Reviewed on PS4 by KSI FadeZ 7
Hellblade was released on PC and PS4 August 8th, 2017, and a version for Xbox One was released April 11th, 2018. It was developed and published by Ninja Theory, who you may know from games like Heavenly Sword or the Devil May Cry Reboot.
Hellblade is set in the 8th century in a world revolving around Norse mythology mixed with Celtic inspiration. You play as Senua, a young Pict warrior on a journey to save her fallen lover Dillion’s soul from the Goddess Hela. Now I know what your thinking, possibly a generic hack and slash like we have all seen before. Well that’s where things start to get interesting.
Senua suffers from severe psychosis. The game uses this as a key element and plot point. They try to give you a feeling as close to experiencing psychosis as you can get through an outside medium.
Gameplay and Effects
Hellblade switches between a puzzle and hack and slash style game with a focus on Psychological Horror. Using Senua’s hallucinations as a tool to progress, you will get puzzles of things that she can see in the world that can change in a moment’s notice. You will see bridges form, and runes or words appear in scenery. You will solve these puzzles by lining things up or changing pathways during these moments.
During combat you will come across hellish shadow figures resembling norsemen, and even bosses. You can use light and heave attacks, parrys, dodges or kicks to fight and counter them. Know that you are not alone during this; although in this case that might be a blessing or a curse depending on your perspective.
Your accompanied by voices in your head called Furies. Some of these are friend, while others are foe. They are always talking to you and reacting to what is going on in game. Some of the voices will guide you in the right direction, some will lie to you completely. The voices will berate you and insult you. They can even motivate you and argue with each other at all times, giving you the feeling of what it would be like to experience that.
The main Antagonist, “The Darkness”, also speaks not only to Senua but to you as the player, taunting you both through the journey.
Lastly you are guided by a friend named Druth, a druid like man who has been around and seen many things and acts as your guide through Helheim.
For Hellblade, Ninja Theory truly showed how Video Games are an Art form. They wanted to portray the experience of having Psychosis. To experience it in a hands on way you can truly only get by playing a video game. It puts you in control of a character going through this and let’s you get up close and personal with it.
To create this experience to the best of their ability, Ninja Theory worked closely with a hand picked team of Neuroscientists, Mental Health Specialists, and people who suffer from Psychosis with hallucinations. They even went so far as to find people who hear voices, or “Voice Hearers”. This is to accurately give the experience to the player and the proper respective attention it deserves. It portrayed that that a huge factor of the illness comes from the stigmas and mistreatment from people in the general public, and escalates some of the issues.
I personally found this game to be a hidden masterpiece. It shows how much of a true art form this hobby of playing games we all have is. The story is deep and impactful, and will make you feel for Senua while thinking about things in different ways.
The combat and game play, while somewhat basic, is still fun and fluent in every capacity, and is overall quite enjoyable. I can’t stress enough how amazing the game truly is in bringing light to a topic of mental illness and Psychosis.
You’ll have to check Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice out for yourselves. Don’t forget the extras that the game has on the process of creation, I would highly recommend that too. Overall, I easily give this game a 10 out of 10. If you’re looking for something outside of the norm and want an amazing experience, I’d highly recommend you don’t miss out on this gem.