Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
Ninja Theory crafts a highly competent action game and a nuanced, powerful exploration of mental health.
Hellblade could benefit from more exploration and enemy variety, but it's a powerful portrait of the strength of will over personal demons.
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is a masterclass of atmosphere, storytelling, and the marriage of mechanical and conceptual design. While there are moments that feel shoehorned in to remind us we're playing a videogame, the care and attention Ninja Theory has clearly poured into Senua and her story has created something amazing. This is a game everyone should play, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to have lived inside the mind of Senua, however briefly.
A technical masterpiece with some of the best swordfighting combat in years, but the storytelling and puzzle elements come across as muddled and awkwardly mismatched.
Given the heavy subject matter, calling Hellblade "entertaining" feels inappropriate. However, it is undeniably memorable, telling a compelling tale that explores subject matter many consider taboo
Hellblade is a spellbinding and sympathetic game about loss and redemption.
Hellblade is not an Orphean quest to retrieve a dead lover from the underworld. It's not some epic tale of revenge. It's an education and contextualization of being psychologically different in the time of Vikings and Celts. Nearly every facet of the game — whether it's combat, puzzles or exploration — is deliberate, pointing back to the overarching theme of what people called “cursed” during that time. Hellblade successfully weaves metaphors of grief and loss into fundamental game mechanics and rich folklore, and through these I felt like I truly was able to understand how someone else sees the world.
This intense exploration of a young woman's personal anguish is a triumph of interactive storytelling.
Slowly but surely Ninja Theory has moved into film territory, but they can't let go of their need to shove action mechanics into everything they do. With the increased focus and acceptance of so-called "walking simulators" there's a huge market they can tap into, and I hope they end up doing that in the future. I enjoyed pretty much every facet of Hellblade that didn't involve combat, which unfortunately pops up a little too often on top of the aforementioned technical problems -- just enough to grate.