March 15, 2023Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice 2023 (Hellblade Review) – Is It Worth It?

The storytelling video game Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice by Ninja Theory is among the most captivating and visually striking titles ever created by an independent game studio. Despite its darker mood and otherworldly creatures lurking in the different corners of the game, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice isn’t a horror game that has that typical scary horror game vibe. Instead, it tackles something much more real and scarier—mental health and human psychology, just with the vibes of a horror game.

As you follow Senua on her journey, you will slowly tackle more sensitive subjects like past trauma, psychosis, and guilt while also witnessing the real human emotions and struggles that our main character is going through.

Ninja Theory’s way of uncovering Senua’s story is definitely one for the books. It leaves you wondering what’s real and what’s part of the hallucination. It’s a very deep, agonizing journey that’ll make you relate to the protagonists’ struggles on a much deeper and more emotional level.

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Photo Credits to Steam

Release Date: August 8, 2017
Developer/Publisher: Ninja Theory/Ninja Theory
Genre: Puzzle, Action-Adventure, Fighting, Hack and Slash Game
Platforms: PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, Xbox Series X and Series S, Xbox Cloud Gaming, Microsoft Windows
Metacritic Score: 83%
Steam Review: Very Positive
Nominations: BAFTA Game Awards 2018:

  • Best Game
  • Game Innovation
  • Best Music
  • Best Narrative

Annie Awards 2018:

  • Outstanding Achievement for Character Animation in a Video Game

Behind the Voice Actors Awards 2018:

  • Best Female Lead Vocal Performance in a Video Game

Golden Trailer Awards 2018:

  • Don LaFontaine Award for Best Voice Over

NAVGTR Awards 2018:

  • Animation, Artistic
  • Animation, Technical
  • Art Direction, Period Influence
  • Game Design, New IP
  • Game, Original Action
  • Original Dramatic Score, New IP
  • Sound Effects
  • Writing in a Drama

The Game Awards 2017:

  • Best Narrative
  • Best Independent Game

The Webby Awards 2019:

  • Best Art Direction
  • Action
  • Best Music/Sound Design
  • Best Visual Design
  • Best Writing
Awards: BAFTA Game Awards 2018:

  • Best Performer
  • Best British Game
  • Artistic Achievement
  • Audio Achievement
  • Game Beyond Entertainment

NAVGTR Awards 2018:

  • Outstanding Performance in a Drama, Lead
  • Use of Sound, New IP

The Game Awards 2017:

  • Best Audio Design
  • Best Performance
  • Games for Impact

The Webby Awards 2019:

  • Best Art Direction

Writer’s Guild of Great Britain 2018

  • Best Writing in a Video Game

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Photo Credits to Steam

Hellblade Review

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice centers on the protagonist, Senua, a Celtic warrior who goes on a quest to uncover the abyss of Helheim, the mythical Norse equivalent of hell, in an attempt to save her lover’s soul from Hela, the ruler of Helheim. Despite Senua’s main goal of saving her lover’s soul, the deeper reason for Senua’s inner conflict and constant struggle is due to her psychosis and the past trauma of her family’s passing.

She is now sent off on a journey to fight off her inner demons and cope with her past traumas while battling otherworldly creatures and the voices in her head. However, it’s not going to be easy. With Senua’s struggle with psychosis and hallucinations, you will be left wondering what you’re actually battling. Is it real? Are these your hallucinations? Well, time will only tell.

These cause you to experience a multitude of hardships and conflicting voices in your mind that ultimately affect Senua’s psychological and emotional well-being. Senua will encounter illogical and reality-defying challenges along the way, as well as an unending swarm of enemies who want to stop her from accomplishing her journey.

The voices that plague Senua will soon plague you too, dancing around your and Senua’s heads as if they were taunting you. The voices will make you feel as though you are never truly alone.

These voices that surround you talk directly to you, Senua, and even to each other. They cause conflict within you, they cheer you on, and they degrade you and your choices. Even the narrator’s voice is one of many voices that are almost constantly present yet lack a distinct identity. This experience is both haunting and confusing, which makes the game both vivid and exhilarating at the same time as everything that takes place is right in front of your eyes.

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Photo Credits to Steam

Aside from the mesmerizing audio work, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice also delves deeply into the visually appealing content. It takes you on a visually striking adventure on sun-soaked beaches and dark, musty lands, and even the plain darkness that engulfs you will bring about different gut-wrenching emotions.

The incredible use of both audio and visuals is something Ninja Theory prides itself on; it takes the whole game into a whole new world of beauty and allure for the already appealing game.

In principle, Hellblade is not, by nature, an action game. Although the battle is one of the game’s central aspects, there aren’t many weapons or difficult skill levels to navigate in Hellblade. Senua’s array of abilities and weaponry is kept minimal until the very end, with the exception of several additional combat abilities acquired at significant story turning points. The real difficulty and satisfaction in the game come from understanding the reactive, dynamic base combat mechanics that let you easily switch between different enemies while being warned of impending attacks by your inner voice based on where they’re coming from.

Hellblade portrays mental illness sympathetically and does not appear focused on highlighting the distinctions between truth and hallucination. It all comes down to Senua’s viewpoint. Hellblade does a good job of infiltrating your actions with anxiety, dread, and fear. Her inner voices, which argue with one another while passing judgment on Senua’s current situation, are one of the more distressing parts of her psychosis that will leave you conflicted yet amazed.

In actuality, there is only one instruction in the game: try not to die. This is because, with each death you experience, Senua will slowly start to rot. Senua would actually die when the rot reaches her head, and all your hard-earned progress will be lost. It’s a ruthless system that managed to infuse every action I took with a dense, thick layer of carefulness, anxiety, and doubt so as to not die. But sometimes, in certain situations, death seems inevitable.

The majority of challenges that you have to solve involve Senua manipulating her focus in order to identify glyphs that are concealed in plain sight or from different viewpoints, showcasing her abstract meticulousness. Even though certain of these challenges are creative, the same design is used far too frequently, rendering some of the longer loops monotonous.

While solving these perceptual challenges rapidly grew into one of the best parts of Hellblade, they occasionally slowed down the game’s progression. On the other hand, the scenes in which Senua loses her senses and equipment and must use a more tactful approach to evade her enemies were far more exciting and entertaining.

Generally, Hellblade keeps its gameplay simple throughout its voyage in order to avoid wearing out its charm. Combat only occurs when it is necessary, regardless of the intricate nature of the tale and how it is presented.

Final Verdict

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a video game masterpiece that will leave you unable to forget the game even after reaching its end. Despite Senua’s struggles to come to terms with her condition, she gains the ability to suffer and come to terms with her history as a result of the process.

We experience the same problems alongside her in a deep and physiological sense, and as a result, we gain a deeper awareness of a problem that many people throughout the world face.

At the end of Senua’s journey, she leaves you with a few final words that will invite you to take on another journey in Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2. The developers did mention that Hellblade 2 wouldn’t exactly be a direct sequel.

Hellblade expertly incorporates analogies for loss and grief into the core gameplay and rich lore, something that is unique in games of a similar genre. Overall, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is one of the best PS4 indie games on the market that you shouldn’t miss!

That’s a wrap!