Fan Review/Reaction - Hellblade Senua's Sacrifice
By: Bub Smith
Full disclosure: I am not a gamer. Well, not a gamer like the fine folks here at Motorcitygaming.com. I'm more of a casual gamer. Although, casual seems like too casual of an adjective. I'm somewhere between Motorcitygaming.com and you're Mom playing Candy Crush. I'm also going to avoid a "You're Mom" joke here even though I totally set myself up for a sweet burn! Sadly, that burn would have been directed at me... Back to the review! My point being is I don't "game" like most of you that are probably reading this. Terms like "open world" and "leveling up" do not excite me. Actually it does the opposite: I normally steer clear of them. Spending hours of "harvesting" and "looting" on a side quest that ultimately results in not advancing the story and I got nothing but a couple new potions and a wife now glaring at me trying to decide the exact decision that directly resulted in her life leading to living with a man-child in his 30's that spends hours playing video games. We are currently in consouling...
I dig games that are story driven. Exploring a digital world or side quests that go no where mean nothing to me (I played GTA V and there was a damn mission where I had to jog through a park! Yes, so exciting and tense. How could I not fall in love with that!?!?). Give me a engaging story and exciting visuals and you have my hard earned money. Suck me in with compelling characters and fun fighting, not lame upgrades or a story mode that is nothing but a tacked on after thought to justify charging 60$ for an online multiplayer (I can only take pre-teens spouting homophobic slurs at me for so long before I snap and rage quit). Games like HellBlade: Senua's Sacrifice are a dying breed and I would be doing the world a disservice by not telling you that developer Ninja Theory has delivered one of the most beautiful and frightening video games I have ever played.
Hellblade is 100% story driven. Senua is a celtic warrior who has decided to enter Helhiem (Viking's verision of hell)to quest to reclaim her fallen lovers soul, or something like that. You see Senua isn't exactly the picture of mental perfection. She's a bit off. It's here that we get one of the most compelling and trippy aspects of the game. Yes, I am about to glorify mental instability and explain why it's one of the greatest story telling devices I have ever seen used in video games. When the game first loads up it reccomends playing the video with headphones on. This reccomendation should be taking as mandatory. Senua hears voices, these voices are not just there for a "creepy" factor, the help drive the narrative and explain Senua's past. The sound design is phenomenal and they way Ninja Theory plays with it is next level, without ever becoming annoying.
At times you hear multiple voices, some will comfirm what you think is the right thing to do and some won't. I loved that aspect of the game, but Ninja Theory never really dives to deep into it. The downside to a linear story. There really is only one path to go, so despite what these voices say, you have only one way to go. It does add a layer of tension to the puzzles that are in Senua's way, but ultimately nothing more. The possibilities here are so damn cool and never fully ultilized, but for 30$ I can't complain too much. Ninja Theroy did an excellent job for a hell of price.
Another confession I will make here (Wow, this is turning more into an entry in my diary than a video game review... Did I say diary!?!? I meant journal!)is that I hate tutorials. Nothing will suck you out of a story faster than 15 minutes of lame tutorials right before you rush off to fight demons from hell. At this point we all have a basic understanding of what button swings the sword and how to block. Hell, I've been playing video games since I was 6! Hellblade skips over the blantant tutorial and seemless blends in a battle early on that gives you a chance to figure out what buttons do what. Too be fair it's a very basic fighting mechanics, but satisfying none the less. Not exactly a button masher, but close enough to make me happy!
Don't call this a budget title. Hellblade is far from being the Sharknado of the video game world. Actually, it's safe to say Hellblade is my favorite video game of the year. A trippy, insane descent into the mind of insane celtic warrior is a messed up way to spend 6 hours. And I can't recccomended it more.