Games of the Year

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

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From the makers of Heavenly Sword, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, and DmC: Devil May Cry, comes a warrior’s brutal journey into myth and madness. Set in the Viking age, a broken Celtic warrior embarks on a haunting vision quest into Viking Hell to fight for the soul of her dead lover. Created in collaboration with neuroscientists and people who experience psychosis, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice will pull you deep into Senua’s mind.
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Game Discussion

Review by Anonymous
Review from Steam

One of the most outstanding and captivating video game experiences I have ever had the pleasure of playing. Story, environment, sound, puzzles and mechanics are all a pure joy. It's rare games like this that make video gaming an interactive form of art that takes you on a journey as someone else and you come out the other side feeling you've experienced and learned something yourself

Review from Steam

The voices I heard in my head were sometimes from the game as well. 11/10

Review from Steam

If you're interested in decoding the game, or if you're not put off by the whispers that run through it, or if you're comfortable with the religious elements and the oppressive atmosphere, or if you want to see the world through the eyes of a mentally ill protagonist, this is a great game to watch. The author's thoughts on life, religion and death are reflected in senua's growth, which is also conveyed to the players through this novel and resonates with them. Meanwhile, the ending is thought-provoking.
But if you think of the game as an action game, or if you don't have the psychological ability, this game may not be for you. Five minutes of fighting, two hours of deciphering. At the same time, the whole process of the game feel heavy depression, may cause discomfort in a part of the crowd.

Review from Steam

This is one of my favorite games ever and I've played through it several times. Senua is one of the most expressive characters in gaming and the audio/visual in Hellblade is incredible. It's a short game, so I'm not gonna go into too much detail, but it's an experience like no other and really shows what gaming as a medium is capable of. The game got a graphical update in 2021 and looks even better now with support for Ray Tracing and high levels of detail. I'm very happy there's a sequel on the way.

Review from Steam

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is easily one of my favorite games I've ever played. I cannot recommend it enough, though please read my disclaimer at bottom as well before taking me up on my recommendation.
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is an amazing mix of interesting and unique puzzles, satisfying melee combat, and psychological exploration, all packaged in a stunning world with graphics that really only a AAA game studio can provide. The game follows you, a schizophrenic woman named Senua, who must travel to Hel to fight for the soul of her dead lover. The entire game, from story, atmosphere, combat, narration (voices in your head?), and even the mechanics of the puzzles, all tie in to this theme of the dark thoughts of a schizophrenic woman, desperate to save her lover. This level of thought, care, and love that clearly has been poured into the game creates both a world and main character that feel as real and immersive as anything I have experienced.
- Puzzles are unique, satisfying to figure out, and mind-bending. While occasionally you can miss a mechanic, leaving you walking around for a while, this is rare, and solving those puzzles are still very satisfying.
- Combat is also satisfying but not so unique. Combat consists of swords / melee encounters, with rolling and parrying akin to dark souls. Combat never gets terribly difficult, but is always an enjoyable encounter.
- Story is once again satisfying, unique, and deep. Expect the story to play heavily into what you are experiencing in the moment, but don't expect it to play out like a movie or walking sim. Instead, expect more Norse lore and obstacles towards your goal.
My only main complaint is that I have seen some nearly game-breaking, very immersion breaking bugs occur in the PC version of this game. Unfortunately when this happens, there don't seem to be any easily available fixes, and you simply have to get past that part, with potentially impaired vision, movement, etc.. This doesn't happen to everyone, but does certainly affect your experience if it does happen to you.
Disclaimer: Schizophrenia plays a central theme in Hellblade, and the game truly makes you feel that theme as though you or a close friend were to suffer from the condition. The creators worked closely with psychologists to get this feeling correct, and while I personally don't have firsthand experience with Schizophrenia, Hellblade certainly makes you feel it. The game is quite dark, and you will feel this as you play it. I do not recommend playing this game if you are not in the right state of mind to handle that.

