A disturbing, mythological-based narrative game, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice has secured a place in my heart. While rather short, only about 12 hours or so long, it has achieved a level of story-telling and personality rarely seen in games.
Hellblade follows the story of Senua, a haunted Norsewoman on her journey to the Underworld in an effort to bring back her lover from the other side. Her story is both harrowing and heartbreaking, as she is plagued by demons and gods alike along the way.
Your journey is not an easy one, with many gods and monsters standing in your way. But it is not the enemies of Hellblade that make the game so immediately distinctive; it is the voices and visions that Senua experiences.
In the making of this game, the developers at Ninja Theory simulated actual symptoms and experiences of psychosis and mental disorders, such as schizophrenia. This is revealed on the game’s opening screen, warning the players of this connection. The result is both awe-inspiring and disturbing; you’ll find yourself questioning your own sanity after numerous voices fill your ears from every direction. Ninja Theory won a handful of awards for their sound production for the game as a result of the way that this was implemented. While this is not the first game to put voices in your head, it is the first to make it so disturbing and unsettling. Boss fights are already pretty rough, but adding dozens of voices screaming in your ears, telling you you can’t win, is more than a little off-putting.
Simply put, I love this game. The graphics, the monsters, the trauma and heartbreak, all of it.
Senua’s story is one of redemption and mourning, one that you cannot help but get invested in as you travel with her. You literally go through hell together, and you’ll be invested in Senua’s story every step of the way.
You journey not only through the Norse myth, but through Senua’s mental state, fighting off her mental demons as well as the literal ones that stand in her way. While the game is rather linear, the story is riveting and sublimely delivered. It will stick with you long after the credits roll.
The linearity of Hellblade doesn’t mean that there is a lack of replayability. Collectables reward the player with voice overs that tell part of a Norse myth, adding more details and background to the world of Hellblade. I shamelessly admit that I refused to complete levels of the game without finding each and every single one. Worth it.
In short, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a gritty, dark, unsettling narrative game, putting you in the shoes of a traumatized and haunted young woman on her journey through the depths of hell, leaving you humbled and hollow by the end. This is a game that makes you feel something, and for that reason it is counted among one of my favorite gamess. Needless to say, I am VERY excited for Hellblade 2.
If you’re looking for the TL;DR version then here it is: If you haven’t played Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, you should.