Psychosis is a mental disorder where a person begins to lose touch with their reality. This sometimes manifests itself in the form of hallucinations or delusions. That person’s hallucinations might include sensory experiences which has no actual source. Examples of such hallucinations could be auditory and/or visual; hearing and seeing things which aren’t really there. This person could become harmful to others or themselves.
Just the mare description of psychosis conjures up the image of a nightmare you can’t wake up from and for the approximately 10 or so hours I played Hellblade: Senua’s Scarifice, I had the minute opportunity to experience what it was like to suffer with such an illness as psychosis.
This is Confident Gamer’s review of Ninja Theory’s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.
In HellBlade, you play as Senua, a Celtic warrior fighting for the soul of her dead true love. Her mission, a vision quest of sorts, is an experience that pulls in the player and holds them and forces their eyes open to face essentially what Senua faces day and night in her life.
To play Hellblade is to play a griping, dark, frightening, fulfilling novel. One of the ways in which Hellblade pulls in the player is by totally removing the heads up display, the HUD. By removing this, you the player aren’t focused on all the information you would normally get from the HUD. So there are no navigation points, no button prompts, etc. In fact, from the start of the game, you just take control of Senua and you pretty much have to figure things out. Even more interesting is the way the combat is structured. It, allow with pretty much everything important in Hellblade, revolves around the voices which hunt Senua. This brings us to Sound.
If there was a hierarchy system, sound would definitely take the top spot. Fair warning, I am about to just gush about how amazing the sound work in Hellblade truly is. The way the sound is used in Hellblade is simply amazing. If this is what someone suffering from the illness of psychosis experiences, then I truly am heart broken. Side note, if you can, you must, I repeat MUST play Hellblade with headsets. If you can’t, then find a way to. You are doing yourself an injustice not playing with headsets.
I say this because this is where Hellblade shines the brightest. For the start to the finish, you are tormented, praised, belittled, soothed, & encouraged by the many voices in Senua’s head. This is also how Hellblade directs you the player throughout the entirety of the game. Not in a sense of go here or go there, but instead in a more natural conversational manner. During the combat sequences, the voices instruct and as the enemies and bosses get higher in difficulty, the offer hints and clues to defeating them. So because there is no HUD, the voices give various prompts when an enemy is attacking from behind.
There was a section in the game also where what was happening on screen and what you were experiencing and what the voices were telling you to do was totally opposing. What the voices was telling me to do, I resisted every bit of the way. Let’s just say, after it all, after a long, sweaty palms ordeal, I gave in and after that, placed my controller down and gave the game a well-deserved, well done slow clap.
The voices also help with the narrative of the game by provide information about past and present events.
Excellent use of sound, but how does Hellblade look? Time for graphics.
Hellblade looks amazing! The motion capture was on point. When the camera goes for close ups of Senua’s face, you see life behind her eyes. You feel the pain and torment and anguish that Senua is going through.
Each stage of Hellblade is unique and has its own characteristic. One stage might be bright with vivid, vibrant colors, pleasing to the eyes, while another would be the absolute contrast, having muted, dulled, almost life draining. There are even points in Hellblade where color and sight is virtually taken away from you. This was a very uneasy and terrifying moment.
Hellblade can be absolutely stunning and beautify at some points, but will turn around and present some just truly disturbing and horrifying imagery. None of which will ever feel over used or gratuitous.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is labeled as a triple A indie game. We want more games like this! High quality games with a reduced price tag and a decent amount of content with a griping and intriguing storyline.
After you complete the game, and I must stress this, after you complete the game, there is a featurette which takes you through the development of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice which is absolutely amazing. The behind the scenes of how they created the sound work as well as their in depth research of the mental illness of Psychosis, again absolutely amazing! The interview and input and testimonies of actual people who suffer/suffered from Psychosis, caused me to have an even higher respect for Ninja Theory.
If you are a gamer, if you love a deep storyline, if you like delving into weirdness, if you like to play games that are not cut from the normal, go pick up Ninja Theory’s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and make it a part of your gaming experience and library.