Content of the article: "Finally finished Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and it was excellent, but with caveats"
After buying it blind at the start of the year I finally got around to playing it at the end of May, in the dark and with headphones on. The opening blew me away and definitely convinced me that this was a game I needed to play more of. Then I played for maybe an hour and got stuck in a puzzle which killed my motivation to play until I looked up the solution, which I never actually did.
Months later, after I finished Subnautica then Outer Wilds one after another and decided I wanted something with combat but still that feeling of mystery, I thought I'd just give Hellblade another shot. I solved the puzzle in a matter of minutes (I'm starting to think I found a bug because there's no way I screwed it up that badly!) and got on with the rest of the game. I loved it, for the most part; I left combat difficulty on "auto" which seemed to be fine for me – at the beginning, anyway.
I think the main problem is I played another hour one night then yesterday I had the day off work and just powered through the remaining 4 and a half hours in one sitting, I think that was a big mistake. Some of the puzzles confused me so I did look up guides for prompting, but in both cases it was me being daft and I think if I'd stopped playing for the day when I encountered each roadblock I would've come back fresh the next day and solved it immediately, like I did with the first puzzle that stumped me. Even so, I didn't really like the reliance on puzzles. Maybe it's because I've played a lot of "walking sims" recently but I would've been happier if some (not all) puzzles were replaced with just walking and talking.
The combat was my biggest problem with the game and even then I can see why they did it the way they did. The issues I had were pretty much just that you couldn't temporarily stop locking on to an enemy in order to run away, you couldn't rotate the camera in combat and you couldn't easily choose to face the enemy nearest to you, so if you were in combat with more than two enemies it was very easy to end up with more enemies off-screen than on and you only had maybe two tenths of a second to react to the audio cue that warned you of an off-screen attack.
Like, I get that the combat is meant to feel overwhelming and claustrophobic because Senua is just a human against immeasurable odds and is as vulnerable as it's possible for a person to be, but by the end of the game I was a tiny, white-hot ball of rage because of these limitations – again, I should've taken breaks and/or lowered the difficulty. I only actually died about four times (darkness up to her right shoulder, so not much) in the end so it's not even that I kept dying, I just felt like the combat became properly tedious.
In spite of these two (subjective) negatives, the game was still excellent in so many other ways. The audio, for one, is by far the best I've ever heard in a game, the voices are so well-acted and the effect they used for that one voice was properly chilling. The graphics, too, were far better than they had any right to be being the indie game that it is and it ran super smoothly on my GTX 1080 at 4K, so much so that I had to check it really was running at 4K because I actually didn't believe it. The whole thing really was extremely well-made. I can't really comment on the story because I didn't fully grasp it and had a hard time discerning what was real and what wasn't (again, I'm sure that's the entire point), but even without understanding exactly what was going on I was entertained by it from start to finish. Also the controls were good, combat was simple (as I said, maybe too simple) and when fighting one or two enemies was legitimately a lot of fun.
As I said, I went in blind and not knowing what to expect, but I did know it was "about" mental illness and had assumed that would manifest in it being a horror game – I was wrong. It does have two horror game sequences, but for the most part it's "just" deeply creepy. The Norse mythology was all fascinating, too, my favourite being the story of Baldur that is recounted during the tower shard sequence. Oh and I really liked how the voices gave Senua guidance, mainly because sometimes when I was wandering around not knowing what to do I'd suddenly realise that the voices were literally telling me what to do and I just wasn't listening to them.
All in all, I'm looking forward to Hellblade: Senua's Sequel, I just hope the combat system is designed to support combat with >2 enemies next time.
- I really think God Of War and Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice are one another’s rip off
- How to: puzzles
- I absolutely loved the setting and audio design of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, and it didn’t overstay its welcome
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