Review from Steam

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
Disturbing and original plot
Hellblade gives us a premise that shocks us from the first moment and already shows that the game doesn't think small at all. Senua is a warrior of the Celtic people exiled for a time from her tribe who returns and finds her then husband Dillion dead due to a Viking invasion that took place there. Furious, the warrior vows to rescue her beloved from the depths of Hellheim, the Viking hell. And this is where our journey begins, with Senua arriving in Viking territory ready to face all risks to rescue her husband.
The premise seems interesting, but seen from this angle it is not surprising. However, an aspect that is far from being a mere detail of this plot is that Senua suffers from a serious mental illness called Schizophrenia. For those who don't know, this is a disease marked by unusual behaviors and confusion between what is real and what isn't. The main symptoms of schizophrenia (also known as psychosis in some ways) are delusions, auditory and visual hallucinations, distorted thoughts, and poor social interaction.
Due to several aspects of her life, in addition to the trauma of seeing the person she loved most in life brutally dead, Senua goes into a crisis and begins to have delusions involving her life story, her traumas and all your anxieties. Throughout the game, you constantly wonder what is real and what is part of the protagonist's delusion. And what initially seems like a “God of War” turns out to be much more, which is fantastic.
The game's narrative is engaging, deep and fragmented. But everything has an explanation and is designed to cause the player the impressions necessary for him to become emotionally involved with the protagonist of the story. A plot immersion like that can only be compared to The Last of Us which is incredible for an independent production made by just over ten people.
The hallucinations turned into a game
Talking directly to the game's story, we have its visuals that need no comment. It is one of the most beautiful graphics. Senua's facial expressions and performances, the result of motion capture technology, only increase the character's expressiveness and depth. In addition, the world around you, all set in Nordic culture, is beautiful and, at the same time, scary. Beautiful landscapes and horrendous locations contrast all the time creating a phenomenal look.
But it's not just beautiful graphics that Hellblade is all about. The entire game world speaks to the protagonist's story on different levels, making everything from the cameras to the enemies we face into a single story told by all the senses at the same time. It's amazing to see how the developers managed to play around with auditory and visual perception in the game so that the player really sees himself inside the skin of a person with schizophrenia.
The game is focused on solving puzzles mixed with moments of action. As for the puzzles, everything around you can be part of the experience. The notion of perspective built into each map, allowing one to explore its nuances and thus find the right angles, gives access to paths that were once simply not there. The game messes with the map around you at all times, causing the player to get confused thinking “was that already there before?” at various points in the game.
Challenging combats, but mere details
The other part of the game is fighting enemies that simply appear in the middle of nowhere to threaten Senua's journey (you decide if they are illusion or not). Viking enemies are rotten and monstrous, reminiscent of something between the Dark Souls franchise and the aforementioned God of War. The combat itself is also somewhat reminiscent of these two games, but with a level of difficulty not as absurd as that of the Souls series. But that doesn't stop him from being very challenging.
Hellblade, right at its beginning, presents a clear message that you have a fixed number of kills you can have before you lose all your story advancement and simply start from scratch. This keeps the player alert to dangers and prevents them from simply killing themselves to start over with full stamina. But this is one of the only written warnings you will have on your screen.
To make both the gameplay as a whole, as well as the combats themselves much more tense and immersive, Hellblade has absolutely no data written on screen. Health or energy bar, enemy health or damage number. Nothing just appears on the screen that isn't really part of Senua's perception. This makes the game more immersive and challenging, especially in combat.
Even the most common enemies need more than ten hits to kill. Also, the game's challenge curve starts to rise a lot after we get to the halfway point. And this is all faced "with the naked eye", without any kind of material given to make it easier to know if the enemy is almost dying, if you're on the right path, if your health is low or anything like that.
But make no mistake, the game is still didactic in the right measure for not having this kind of thing. It is designed in a way that its map, its landscapes, the behavior of the enemies and its vision pass all this information in a very organic way. You don't need to know how much health the enemy has, just see how many cuts your sword has already made in their skin and notice how their speed is decreasing, as well as their attacks.
Easily circumvented slips
Some problems can be identified in the game, but they do not directly affect the game play at almost any time. A bug has been noticed regarding Senua's hair movement that starts jumping wildly, as well as at one point I got stuck on a rock because I couldn't move. However, these are common game bugs that are easily fixed with very light updates. What's more, during the entir

Review from Steam

The Northmen say it's not really a game, it's an experience.

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