Hellblade is a journey based on Norse mythology where a Celtic warrior named Senua is out to face her darkness and confront Hel, looking to bring her lover Dylian back after her whole tribe was slaughtered while she was away from camp.
What is the game all about?
What makes this journey special is the fact that Senua is implied to be schizophrenic and as she makes her way through this haunting and suffocating world, she constantly has voices in her head that make the journey she's on even more unsettling.
To make matters worse, alongside the voices, Senua also experiences visual illusions which add to the experience and truly make the player wonder, what is real and what is not as they venture through the game's world.
When we look to compare it to other single-player titles, Hellblade seems to be inspired by games like God of War 4 but its core gameplay mechanics are a lot simpler. It is a relatively short game and most of the time you will be walking around areas, solving different puzzles all while you deal with various symptoms of psychosis.
To better depict the confusion Senua feels, the storytelling is kept a bit vague/mysterious and the game refuses to hold your hand, forcing you to use your senses to navigate through most of the story and solve puzzles as they progressively get difficult.
Without a doubt, the most interesting feature of Hellblade is how the game uses the different voices in Senua's head to make the players feel involved in the story.
Throughout the game, these voices continue talking to you and at times they can even make you second-guess yourself as Senua's delusions take over. The voices are also involved in combat and they help you with some last-minute callouts. Whether to believe them or not is left up to you.
To make these voices and Senua's loneliness more noticeable, the game has no map, HUD, direction makers or anything to guide you through the journey.
The whole time players need to depend on the environment and the voices to figure out where to go and what to do. That, accompanied by Senua's hallucinations and delusion, at times, makes the players start to question what's real.
Gameplay & Combat
When it comes to combat, Hellblade provides players with a simpler version of the Soulslike system where you can dodge, attack and parry.
Combat is satisfying and the game adds a nice depth to it by rewarding reflexive prowess. Just like in the rest of the game, Hellblade doesn't teach you anything about combat either, leaving you to figure things out on your own within the first few minutes of the game.
Despite being simple, the combat gets pretty tense and challenging as the game progresses and even though the enemy variety does feel lacking at times, the story and other elements of the game easily make up for it. On higher difficulties, Combat can get a bit tedious just because of how long fights get.
Combat may not be everyone's cup of tea but since it isn't the main focus of the game it's nothing game-breaking.
Another strong aspect of Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is its creepy and grimy environment that makes players feel uneasy and anxious as they progress through. The environments are meticulously curated and the setting perfectly portrays Senua's fears and immerses the players as they constantly feel the tension and anxiety rise while walking through the zones.
Hellblade also delivers in the visuals department with absolutely stunning graphics that are definitely up to par with recently released AAA titles.
Overall, Hellblade Senua's Sacrifice is still a unique game that uses elements of psychosis to provide an exploration of mental health and the complexities of the human mind. This game transcends entertainment and although it isn't as long as some people wanted, it still is a title that every gamer who enjoys single-player games will have a good time with.