...in your sword still beats a heart.
Senua is a Celtic warrior from the Viking Age. She suffers from psychosis a mental illness in which the patient often loses touch with reality, has anxiety disorders, hallucinations and behavioral disorders. Senua starts a nightmarish journey on the inhospitable paths of her disturbed mind, going through hell itself with the sole purpose of finding her beloved Dillian, who is dead. Killed brutally, by Scandinavian barbarians, with a heinous execution technique, called Blood Eagle. Holding his head wrapped in a cloth, she looks for him in Helheim, confronting gods and demons. Exhausted but stubborn to find him, she struggles with her own paranoia in a world that is constantly testing her.
In order to move forward in this horrible world, she has to solve some puzzles. These are related to the signs (runes) she sees throughout her journey. Finding the right angle creates the shapes you are looking for, from objects in the space, trees, branches, wood, or light and shadow. By looking at the same scene from a different angle, you can solve puzzles. However, puzzle mechanisms are more or less the same. By changing perspectives or going through gates that change the world from normal to dark with small changes in the environment, the goal is to move forward. Similar runes are used to activate stories about the game's lore. There is no reward for completing puzzles. Senua's only reaches one step closer to Dillian. Isn't that what we're looking for?
Of course, she would not make it without fighting. Senua has a sword. Nothing more, nothing less. With that she has to fight bosses and all her enemies. Each enemy is designed differently and retains some features that distinguish it. Their variety is not very large, but their design is excellent. There is no health bar, but only battle until someone dies. Death, however, is not easy, and difficulty choices help the weakest technically players. Some bosses reminded me a bit of Dark Souls when I tried to observe their pattern.
The combat system is really enjoyable. Visually and acoustically I felt satisfied with the feeling it left me. Simple, or even stronger blows, dodges and defenses, as well as a skill called focus. Focus is an ability that allows Senua to make time run slower so she can attack more easily. Overall, the combat experience is very enjoyable.
The design is what makes the overall experience amazing. It feels like an open world game, but in reality is not. You wander around like a lost soul, in beautiful forests and caves, to tall buildings. Although wandering may seem boring to some, I think it fits the psychological and emotional state of the main protagonist. Dark and claustrophobic places, places with green and beautiful realistic sky, coastal areas and buildings wrapped in flames. Everything is beautiful and creepy at the same time. The design is so detailed in some places, it gives an amazing liveliness. Beautiful textures, impressive effects for the weather and wonderful lighting that gives each time the feeling that suits each situation perfect. The sound that surrounds the world is as impeccable as the entire soundtrack, which due to 3D support, works as Senua's guide even in areas with absolute darkness.
The voice over of all the actors is one of the best efforts I have even seen in a video game. In cut scenes, the forms of the characters are presented as memories or creations of Senua's imagination. The strange thing about these characters is that they haven't gone through Render like Senua's form. The result is extremely realistic, as all the actors did an excellent job. Senua has gone through render, and her form, as well as her voice, is borrowed from Melina Juergens, who, without being a professional actress but a team video editor, gave an amazing performance. Ninja Theory has worked with a psychiatrist, neurologist and a group of people suffering from psychosis. Senua's movements, reactions, and expressions are not only tied to the neuropsychological condition in which she finds herself into, but also the shots that look directly at the camera, experiencing a horrible torture from her own mind, left me speechless.
In her journey Senua is dominated by two voices. Her subconscious. Other times it confuses, annoys and frightens her, while other times it helps her solve puzzles and fight enemies during combat. These voices are recorded with Biaural microphones. As a result, especially with the use of headphones that are recommended for a better result, it feels like they are right next to us or around us, and whisper in our ear. The overall feel of this continuous contrasting sound is unique.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is one of the very few psychological, action-adventure third-person shooters in which the atmosphere is constantly intense. It starts quietly, on a lake, and is constantly peaking. It goes from anxiety, to horror, and from there to a nightmarishly chaotic climate as it reaches the end. Throughout I had a feeling of fear. Strange fear. It was not the fear we often encounter in games. It was a burden inside me, a despair for what I saw and heard, a panic when I was in danger.
Senua goes through a personal hell and barely survives. She is not a heroic figure, invincible and great. She is a simple, ordinary woman, called to fight the impossible. To face herself for the name of love. She deserves nothing but respect. There are many situations like Senua. People with mental disorders go through this daily. People we saw, heard, met, ....
RIP Byron "Reckful" Bernstein.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is an AAA title from a relatively small team. The price and game-time (6-8 hours depending on the player), I think is more than satisfactory for the quality and content it offers. A story about a woman who fights her nightmare in her own mind. A rotten story of isolation, loneliness, love in a personal psychotic hell.
Tested on : PC
Developer : Ninja Theory
Publisher : Ninja Theory
Available for : PS4, PC
Release date : 2017-08-08