Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

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JaySevenZero
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Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Post by JaySevenZero » December 31st, 2017, 3:30 pm

Here's where you can leave your thoughts regarding Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice for possible inclusion in the podcast when it's recorded.

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Kermit McElmo
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Re: 338: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Post by Kermit McElmo » April 24th, 2018, 10:05 pm

Headphones, I love great headphones, I'm glad I do as to play Hellblade you really need a decent pair of cans (as recomended by the screen before you start). From the start as you paddle through a bog on your rickety old canoe you start to hear voices, the paranoia seeps in. To defeat Hella you have to defeat 2 very different bosses; fire and illusion. The demons you fight are not everywhere and it left me on my toes waiting for them to jump out and use the simple yet fun dodge/parry strong/quick attack combat, specially when you go into focus mode.

But it is now when the darkness creeps in, so dark the demons even seem to disappear, solving puzzles, trying to ignore the voices in my head. The darkness, the darkness, the darkness...

For me the audio was 50% of this game, namely the level when you must escape the darkness using only torchlight and your ears to encounter an unforgettable boss-fight, the giant hog creature who disappears into the darkness, fighting him using my ears, listening for the beast. I found this fight challenging, frustrating, with a constant fear that I may be dying to much and have my save deleted (something I googled after completion and found out was a brilliant lie!)

Yet Unfortunately this boss fight is where the game peaks...

For the final stretch the game then gets lazy, by just launching hoards of the same old enemies at you, losing the tension and paranoia it has spent hours building. Walk, open rune door, loads of old demons, rinse, repeat. But nothing is az disappointing as the final boss (or lack of boss fight) where you don't fight the final boss, but just fight more hoards of demons? It was a nice touch fighting and having to let myself die giving the story a unique, but really, the developers could have gone about it another way as opposed to getting me to fight 100 (no longer frightening) monsters that were used to brilliantly in in the rest of the game.

Overall Hellblade is a fantastic game, let down by an ending that seemed rushed and tossed away all the tension and fear I felt it spent time building up. However I still recommend it if only for the 1st 80% of the game.

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Re: 338: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Post by xbenblasterx » May 4th, 2018, 10:44 pm

Playing Hellblade truly was an experience like no other, never have i played a game that could so aptly work its way into your brain and take hold and this was no doubt thanks to the fantastic audio design. Hellblade is as much an audio experience as it is a visual one. From the very begining the game fills your ears with hushes whispers that pose just as much of a challenge as any of the enemies faced in the game. As a storytelling vessel, a method tackling some sensetive subjects and opeing the eyes of a wider audience to the mental conditions many people suffer with, the game does a superb job. However the game is sadly let down by the game side of it. The combat itself becomes boring very quickly, i often found myself thinink Hellblade may be a game better served in the style of a Gone Home or Firewatch style 'walking simulator'.

Despite this i enjoyed my time (if enjoy is the right phrase) Hellblade and hope this is the start for more games to follow in its wake.

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Re: 338: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Post by Simonsloth » May 16th, 2018, 9:50 am

In preparation for playing this game I played the entire ninja theory back catalogue as I had such fond memories of them and high expectations for this.

I don’t want to tread old ground but you can see the building blocks of hellblade in their previous work. Narrative has always been a big focus throughout all their games with a focus on actor performance in particular. Hellblade is not just a hop, skip and a jump but an astronomical leap forward in narrative and performance.

This game, to me, is perfection. The story is excellent, it’s delivery is best in class and it’s as if it was focus grouped for me specifically, I didn’t find the combat boring. I found it visceral, exciting and nail biting. I realise now that I barely lost a fight but those moments where you are close to death when the action becomes sluggish and hazy I genuinely felt incredibly tense.
I don’t expect every game to cater for me but an excellent , well delivered narrative with visceral gameplay mechanics will always win me over and this game did everything I wanted and more.

Often in games we shoot because we have to or we fight because that’s what we need to do to progress. In this game I fought with every ounce of my being not for me but for Senua. Every hit “we” took was like a shot of adrenaline heightening my reflexes and the experience. Every victory was ours. It sounds strange but I didn’t feel like I was pressing buttons but that I was there fighting alongside. Perhaps we don’t give enough credit to rumble technology but I felt every impact because of it.

I disagree that the game loses focus later on. I actually feel the opposite that from the sea of corpses onwards the game continues on a crescendo right towards the perfect denouement. I don’t think I’ve shed a tear in a game for a long time but I did at the end. I felt exhausted. Ninja theory, bravo.

I’ll try and refine this post before the podcast as at the moment it sounds like the ravings of a madman.



Is hellblade the perfect game... maybe? It has propelled itself into top 3 games of all time. I don’t think it will hold its place because repeated playthroughs will dampen the impact but right now it’s close to perfection.

