In Hellblade: The game developer Ninja Theory’s first attempt at newly designed place the mid-range video game, building the title with a low budget and smaller team. Developer Ninja Theory channels, its talents for narrative and presentation to tell a personal story that has more to say than it initially lets on, and will likely leave you wondering and it’s a part of an elaborate hallucination. The game’s laser focus on telling a dark story in a bleak world is in sharp contrast to the entertaining elements of its previous works. Suffice to say you won’t see anything remotely close to that conversation in Devil May Cry.
Hellblade game has follows warrior Senua. She’s on a journey to hell in order to save not just herself, also Dylian, her lover who died at the hands of the brutal Northmen while she was away. So, she thought her searching her cross swords with gods and monsters. She is touched by ‘the darkness’, a crude yet effective label for psychosis. She is beset by continuous visual and hallucinations, twisting her world into an unpredictable, dangerous and very cruel place. Along the way, you’ll encounter stone carvings that flesh out the game world, puzzles to solve, and encounter warriors who bay for your blood, all while paying close attention to the voices in her head, which represent different elements of her personality. Not only do they provide narrative information, but they are also an invaluable source of advice that helps you solve puzzles and defeat the game’s bosses.
Speaking to her, the Furies prompt and cajole; they question and doubt and needle and just every so often they encourage her. Sometimes they’re overbearing and unfair and to be perfectly honest they can be quite irritating, but such tension is welcome, the voices are there and you have say no in the matter, just like her psychosis itself.
The Furies ensure that you’re constantly thinking about Senua’s emotional stage and general goodness, making Hellblade a sensible exercise. There are times where the sound become a boon to your survival, such as the rather tricky boss battles that force you change up your usual strategies, but the most useful instances come closer in the game, when you’re able to clear through more than 20 enemies consecutively, a far cry from the struggles of fighting only 2-3 enemies. Many of these battles serve as the capper for narrative arcs in the story, making it feel like an emotional, where you will succeed a construct of She’s past.
There are points to discover the history of she’s world and the pursuit of them all could add an hour or two to what will be a 7-9 hour experience. Hellblade is epic in its presentation but is truly a deeply personal journey for her to overcome grief and her personal demons. Immolation by a mad fire god and ravenous beasts that hide in the shadows, there is one threat that constantly looms over her that can result in dire consequences. Early on, she is infected with a corruption known as The Dark Rot, which continues to spread after she ‘dies’ or fails a set-piece event. She passes failure and death off as another hallucination, but with every failure the infection spreads, and after multiple deaths it reaches her head. The result of this is Senua succumbing to her illness, forcing you to restart from the beginning of her journey. Hellblade is a remarkable game. Despite some frustrations in execution and some design decisions that are likely to drive some players away, Hellblade is a superb exploration of mental illness told with poise and poignancy. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is now available on PC and PlayStation 4 for $29.99 (Rs 1918.63). The game is rated ‘M’.