Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice


Do it. Do it (whispering from twelve places at once, in all kinds of tones and inflections… Do it)

I paid 15 bucks for it and it’s worth it. Good headphones are a must tho. Turn up the volume, this thing is very much about the audio. It is disturbing and arty and I like it.



Well, I said that when this game hits Game Pass that I’d play it, and now I have. I’ll give some impressions of how I appreciated it, but I have to point out that TimJames summarized this pretty efficiently back before the game was even released:

All true. The game looks pretty amazing, and the sound is really something else. Playing with headphones really adds to the experience, and the game suggests you use them when it starts up.

But, there’s some stuff in the game that I found a turnoff. Like, it’s a third person perspective game, but it’s pulled in oddly close on Senua’s shoulder, such that she takes up a pretty big chunk of the left side of the screen and leaves me feeling oddly claustrophobic. Like I’m looming over her shoulder, reading a book over her shoulder. I can imagine her at a certain point just turning to the camera and going, 'Look, just back off a little, ok?"

And I don’t think much of the combat either. The mechanics are mostly ok, you’ve got your basic strike, heavy strike, dodge and block, and they work ok most of the time. But the game has an auto-lock on, and while you can flip between them with the right thumbstick, you can’t disengage as long as enemies are around. So trying to create a little space when enemies gang up on you - and they will gang up on you - means you’re likely to just back into one or not notice when one comes up behind you and wallops you. I eventually cranked combat difficulty down to easy just to move on.

I did like the puzzles and the environments. I thought the trial of blindness was a high point of the game and I get the impression that bugged a lot of people, but I thought it was interesting working my way through an area with almost no visibility, using sound mainly to get around. And playing a character that was tormented by psychosis was interesting. Not the first time it’s been done I guess, but probably portrayed more even-handedly than most games.

So I liked it and enjoyed it, but it was short and there’s really no reason I can see to go back. Perfect for Game Pass, and I’m glad I waited.



I only played it for the first time last month and enjoyed it too but I’m glad it wasn’t any longer. It was the visual and audio design as well as the fragmented and unreliable narrative that kept me playing. Some of the setpieces and sequences were really striking. Did you watch the documentary after you completed it? I found that rounded the experience out nicely and gave me a much better impression of how Ninja Theory worked with experts and people who suffered from psychosis to craft the effects in-game.



I did watch the included feature, and I almost wish I had seen it before I played, spoilers be damned. I tended to take what I was seeing in the game at face value, despite the fact that Senua clearly has some mental health issues with the voices, etc. But the business about the runes and gods and such, I just figured ok, she’s doing these things. Maybe I’m a litttle too credulous at times.



Yeah, I know what you mean. For a while I was erring on a lot of it being real but towards the end I was thinking ‘Wait, what if all of this is in her head?’ And that was kind of fascinating to see play out and then be confirmed in the documentary.



Strange that they wouldn’t have allowed a user setting for that.
I keep passing on this game, sale after sale. Been in my wishlist for a long time. But yeah, I’ve seen a few video clips in spite of trying not to because I know I’ll buy it someday, and that camera is one of the main reasons I keep holding off. I love the idea of the game though, and I think I’ll ultimately enjoy it.

Thanks for your write-up.



I think that’s an artistic choice rather than a functional oversight. Hellblade actually reminded me of the Hungarian film Son of Saul which follows the events of a Jewish worker at Auschwitz. The whole thing focuses mostly on Saul’s face as he witnesses, reacts and struggles with the atrocities taking place. The intimacy of the camera means the picture is as much about his inner distress as the outward horror he faces, without necessarily showing it.

In Hellblade I was surprised how similarly intimate the camera is. I favour first-person so third-person often bothers me, but here it felt appropriate. First-person would have felt too ‘possessive’ (it’s Senua’s story) while a further back third-person camera would have felt a bit distant and disconnected I suppose. I like too that the closer camera reveals the unsettling appearance of the enemies more. They’re vividly drawn.



Overall, I’m glad I got to play Hellblade. It was a different experience than most games.

The story itself was pretty good. It wasn’t complex, but the way the story was delivered was great. The voices in her head, the internal struggle, the emotion was all well done. The environments were attractive for the most part, and very atmospheric. The story bits that were available at the symbols were interesting too. My only complaint was that I sometimes would miss some dialog because it was drowned out by other sound, or they rattled off some detail that I didn’t catch.It didn’t really effect my enjoyment of the story at large though.

The puzzles were fun too and weren’t too tough, but not so easy where I just felt like I was going through the motions. A couple of them I needed to spend some extra time on because I didn’t see something I probably should have. Luckily they weren’t too spread out.