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Re: 338: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Post by gangsterswedish » September 6th, 2018, 1:04 am

I was hesitant to give Hellblade a playthrough initially, so much so that I bought it on PS4 and waited nearly a year until its release on Xbox One to give it a try. My reasons for doing so had nothing to do with the type of game it was, more that the subject matter is extremely personal to me.

I come from a childhood deeply affected by mental illness, my mother was diagnosed paranoid schizophrenic when I was just 4 or 5 years old. She lived with us until I was 16, after which she was committed to a mental institution and then special housing for people with her disease until she died a couple of years ago. Needless to say, while I was curious about Hellblade, I almost dreaded, no, feared playing it.

I read a lot about Hellblade in the gaming press. Ninja Theory reportedly spent a lot of time studying mental illness in an effort to get it right. But what is “getting it right” exactly? Would it be respectful of people who have schizophrenia? Would it be respectful of their loved ones, family, and friends? Or would it purely cash-in on the whole experience of it? I wanted to know, but I didn’t want to find out.

After reading on Twitter that Ninja Theory was donating monies from Hellblade’s profits to mental health research, I finally decided to take the plunge. This company clearly wants to invest in doing the right thing for whatever reason and I figured I owed it to them – and to my two purchases of the game by that point – to give it a go. I donned my headphones, fired up my Xbox One X, and spent the next full day playing Hellblade all the way through – the only time I will ever play it.

By the time I was finished I was absolutely exhausted. What Ninja Theory has done is nothing short of incredible. Hellblade isn’t the best video game I’ve ever played. In fact, in terms of game mechanics it’s little more than a hybrid walking simulator with occasional fighting game elements. But its presentation absolutely shook me to my core. I’m 46 years old now and this damn game finally gave me an all-too-brief glimpse into what my mother’s life experience is like. Sure, my mom wasn’t alive during medieval times, but everything she ever described to me, from hearing conflicting voices to experiencing radically different realities and never know which were real and which were not, it was all there – and quite frankly it scared the hell out of me.

I finished Hellblade and stared at my backlog of hundreds of games, both current gen and older, and couldn’t find anything to play. I spent the next two weeks or so thinking of nothing else, fully unable to even start up a quick online FIFA match or play some Rocket League. I felt like I was in shock, like I’d experienced something so terrifying and yet so educational, that I didn’t know quite what to do next. More than anything though, I missed my mom like I’ve not missed her in years.

I’ve been playing games for decades now and I’ve argued many times that they’re an artform. It wasn’t until I played Hellblade though that I realized how important an artform they really are, nor did I realize that I could ever connect with something, game, movie, or otherwise, on the level that I connected with this masterpiece.

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Re: 338: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Post by MarkHoog » September 17th, 2018, 1:43 am

Unlike Leon I played Hellblade in pretty much one nightly sitting, accompanied by a candle and a thermos of coffee. I just wanted to take the plunge and not emerge until the credits rolled. And when they did I was exhausted. Because Hellblade is not a game, it is an experience, a journey into a way of perceiving life that is so much different than mine - it doesn't even matter if what Senua goes through is the game's actual reality - it is her reality.

Visually, this game is astounding. By now people might unfairly compare it to the seamless 'tour the force' that is God of War, but in it's own right Hellblade is technically impressive from beginning to end. The use of FMV projections felt a bit jarring at first, but once I got used to them they added to both the game's uniqueness as well as Senua's sense of isolation. And her eyes... I just could not stop looking at her eyes. While the music was functional yet unremarkable, it was of course the sound design that really blew me away: during the later stages of the game I found myself actually replying to the voices in my head, saying things like "shut up!" and "yeah, I know!" (This is when I took a break.)

Only downside for me was the combat, which got old really fast. After dying on a lengty combat section in the Sea of Corpses I immediately lowered the difficulty to Easy, not wanting my immersion to be ruined by the frustration of death. In fact, I'd love for this game to have a sort of 'pussy mode' where either death or combat is non-existent. That way this experience can also be undergone by people who are interested in mental disorder but have never held a controller in their life. Yep, to me Hellblade is an important step forward in both understanding psychosis and exploring narrative in video games.

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Re: 338: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Post by ratsoalbion » September 21st, 2018, 3:46 pm

gangsterswedish wrote:
September 6th, 2018, 1:04 am
Thank you so much for writing this and for sharing your experience. The centrepiece of the podcast.

Thanks to all of you for posting of course, lots of great input for the recording as ever, but I'm sure you all agree that gangsterswedish's contribution is especially powerful.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (23.9.18) - 338: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Post by Scrustle » September 21st, 2018, 4:11 pm

Hellblade is an amazing and intense experience that provides and uncompromising view in to the experiences of a character with psychosis in a way that only games can offer. While perhaps not intended to be precisely realistic, it was definitely authentic, and all the more powerful for it.

