Hellblade was released at the beginning of August and was created by Ninja Theory who is known for doing DMC and Heavenly Sword. Although some people have judged the company by its previous game failures, Hellblade has sold over three hundred thousand copies, showing the success the game has already had since its release. The game is classified as a cinematic psychological horror and action adventure game. Elements of this PS4 and Windows game are highlighted in the beginning as well for their traumatic nature because the game touches on what life is like with mental illness.
Senua, the main character goes through a very personal journey set within a Celtic and Norse world. Her history is based in these stories and to find and retrieve her deceased lover Dillion, she must conquer Norse gods and goddesses. She is a warrior that travels alone to many different areas fighting strange almost demonic half human, half animal figures. Sadly, after the death of her lover, Senua’s mental state deteriorated as well. She sees patterns, illusions and most of all, hears voices. All of these symptoms are common in people with mental disorders which the game tries to respectfully interpret. As Senua comes in to the game the binaural audio immediately kicks in, so, good or great headphones are a must to get the full effect of this pay through.
Mechanically, on the PS4, controlling Senua is not super difficult. The worst part about dealing with enemies is following slightly over Senua’s shoulder. The camera is set up in such a way to where the player feels like one of the voices hovering around her at all times. Her side step, roll and strife motions are all pretty unique which does allow her to move in all directions without Senua actually needing to completely turn in that direction. This only poses a problem for players that are not accustomed to keeping their head on a swivel because the need to turn around constantly becomes necessary in battle.
When battling with Senua, the game never truly hides the control options even though many people believe that her move set must be learned blindly. The controls are always available to look at; however, her moves are locked until her first battle at the gate of Nera. Combos do more damage but the voices she hears in her head are one of the only indications that the creatures are almost finished. There is no cheeky point system where combos add up, or any target areas to hit, the player simply has to attack and keep mashing. Over time players will become comfortable with their dodge roll and time effect trigger button. Without spoiling too much, players better hope they have what it takes to win. Why? Because Senua will die via disease and your game progress will be completely lost if you don’t! So dodge often and don’t get backed in to a corner.
The imagery of this game is absolutely stunning. From the beginning of the game to the end, Senua walks through villages and open spaces that are naturally stunning. Mountain ranges, statues and water all make you yearn to go to these places and have an adventure yourself. Even the outfits and imaginative episodes we think Senua is having is filmed and produced in such a way that every detail is extremely clear. As long as gamers can stomach this game with all of its dramatic blood and horrific parts, then they should all play this game just to see what I mean.
Personally this game is one I would recommend to almost anyone that is even remotely in to this type of game play or story. First, the game is unique. Although the company is portraying a character with mental illness, doesn’t mean they didn’t nail the little details too. With those combined together, the game is phenomenal. There is enough stress in the game to raise your heart rate but the story moves just fast enough to want to keep going. In my case, I got sucked in and didn’t want to stop until I physically had to.
On an extra note, Hellblade has a documentary included in their download that goes through the process of mental illness and how this game came to be. I watched this first just because I’m highly interested in such information because I deal with mental illness too. Some critics have said that the game didn’t do a good job, or maybe even exploited those with a mental illness. Personally, I think the game gave a good middle ground. For those that don’t believe me, they can watch this part themselves and see the reflection of the actual persons helping to creating the game. These are the same people that hear voices or see things. Their opinions were amazing on the subject.
Mental Illness is a very big issue that is still being brought to light worldwide. Hellblade has done a good job exposing what the different issues are. The company has studied so long and so hard on the subject that they want to go further and help others in need through a website they have created. So if anyone that happens to be interested in the game due to its purpose or just for fun, and have a need to use it for themselves or others, the website is http://hellbladehelp.info/#usa
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is available on Steam, Playstation 4, and gog.com