Review: Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
Posted by: Toasted Buns on January 5th 2019
I have had a difficult time finding a good video game to play in recent memory. I've just mostly been playing NBA (which have become terrible) or some older games. However, recently I've come across an indie video game called Hellblade and I haven't been so gripped by a video game in a long time!
Story driven, single-player experiences in video games are becoming pretty much extinct. Latest Call of Duty dropped story mode in favor of battle royale mode, most popular games are pretty much online only now (Including Fortnite, Destiny and others) therefore coming across a game like this has been a real revelation. Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is a single player only video game developed by a British video game developer Ninja Theory known for titles such as Heavenly Sword and DmC: Devil May Cry (The emo one). This game resolves around Senua, a women trying to save her boyfriend from hell. She is also suffering from mental illness therefore you hear voices throughout the game. I don't want to go into story too much because it's best to experience it without knowing too much about it.
First of all, I want to say that the visual style of this game is absolutely amazing. I am not just talking about graphics but acting, direction and visual effects. The game is running on Unreal Engine 4 and it is probably the best use of this engine that I have seen. The characters look almost photo realistic (Especially Senua), the locations are beautiful and feel alive, the lighting effects and reflections are great too. In addition to this, the direction of this game is very well done. I haven't played any other game made by Ninja Theory but this one really uses a lot of camera movement to portray what Senua is feeling and to create these great shots that really show how beautiful Unreal Engine can be. The game also uses the music and sound effects together with the visuals to create gripping experiences throughout the whole game. You have to play this game with headphones to really appreciate sound design. The voices in your head not only makes the experience better but also helps you in the combat telling you went to dodge. The girl who playes Senua is really, really good. Her performance really shows the desperation and dedication of Senua. The use of her facial expressions really sells the story. Without her great performance the story wouldn't be as good as it is. It's like one of those movies that are great because of the performance of an actor and without that would be average at best.
Secondly, the gameplay is pretty basic but is good enough to keep you entertained. It's divided into two parts: simple environmental puzzles and really good combat. The puzzles are really simple, all you have to do is match a symbol you see on a door with some object in the real world. It's an interesting concept but gets boring and old really fast. There are some other puzzles including portals but nothing much. The best part of the gameplay is the combat which is very well done. It reminds me a bit of Dark Souls style combat where you have to block or dodge the attack from the enemies and attack. However, towards the end it got pretty repetitive. Once you understand how the mechanic works it gets really easy to dominate the enemies. Especially when you get the upgrades later in the game. I only played it once on auto combat difficulty therefore so I am not sure how the experience is on higher difficulty. It might be more challenging and immersive on higher difficulty!
Thirdly, I would like to give a public service announcement to video game developers and movie producers that this is exactly how you make a good female character. Make sure it makes sense in the story! Senua is a strong female character that can beat multiple enemies at once but it makes sense. She has been training for basically her whole life. Moreover, she displays a lot of feminine traits. She is trying to save the love of her life, she was close with her mother and more. As mentioned above, I do not want to talk about the story too much. The fact that she is suffering from mental illness makes her even more interesting. Now I am not saying that every female character has to be mentally disabled or something but just making a character female is not enough. Especially making a woman do stuff that men do, like beating a bunch of men, sleeping around and basically being a man is not how you make a female character.
Ninja Theory showed that you do not need a huge budget to make a good video game that feels like a AAA title. All you need is a passionate team that knows what they are doing. They didn't even need a huge marketing campaign to make this game successful! They also proved that Single Player experiences are still profitable and you do not need to make multiplayer only micro-transactions filled piece of shit to make money. Electronic Arts, Activision and 2K should be ashamed of their shitty economic models. Video games like Hellblade, Doom, most of PlayStaion exclusives and Rockstar games prove that you can make SP only games and make money. I hope that more companies come back to making smaller budgets video games that do not have to sell 10 million copies to be profitable. Just like film industry realized that you can make small budget films and be profitable (John Wick, Deadpool and bloom house production movies etc.)
I hope you check out the game because I want games like this to be as successful as possible. Video Games industry is in a shitty place right now. Micro-transactions, multi-player only games, technical problems at launch, predatory DLCs, season passes and other crap that games have to deal every year. Please, support creators who actually care about gamers and not predatory companies like EA or Activision.
Thanks for reading!