Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice Is Worth Your Attention
A disturbing, yet captivating experience.
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is a disturbing yet beautiful journey through Senua's battle with psychosis after the traumatic loss of her love, Dillion. The player must embark with her on a journey to Helheim, to save the soul of her lost lover and fight against demons and even the Goddess of death herself, Hela.
While the symptoms of psychosis that are presented could be triggering (the game even features a warning upon start up) they make for a cathartic experience that has led me to play through it more than once. There is something relieving about fighting Senua's battles with her, as grueling as they are. The game developers worked closely with medical professionals as well as with people who themselves experience psychosis to create accurate symptoms and a respectful portrayal. The final product was even presented to those who consulted on the project in order to ensure that the final piece was respectful of what it was portraying and that it had not misrepresented those it is portraying.
The game features many puzzles, including both rune and illusion puzzles, as well as combat. While the game has been criticized as being monotonous it is rather short and therefore uses its time effectively. Each puzzle advances the story, while also allowing the player to delve deeper into her state of mind. The combat can be difficult, but it serves to emphasize the struggle Senua is going through to battle against her inner demons. Voices will often tell you to "evade" or to watch out behind you, and once you have gotten the hang of it, it is easy to flow from enemy to enemy.
The voices in Senua's head help to guide the player through combat (as well as many other mechanics of the game) offering words of warning and advice as you fight against a variety of Nordic warriors and monsters.There is no tutorial, pop up or otherwise, but instead you are guided through mechanics by the voices that Senua hears.
On that note, I'd like to reiterate the games suggestion to play with headphones. The game is not only a visual experience, but an auditory one as well. It features binaural audio, so important bits of dialogue and atmospheric noise can be lost without the use of headphones. Binural audio is able to record the 3D position of sound, so the voices and sounds that follow Senua may sound closer or more distant while wearing headphones. The background music is also outstanding and adds to the overall experience.
The experience is deepened by the amazing acting of the entire cast but Melissa Jurgens (Senua) deserves a special shout out for her performance, especially considering that she had never done motion capture or voice acting prior. She initially was a video editor working on the game, who was used as a stand in for Senua's motion capture tests and then eventually, the team decided to have her performance be the ones that players saw in game. Her performance is already incredible, but it is even more noteworthy when you are aware that is coming from someone with limited acting ability.
The game was created by Ninja Theory,with much less budget and manpower available than their other titles. It was self described by the team as an,"independent AAA title" and it certainly holds its own when compared with other mainstream games. Now that it is possible to obtain a physical copy of the game (it was initially released as digital only) there is no excuse to miss out on this fantastic experience. It is deserving of your attention and at least one play through, if not more.