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Chindie

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

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I bought this a while back and finally managed to play a bit of it over the last few days. It reviewed fairly well when it came out last year and was hailed as an attempt to make a mid tier game, the AA rank - attempting to have the production value of a triple A title but with reduced, more focused scope and smaller budget and price. 

I think it certainly hits those points. The gameplay is very focused, there aren't enormous amounts of systems going on and there isn't buckets of depth to it. The production values are excellent. And it came out at a reduced price. Is it good though?

You play as Senua, a Celtic warrior woman haunted by a lost love and troubled by a 'darkness' in her mind. Senua travels to the land of the North Men, hoping to bring back her lost love, driven by tales of Norse mythology that say one could recover the dead. Along the way she is haunted by voices in her head, that house her, mock her, voice doubts and reassure her, and also by visions of a man from her past who knew the North Men and their ways. She fights manifestations of the North Men and their gods, and solves puzzles that involve finding runes in the environment.

I like a lot about this game. It looks great, setting aside that Norse designs and medieval looking things are tired at this point, and other places it goes are notoriously hard to do anything original with. The sound design is awesome, playing with headphones is certainly recommended as you are beset by the voices in Senua's head appearing to surround you or even be in your own head. I like the little snippets of Norse mythology in there and the way it plays with them. The motion capture and animation is fantastic. The atmosphere drips off it.

There's a problem though. All of those things don't involve playing it.

Gameplay wise... We're on less good footing. There isn't a great deal to it, and that's fine. The game boils down to 2 main mechanics - fighting, and rune puzzles. The rune puzzles require you to find runes in the world to open doors that block your path. Inevitably this comes to down to finding the conspicuous piece of wood nearby you need to line up just right to look at correctly to see the rune. That's about the extent of it. Fighting meanwhile gives you a light and heavy attack, a dodge, a kick, a block and a focus move that slows time and removes armour from some enemies. Enemies come in about 5 types and you can guess what they are - the grunt! The heavy! The shield! The fast!

None of this is much fun. The rune puzzles are tedious and never particularly change, just the nature of the 'game' around them. Sometimes there's a small puzzle around them - light the torches to make the right shadow, etc - and in one particularly bad case, find 3 runes in a maze whilst being chased by an instant death enemy that can break through the walls.

The fighting just becomes a slog. The actual system works like a halfway house between a character action button basher and a Souls-like with animation priority, parrying and punishing enemies. Enemies aren't interesting to fight and aren't that hard to beat - the worst enemy in the game so far is only is more difficult because it moves quickly, hits hard and doesn't allow you to lock it into a combo, making each fight against it a battle of patience as you get a hit here or there and go back to dodging, hoping you can do your running heavy attack once in a while to get a brief stun on it. The game realises this after a while and starts making you either fight shitloads of enemies, or fight them in confined spaces, or gives them armour that means you can't hurt then until your focus meter fills back up and you can negate the armour with a button press. Eventually it decides it'll be really fun to give you all 3 of these mix ups.

I've not quite finished the game as I decided I liked my controller more than I liked beating boss I just got to, which you fight in a dark room with a single bright spot, where the darkness kills you and the boss has an attack that blows you into the dark and then you can't get back to the light because you can't **** see it.

It's a shame. I really like everything about the games presentation. It's actual gameplay though? Ugh.

Edited by Chindie

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