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Forums - Gaming Discussion - Late to the party; Hellblade is incredible (SPOILERS)

Hellblade Senua's Sacrifice is a game that defies the way I usually assess games. I tend to be systematic; I break a game down into its constituent parts and judge each one individually. In this case however, I find that doing so would do the game a disservice. I could talk about how I enjoyed its combat and puzzles, and was impressed by the technical and artistic proficiency of its graphics, but that wouldn't effectively illustrate just why I loved it so much.

It's become cliche to refer to a game as an "experience", but I can think of no game for which this is a more fitting description than for Hellblade. And for me, it was a very personal one. In over 24 years of gaming, I have never been so emotionally affected by a game. 

For those unfamiliar with it, Hellblade follows the story of Senua, a Celtic warrior suffering from severe mental illness who is on a vision quest of sorts to retrieve her dead lover's soul from the Norse underworld. Senua's story is one of confronting inner demons, coping with unresolved trauma, and of how frightening the world can be when you are mentally ill. The game thrusts the player into her distorted reality, and does so to harrowing effect. Yet at the same time it approaches the subject matter with maturity, empathy, and respect, where so many other games reduce it to just a tool for cheap scares. Nothing is just there for shock value alone, it all has meaning.

Senua's journey spoke to me on a deeply personal level; I have a mental illness myself, and I know all too well the terror of having to navigate a world teeming with frightening stimuli, as well as the struggle of not being able to fully trust one's own perceptions. Like Senua, I too have darted between pockets of perceived safety, felt crushing guilt at the thought that my illness was harming others, felt darkness growing inside me like gangrene, and struggled to apply meaning and structure to the world around me. 

Though my life has been quite different to hers, Senua felt like a kindred spirit to me. I connected with her like no other video game character I have ever played as, to the point where the game's ending felt like saying goodbye to a close friend. Like Senua, I have had to accept that my "darkness" will always be a part of who I am, but that it does not have to control me.

For me, video games are primarily a way of taking a break from reality, to seek temporary refuge in a digital space where things are so much safer and less stressful than real life. Hellblade, by contrast, was as if someone had held up a mirror to my own demons, but then allowed me to challenge them within a realm where I feel in my element; the realm of video games that is so dear to my heart.

Last edited by curl-6 - on 25 April 2019

Bet with Liquidlaser: I say PS5 and Xbox Series will sell more than 56 million combined by the end of 2023.

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Saw that it's on Gamepass, might give it a whirl.

Undisputed Gamer BAY BAY 

It seems hellblade is one of your all time favorite games and you almost missed out but lucky it came to the switch. Ive seen it on sale for around $10 on psn a few times but never bought it. After reading your post I will buy next time i see it on sale

I'm really glad it was a meaningful experience for you :)

It's quite a unique game, that's for sure. Playing it with headphones is amazing, and its best aspect definitely is the atmosphere that it mamages to deliver. It's spooky as anything can get. I honestly had to turn down the volume in multiple occasions because the audio alone creeped me out. I don't really have experience with horror stuff, but I still think Hellblade shines in that area.

They also nailed it with the historical background and medical topics. It's very interesting, engrossing and even informative. Once you see the presentation video, you get to appreciate a lot of things that appear in the game. Everything is well thought-out.

I have mixed feelings on the gameplay, though. There's just too much FOCUS going on, and while I understand why, it can become tiresome in some occasions. It's not that bad considering the game lasts just the right time to not make it a significant problem, but the initial symptomps are there.

Still, it's a nice game.

My bet with The_Liquid_Laser: I think the Switch won't surpass the PS2 as the best selling system of all time. If it does, I'll play a game of a list that The_Liquid_Laser will provide, I will have to play it for 50 hours or complete it, whatever comes first. 

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It's a game that I think everyone should experience. Of course it's not the type of game everyone can enjoy (slow paced, puzzles, single player, etc) but for the right type of gamer, it's magical. Luckily, you're the just the right fit.

Twitter: @d21lewis

In retrospect I feel I should add that I'm sure if I had no such experience with mental illness I would still have adored the game for its incredibly powerful storytelling and performances, rich atmosphere, masterful audio-visual design, awesome combat, and satisfying puzzles.

But the way its themes resonated so profoundly with my own personal lived experience just made it that much more special.

Bet with Liquidlaser: I say PS5 and Xbox Series will sell more than 56 million combined by the end of 2023.

Best way to play it is with headphones. On PC, there are few experiences that match!


CGI-Quality said:

Best way to play it is with headphones. On PC, there are few experiences that match!

If only the damn Joycons had a headphone jack haha.

Still, even through regular speakers I'd still say there are few experiences that match the game's overall impact.

Last edited by curl-6 - on 26 April 2019

Bet with Liquidlaser: I say PS5 and Xbox Series will sell more than 56 million combined by the end of 2023.

I need to play it, I hear its very good