The game does a fantastic job of putting you in Senua’s perspective, by immersing you in her audiovisual experience, building a world where the line between the real and surreal break down. It has very clever use of environmental puzzles, that make for some very unique sights that get you to see the game world in a different way, while also doing a good job of getting you in to the mindset of looking for patterns in the world that may or may not actually be there, as is supposed to be a common part of psychosis. But by far the highlight of the experience is the audio design. When you start the game up, it suggests you use headphones, which is definitely the way the game should be played. The way they use binaural audio to deliver the constant inner dialogue of the voices Senua hears in her head is a stroke of genius. It really feels like the voices are directly in your own head too, in a way that can be quite unsettling, and provides a genuine feeling of what that experience would be like, with all these different personalities commenting on everything you do, berating and even encouraging you as you progress. It’s an experience unlike anything else in games, and really needs to be heard first-hand to fully understand its potency.

I was surprised by upon playing the game, even though I knew about all the themes it was attempting to tackle going in, how much it actually resembled a horror experience rather than an action game. While it is still primarily action (in between lots of exploration), the way it creates a genuine feeling of dread and fear was not something I was expecting. All the audiovisual tricks frequently work together to create some disquietingly fearful moments. For example, in the sequence when you have to escape from a burning village in a hallucination. The way the fire seems to engulf you, and the truly harrowing screams of people caught by the flames had way more of an impact on me than I was prepared for going in.

One point of contention people seem to have about this game however is the combat. Personally, I found it to be very enjoyable. It’s somewhat limited in its scope, but it’s tense and has a sense of danger to it. It also helps that it’s excellently animated and has great kinaesthetics too, but the feeling I got from it was a palpable feeling of intensity and claustrophobia. I can see why people might think it’s a bit repetitive, but in a way, I think that fits very well with my feelings on it too. It fits in to the idea that Senua is fighting her inner demons, that may seem endless and rote in one sense, but also very real and threatening at the same time. Even if she’s battling the same monsters over and over again, they never stop feeling deadly or overwhelming.

Overall the game is a brilliant experience, and it really blew me away. It comes as the logical conclusion to Ninja Theory’s historical trends of making increasingly better games over time, to deliver something really special and outstanding. It’s an intense, and even at times emotionally exhausting experience, that provides an unflinching and immersive look in to the experiences of a character with a unique perspective, that utilises the strengths of the medium with expertise and originality. It’s a game that I think simply must be played by anyone who wants to see how games can explore the experiences of others with an unusual view on the world. And it does all this while also being a very compelling, if relatively simple action game at the same time.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (23.9.18) - 338: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Post by Tleprie » September 23rd, 2018, 3:43 pm

While I enjoyed the story and gameplay overall, I didn't connect with it to the degree that others have, so I won't go into those aspects. Instead what excites me most about Hellblade is the potential that it shows within this medium, and what we can hopefully see more of going forward.

Hellblade felt like a AAA walking simulator, and I mean that in the most loving way. It puts everything it has into its narrative and world, and then still has enough left over to craft great gameplay. Gameplay that does not detract from, but rather builds onto an excellent story.

I hope we get more similar works in the future. Whether it's a racing game that consists of only one race, but is an exhilarating several hour experience. Or an FPS in which over the course of a six hour mission you only ever draw your gun once, and not even at the end.
I want more games that don't let the traditional give-and-take of story and gameplay put them into the same box that we've played dozens of times before, and Hellblade gives me hope for that.

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Re: Our next podcast recording (23.9.18) - 338: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Post by Simonsloth » September 23rd, 2018, 7:51 pm

Tleprie wrote:
September 23rd, 2018, 3:43 pm
I hope we get more similar works in the future. Whether it's a racing game that consists of only one race, but is an exhilarating several hour experience. Or an FPS in which over the course of a six hour mission you only ever draw your gun once, and not even at the end.
I want more games that don't let the traditional give-and-take of story and gameplay put them into the same box that we've played dozens of times before, and Hellblade gives me hope for that.
This game gives me hope for this too. I like your ideas.

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Re: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Post by Scrustle » September 25th, 2018, 7:08 pm

Just in time for the podcast this GDC talk about the game popped up.


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Re: Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Post by Pitwar » October 17th, 2018, 2:05 pm

I started playing this back in April, as a friend bought me a copy as he loved it, and was sure I would too.

I played in a bit at the time, but other games got in the way. However, I decided to go back to it this past weekend and I can safely say I'm not digging it.

While it looks and sounds awesome, I find the combat dreadful, the puzzles not overly intuative, and the story doesn't really grip me.

I would like to finish it, as I know it's not long and the whole experience may change my opinion, but after beating both Surtr and Valravn I'm struggling to find the will to jump back in. Does it get any better from this point?

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