I had heard so much about Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. I finally caved and bought it on Saturday. I played it for about an hour and was sucked in immediately.
There might be spoilers and I’m not wearing a condom.
I should’ve been writing and doing things for websites, recording podcasts or something to that effect. But no. There I was… playing Hellblade… taking breaks to accomplish tasks and then going right back. I’m close to the end.
Anyways, here it is… Monday and I have nothing to show for anything because of that game. Here’s why:
I talk to myself. Occasionally out loud but mostly in my head. It helps me think. Sometimes it is even healthy for me to say something out loud and see how it sounds. When I play video games I will talk to myself about the game. Hellblade shut me up immediately. I usually take a whole bunch of screenshots when I play video games but during the entire intro sequence and all the way up to the first boss challenge I sat there silent, arguing with the in-game voices.
Yeah, you heard me.
The voices are pretty consistent throughout the game but are very aggressive during the early stages of it. I was prepared for them to some degree by reviews and impressions that I’ve read but I really wish there was some indication to how constant they would be. Adding to the pressure is the fact that each death or failure allows the darkness to consume Senua more and more leading to her mind. The darkness is up to her shoulder now. I was trying to keep it below her elbow.
So, About those voices… The game is best played with headphones. Not wearing headphones with these is like eating melted ice cream or a cold hamburger. The headphones are which make the whole experience worth it. You have to hear what the voices are saying so you can decide what you want to listen to or what you want to try to ignore. They constantly comment on and question what Senua (by proxy you) is doing when more often than not, she seems to be doing the right thing or going the right way. But there are times where she is doing the incorrect thing or going the wrong way and the voices are trying to steer her on the right path.
Sometimes the voices discourage progress or advise you to give up your quest because you are too weak to accomplish it. But dig down deep, find a way to prevail under pressure and you find that the same voices that antagonize you and try to get you to turn around will tell you that you are strong and can handle the fight. It is bizarre. I’ve taken the approach of simply trying to block them out.
The combat is simple, a heavy, light and melee attack with an evade and block button for defensive measures. The voices will help you in battle by letting you know when other enemies are about to attack you out of camera frame and how close to the end of the fight you are. Each enemy type has a way to be attacked and defended against so nothing (so far) has been overwhelmingly difficult the first time I faced it. Though some battles go on just long enough to make you think you have no chance of winning. Those are my favorite battles to win.
One thing to point out about the combat, you have no indication of how much damage is being done to you other than screen filters and Senua’s speed. Senua can heal from near-death but it requires near-flawless fighting. When Senua is injured her attacks will slow down significantly and even the voices may comment on her being injured.
Finally, the visuals are excellent. These are the only screenshots I actually took because I was reminded of the great detail.
The game is pretty.
The level design is excellent because it is simple enough to get though but has enough nooks in each level that you could get lost so even though the game travels in more or less a straight line, there are enough forks and dead ends to make things interesting.
I’m just eager to finish this thing off so … gotta go.