark, an exclamation point or a description of the next mission objective. The creators want us to focus our full attention on what is happening on the screen, completely submitting ourselves to immersion. In my case, it worked and chained me to the TV for two meetings in such a way that I almost forgot about the real world.

How did Odin lose his eye?

The presented story is ruled by a masterful narrative. We hear Senua's thoughts, but not only. Often the heroine's story is intertwined with the statements of other characters who once had an overwhelming influence on her fate. Sometimes an opponent speaks to us, threatening and convincing us of his arguments. Our job is to get the proper sense out of it, put it into context, and thus face the plot.

Due to the fact that the action takes place in the lands plundered by the Vikings, we also find ourselves in the areas where the story of the gods and heroes of Asgard: Ymir, Odin, Sigmund and Baldura flows. About Ragnarok, Niflheim, Hel and Loki. If you are interested in Norse mythology, you will be in cloud nine. And if not, you will lick some interesting stories.

Hellblade is standing in puzzles

The most important role in exploring the area is solving puzzles. Their set is not large and is actually limited to only two types - finding rune shapes hidden in objects in a given location and going through portals that change the appearance or functionality of some things. Both types of challenges most often unlock the passage to the next location. There are also puzzles specific to one place, such as lighting corridors with torches or repairing damaged items by finding the right point in space and using the appropriate perspective.

The variety of puzzles is actually not overwhelming, but I think that given the relatively short time of the game (the title can be completed in a maximum of eight to ten hours), only the worst malcontents will turn their noses. They can additionally use the statement that most of the puzzles are too easy and therefore they are not an appropriate challenge . Well, everyone won't be happy. However, a pleasant shiver ran down my spine as I walked between the world of light and the world of darkness at some point. Until I remembered Raziel's adventures in Legacy of Kain .

After finishing the game, I was completely shocked by the information that almost all the gameplay mechanics that I thought were invented for the game are taken directly from the cases of people who were consultants for the creation of Hellblade . Matching shapes, dancing signs on the walls, safe spots of light - all this, and not only that, is an authentic patient experience. There is a movie attached to the title, from which you will learn more about the process of creating Senua's adventures, but because it reveals many important details about the plot, watch it only after knowing the whole story.

Dangerous Vikings

In addition to exploring the game world and solving puzzles in Hellblade we also face opponents. At first they only appear singly, then in a larger, but never large, group. I regret that there are only five types of them, which makes the clashes very schematic in the middle of the game. We quickly find out which tactics are effective for a fighter with a shield, which one is to defeat a guy with two axes, and which one is to take down a guy with a big ax. Fortunately, the mechanics themselves have a solid foundation and if I wanted to make a comparison here, I would recall the Souls series , but ... in such an easier version . The point is that the fight is not about hitting the buttons, but about timing and countering blows. Which doesn't seem too difficult either, as most shots are marked long enough.