|Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice|
|release date||August 2017|
|Genre||Adventure game, action|
Studio Ninja Theory has long worked with an eye on the console market and became adept at the slasher genre. Computer gamers know this development team from DmC: Devil May Cry and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West — completely different projects, but both with their own unique colorful world. Therefore, there were certain hopes for the new game Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. From the first videos, it became clear that we were in for an atmospheric adventure in an unusual setting, plus the opportunity to wave a sword. In part, it turned out so, but in some ways the game came out unexpected.
The game begins with a monotonous gloomy introduction. The strange girl Senua arrives in an equally strange foggy place. She is a Celtic warrior, but she is also scared, with fear in her eyes and voices in her head.
The internal dialogue of the heroine gives clues and hints, but at first the general motivation is poorly guessed. The whole story looks strange, but overgrown with details in the course of events. Senua experienced a great tragedy and loss that forced her to take a desperate and incredible step. She intends to enter the realm of the dead, the mysterious Helheim, to defy fate and all things in the hope of returning her love.
On this journey, the heroine is alone with her psychosis and madness. Memories are the only guideline in the journey, and only a dialogue with the carefully wrapped skull of her lover, which is always with her on her belt, can support her.
The path to Helheim is full of difficulties and trials. To reach the goal, we will have to solve numerous puzzles and fight the warriors who guard the peace of this place. But the hardest thing for the heroine will be to keep the will and understanding of what is happening. From time to time, the familiar reality recedes under the onslaught of darkness, strange visions roll over us, awakening the ghosts of past memories. Together with the heroine, we feel pain, despair and rage. Each event is accompanied by incredibly lively facial expressions, and at some moments we turn into an invisible opponent. Senua pours all her feelings directly into the camera, having a dialogue with someone from her past.
As you move deeper into the mysterious lands, the heroine finds herself more and more on the verge of collapse, and the surrounding reality is increasingly immersed in an atmosphere of visual madness. And all this is part of the memories or part of the mystical world that throws us new tests. And it is not entirely clear whether this is a product of otherworldly forces or a creation of an insane mind. At the end, a surreal afterlife awaits us at all, filled with creepy, frightening images.
Hellblade plays with the psyche, but does not go beyond a coherent story. Against the background of the Observer, this is a relatively harmonious narrative, where the artistic form of expression does not set off the content and meaning. Although some moments with visions and emotional suffering of the heroine are clearly delayed.
The gameplay is mainly associated with the solution of some puzzles. Closed gates constantly appear on our way. You can open them by activating the necessary symbols. It is enough to find suitable outlines in the plexus of surrounding objects and aim at them. The symbol is often formed by crossed pillars or other elements of the environment.
After starting the puzzle, the game skillfully pushes in the right direction. As you approach the location of the symbol, its images appear on the screen. Next, you need to find the point with the greatest intensity of such effects and carefully study the environment. Everything is relatively simple, although in the final stages you may come across a few intricate puzzles.
As the game progresses, we have to defeat a couple of gods, the path to each is connected with its own trials. In one case, we are looking for fire altars and summon a flame that sets fire to everything around and frees the passage. Here we are waiting for races through the fire and numerous battles.
The path to another god is connected with the solution of full-fledged puzzles, when you need to collect the unlocking symbol from scattered fragments in the air. To do this, you need to find a special position in space that will provide the desired angle and allow you to visually connect all the parts. The task becomes more complicated due to the changing reality. Passing through special portals, we find ourselves in a world with slight changes in the environment. In one reality we see a wall, in another reality we see a gap instead; in one case, we have a destroyed bridge in front of us, we pass through the portal — and it is already intact. By changing the environment in this way, we are looking for the right point for the review.
Similar games with reality are actively used in other places. We may find ourselves in front of a ruined tower and a blocked passage, but some kind of portal will provide an opportunity to bypass them in another reality. The heroine is able to restore some objects with the power of thought. If you notice incomprehensible fragments in the air, look for the position from which they form the outlines of the stairs — and you can recreate it in space.
The solution of such puzzles is diluted with battles. The combat system is simple, using two hits, block and dodge. But from this it turns out a beautiful battle dance and bright battles. There are no difficult combinations, but it is important to move away from the blow in time or put a quick block for a counterpunch. Everything is intuitive, there is a clear control of movements.
Opponents differ in weapons. There are fighters with a sword or a mace, there are powerful, but slower big men with an ax. Enemies with shields are very effective in combat, you have to pirouette around them, trying to get the attacker from the back.
There are memorable and intense boss battles. There are several of them in the game, and the plot narrative methodically leads to them, pumping up the atmosphere. Each has its own unique abilities and requires special tactics. After a series of attacks, the boss goes into the shadows and calls for help in the form of ordinary fighters. That is, everything develops according to the usual scheme for such games, but it is furnished in an interesting and exciting way.
In combat, the game gives some hints. Inner voices will indicate danger if the enemy is preparing to attack from the rear. They will tell you the moment when to dodge the finishing move if we are thrown to the ground. Glare will indicate the possibility of activating the rage mode. All this is organically integrated into what is happening and is understandable without additional indicators on the screen.
Sound work plays an important role in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. The game world is filled with rustles and voices that pour into space from different channels and change their position, creating the effect of acoustic depth.
Visually, the game looks great. The levels are well detailed, pleasant volumetric lighting is implemented, and rich bright effects perfectly emphasize the state of the shaken psyche. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice has a distinct visual style and a solid technological foundation thanks to the Unrel Engine 4.
Maximum graphics comes with high demands on the GPU. We have carried out comparative testing of video cards in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice at the highest graphics quality. Testing was carried out on the basis of our standard test stand for video cards. Fraps measured early game performance when we first take control of the heroine and move through the swamp.
Tested at 1820×1080 with very high quality selected. The list of video adapters is limited by available solutions, and is represented mainly by NVIDIA graphics accelerators.
The results show that you can play on solutions from the GeForce GTX 1050 Ti and older. Weaker models struggle to cope with maximum graphics. If you need stable 60 fps, then the GeForce GTX 1060 6GB can do it.
Additionally, older video cards were tested at a resolution of 2560×1440.
An undemanding player will be satisfied with the results of the GeForce GTX 1060, but the GeForce GTX 1080 will provide complete comfort.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is an interesting game with a viscous atmosphere, peppy combat and fun puzzles. A Celtic girl travels to the world of Norse mythology to challenge the gods of the north. As part of the narrative, which develops strictly around one heroine, the developers built a whole world and filled it with vivid emotional experiences. There is personal tragedy, mysticism, madness and ancient fury in this story. The game is loaded with surreal scenes and visions, but unlike the Observer, it does not sink into a quagmire of madness, although the emotional scenes are dragged out in places. The game is less of an action movie than I would like. And this can be a negative factor for fans of intense action. But the game is made very high quality — from thoughtful game mechanics to nice graphics and unusual sound design. Therefore, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice definitely deserves the attention of the players.