Count me as someone who liked the combat, except there were 2 or 3 encounters that went on for too long. The system was simple, but I needed to pay attention to positioning and not spamming attacks too quickly. I liked the way the stamina was handled - without an on screen meter. I could just feel her sword attacks slowing down if I went too crazy. I never learned to parry and just dodged my way out of bad situations. I did die a handful of times. The game was pretty generous about letting her get back up on the brink of death.

Sometimes the game would drift a little to far towards walking simulator, but it typically didn’t last too long.

This wasn’t GOTY material for me, but very much worth playing. The documentary under extras was an interesting look behind the scenes and a nice way to wrap up my play through.



So playing this now (because I got a trial Game Pass membership that came with the Xbox One X I purchased, otherwise I would have missed this - haven’t been paying much attention to this one) and have to agree. It’s not just the closeness of the camera, it’s that even when you set the camera dead center, or where you think it’s dead center, Senua’s body seems to be off center, giving you the feeling she’s walking 5 or 10 degrees to the right of where you want her to walk. It’s a little disorienting.

That aside, wow, very atmospheric game. The writing, sound effects, voice acting, all work really well.



The environmental puzzles in this game are really long so far. It takes me a long time to find what they want to me to see. This is going to be one of those really really long games isn’t it? Sigh. I was hoping it would be a quickie. But a month into it, some evenings I just explore and explore and am unable to make any progress at all.



Nah, I think I beat the game in like eight hours. Not long at all.



Well, the number might not be high in absolute terms when it’s all over, but it feels really long, because there’s long periods of just looking around not knowing what to do next.



I rarely got stuck by the puzzles in the game. I lived exploring the world through Senua’s psychosis and need to find patterns in it.

I suck at combat. So those are the parts I enjoyed less. But I thought the story as a whole was so good it was well worth the 8-9 hours it took me to complete.

Headphones on all the time. What a journey.



This is the place I’m currently stuck on for the past two weeks. Does it look familiar to anyone? I know that standing on that platform probably provides the right angle to see the right thing, but I just can’t figure out how to interact with anything in the game so that I can get up there somehow.



I don’t really remember the details, but I do remember this area generally - and I think you had the right idea of trying to superimpose those parts of the symbol that are hanging from trees over the door. Looks like you don’t have a place to be able to view that from, so I’m wondering if you tried going through that gateway with the mask dangling from it, from the other direction? They usually work in one direction, as I recall, and going through them can change the landscape.



Oh really? Cool. I knew there had to be some kind of interactive element in that area.



So after getting past that area, I made some good progress. I got killed a few times in the next fight. I’m getting kind of nervous about how high up my arm the darkness is climbing. After that I got stuck on the next area last week, but I finally got past it. Knowing that passing through things actually changes the level was a huge revelation, and it made the game a WHOLE lot easier. So thank you for that @divedivedive. I just thought before that the game was playing a mental game, showing me different things at different times. I had no idea there was a method to the madness.

But now that I know, the puzzles seem much more solvable now. Instead of days it only takes me minutes.

Of course, now I’m stuck on the next fight. It’s the first time an enemy is attacking me from range, forcing me to dodge, which I really suck at. I can’t dodge to save my life. Which is why the darkness is really going to be up my arm if I ever get past this fight.

Btw: The game is really really stingy with it’s achievements. I’ve played so many hours now, and only earned one freakin’ achievement. I have to earn two this month to get my final Xbox Quest for the month.



It just doesn’t have many, but they’re all pretty easy to get from just playing the game. I don’t even try for achievements and I was one trophy away from platinum when I finished my first run.



I tried returning to that fight I lost, only to find that the game didn’t save before the fight, it saved before the last puzzle, so I had to run around the whole level to re-do the puzzle again, which took forever, and then I lost the fight again.

Sigh. So not looking forward to doing that puzzle again next time I play. What a fucking poor design decision.



This morning, instead of my usual “an hour here, an hour there”, I was able to play it for 3 hours in a row. The first hour was spent beating the fight I’d been stuck on. Valravun down, and achievement pops! Then the next two hours were doing the next few areas, until I beat the next big boss and got the next achievement too.

There’s some really clever stuff in this game, but man, that camera is still very confusing to me during fights. When I think the enemy is too far away, I hit attack and find that my character is not too far after all. But other times I think “well, it looks like he’s just out of reach, so I should attack”, which just makes me miss and get hit when the enemy gets me while I’m attacking thin air.

The nice thing about the combat is that it’s on auto difficulty, so when I was getting my ass kicked for an hour by Valravan, I lasted longer and longer and longer before dying. The game was obviously giving me the ability to take more and more hits before I went down. So by the end I was really really strong. I can take a hit now people!