Every once and a while there’s a game that ends up being better than you expected, this has happened a few times for me in the past. Games like Shadow of Mordor and Alien Isolation ended up being some of my all-time favs.” Hellblade”, developed by Ninja Theory who worked on games such “Enslaved: Odyssey to the west” and “DMC,” now adds itself to the list of brilliant surprises thanks to its strong story, stunning visuals and solid gameplay. So, yeah, “Hellblade” is certainly a game that’s worth your attention. However, if you’re still not convinced, then read on!
In “Hellblade”, you play as Senua, a young protagonist on a quest to redeem her loved one’s soul (she carries his head with her) her journey is not a simple one as Senua suffers from a severe mental illness, voices constantly harass her (or encourage) as you progress through the game bearing witness to some disturbing imagery, it’s not for the faint of heart. It really makes for a daunting experience.
The first thing you notice in “Hellblade” is the stunning visuals, for a small dev team to achieve this is nothing short of exceptional. So much so that “Hellblade” easily stands toe to toe with some of the best-looking games this year! And I’m talking about everything from the environment to the motion capture. Simply put, Ninja Theory has done a brilliant job here. The second thing is the incredible sound design. The voice acting is outstanding. The game doesn’t feature a huge cast, but everyone does a brilliant job.
Even so, there is one particular voice that stands out from the crowd, and that would be the voice of the Shadow (voiced by Steven Hartley). Because Steven Hartley’s voice is absolutely phenomenal, and my god that voice sticks with you. So if you’re playing with a decent pair of headphones, the experience is severely enhanced thanks to binaural sound. There are no skill trees or extra weapons in “Hellblade”. In the matter of fact, there is no HUD or map either, it’s a linear game with some open areas but nothing too huge. However, some of the areas you find yourself in look incredible and the cutscenes showing off Senua’s expressions are incredibly lifelike.
An interesting mechanic that’s in “Hellblade” is the looming dread that if you die too many times, then it’s game over, and you will have to start your adventure again. This has unfortunately not been received well by certain “games journalists” and “Youtube personalities” and some gamers alike. However, for me personally. I can’t see what all the fuss is about, and I welcome this mechanic. Perma-death for me isn’t a big deal, especially when it’s utilized correctly.
For “Hellblade”, specifically, it plays into the story as Senua’s suffering from a sickness and as each time she does it slowly engulfs her. So this makes every encounter more intense and impactful. Sure, there are checkpoints to be found in the game. However, you can’t solely rely on them, because you have to think about what you’re actually doing. So don’t be too overconfident in yourself. You see, I died three or four times and two of those deaths were from stupidity alone. I mean, sure, “Hellblade” is not as hard as Dark Souls is (not by a long shoot). It’s just a shame that certain individuals decided to blow the whole thing out of proportion. Truth be told these days too many games hold your hand, and I found myself not caring if I die as there’s little to no consequence. However, “Hellblade” turns that on its head, making each enemy encounter and fight for life rather than just a fight.
The combat in “Hellblade” is solid. So when you’re not solving some of the game’s many puzzles. then you get your sword bloody by fighting a variety of enemies. Controls are simple. You can block/parry, dodge and attack with light and heavy. There’re simple combos you can chain. However, some enemies require some skill and patience, in fact, the combat here does slightly look similar to what we’ve seen in the new “God of War” game with the close over the shoulder perspective with strong and deliberate attacks.
There were a few little issues which I noticed during my play through. For example there were times when textures didn’t load. I also experienced some slight stuttering problems (until I switched 60Hz mode on). Furthermore, I did come across some frustrating bugs as well… And one bug, in particular, made me reload the game twice after getting stuck after crouching through a tunnel. One other thing is that there’s not much replayability, no alternative endings or collectables (aside the few lore statues) which might be disappointing if you like collectables.
“Hellblade” is as much as an experience as it is a game. As it’s certainly unique with its story and how it handles mental health in a video game. The pacing keeps at a decent pace and the games balanced well with combat, story and puzzles. There’re some moments in this game where I literally held my breath. As I crept through dark corridors with torch in hand, other moments made my jaw drop, especially some of the boss battles in the game that make for some epic encounters.
The constant whispers you hear throughout the game keeps you on edge. So this is without a doubt some of the best sound design I’ve heard in a game, and I wouldn’t be surprised if “Hellblade” lands itself a few awards. So “Hellblade” is without a doubt one of the best surprises this year. It’s also worth pointing out that the game is all yours for just £25 (it’s a real bargain!), so “Hellblade” is most definitely standing shoulder to shoulder with some of the AAA £50 releases that we have seen this year. “Hellblade” impressed me with its stunning visuals, gripping story and intense set pieces. From start to finish of the 8-10-hour campaign kept me entertained throughout, it’s well worth the price of admission.
+ Stunning visuals
+ Amazing sound design
+ engaging story
– Some frustrating bugs
– Combat can be a little repetitive
– No replay value
Replay value: 1/5
Ninja Theory’s “Hellblade Senua’s sacrifice” is a mighty fine game. As it delivers a AAA story, topnotch visuals and an awesome gameplay experience for a very cheap price. So, yes, “Hellblade” is with no doubt worthy of your money and time.
Title: Hellblade Senua’s sacrifice.
Developer: Ninja Theory
Genre: 3rd person adventure
Release date: 09/08/2017
Spent time: +8 hours
Average grade internationally: 81.67% Gamerankings.com
PEGI age rating: 18
Robin Ek – Editor
The Gaming Ground
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