Our Stewart had a real long think about Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, by Ninja Theory. And unless something incredible happens, it’s probably going to be Stewart’s game of the year. Even if the name could have been better.
A grim exploration of mental illness in a fantasy world, the story revolves around Senua, a warrior embarking upon a quest, but having to battle with her own mind while overcoming the hellish creatures she comes across. The game is best experienced and appreciated while avoiding spoilers as much as possible, so the first half of Stewart’s review talks around the game generally before the second half dives a little deeper into thoughts on the narrative as a whole.
A lot of promotional material about the game focuses on the combat, which is fluid and smooth, although you may find that it’s relatively light if you’re used to games like Bloodborne and Dark Souls. The best moments come from exploring the environment and uncovering the story – you will spend some time walking around and looking at things.
The narrative does, however, let you draw your own conclusions about what has happened to bring Senua to this point, and you never feel idle when walking around, as you are constantly plagued by the voices in Senua’s head. These voices provide interesting meta-commentary on what is happening, and more importantly, they are always there, even if their tone varies, giving you an insight into what it’s like to be Senua, and what she has to cope with. The game overall has a tense, paranoid feel that it makes the most of, to give you an experience that you’ll be left pondering on for a while even after you’ve finished.