Tuesday, August 15, 2017

"Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice" Review

An ambitious and fevered psychological journey, "Hellblade: Senua's Song" shatters convention to deliver a thoroughly disturbing action-adventure with brutal consequences you don't often see in modern games.

Its titular heroine is a capable puzzle-solver and agile, deadly huntress. She is both troubled and somewhat aided by an inner dialogue of mixed and splintered personalities. These conflicting voices sometimes give her guidance that boosts her along, or stifles her and ridicules her endeavors. She is a woman whose mind is steadily crushed by the weight and pressures of the interdimensional quest set before her, with each loss pushing her further to her breaking point.

In most games of the past couple decades, death has had little consequence. You shake it off, respawn and get back at it. "Hellblade" zags rather than zigs, making the protagonist weaker and less capable with each demise. Die enough times and you will reach your end, unable to proceed at all.

While you can game the system by reverting to previous saves when you are on the brink of death, doing so does a disservice to the core concept. "Hellblade" is a game best experienced by suffering the consequences of your poor choices or misfortune and struggling onward to make the best of what comes next.

An audio-visual dynamo, "Hellblade" strains to unnerve you. The inner voices, in particular, are not only a rugged obstacle to overcome, but essential in placing you inside the distressed mind of Senua. It's not a pleasant place to be, and her game is more stressful than fun. But those looking for brutal challenge in an elegantly and honestly told tale will find their bliss.

Publisher provided review code.

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