August 2017 - Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice (Mental
blog entry contains spoilers. While it's not
intended as a full game review specific
events within the story are mentioned.
place, it reminds her of the isolating
suffocating darkness she lived through as a
young girl. Imprisoned in her room at night,
the faces in the dark, coming through the
walls. She once thought everyone could see
them. I mean, that's what children say all
the time isn't it? That there are monsters in
the dark. By the time she realised that only
she could see them, her father, Zynbel, could
see the monster in her." - This quote
taken from the game reminded of my own
childhood particularly the line "She
once thought everyone could see them."
is a very unusual game and is nothing like I
expected it to be. Initially I thought it to
be a sequel of Heavenly Sword due to its
title, the likeness of the main character,
and the company Ninja Theory that made both
games. I was totally wrong in that assumption
but from what people have been saying online
I'm not the only one who believed that.
starting the game there are references to
mental illness, even stating the names of
mental illness advisers during the opening
credits. I did feel this was a little odd and
wondered if Ninja Theory were just covering
their backs due to mental illness being part
of the story. In fact during the opening of
the game and the initial levels there isn't
much related to mental illness at all and it
simply plays as a conventional sword fight
hack-and-slash type game. Parts of the game
play as a puzzler where runes have to be
found to decode the patterns upon doors.
Senua also appears to talk to herself a lot,
albeit within her head, but no more so than
Gollum from Lord Of The Rings. In fact I even
stopped playing for a while as the game didn't
intrigue me in terms of the story or the
playability. I wanted to explore but there
was nothing to find only the symbols to open
the obligatory locked door.
were also some game bugs, and a number of
typos and word changes within the game's
subtitles. These weren't particularly
annoying but I tend to notice things like
that. Luckily the much talked about game
breaking bug was patched before I reached the
part of the game that was effected by it.
after the two initial areas of the game, it
appears to change in the way it plays and the
solutions to the door puzzles become more
elaborate. It's subtle at first but before
long it becomes apparent that Senua's
internal voices have personalities of their
own sometimes wishing to help her and
sometimes being downright spiteful and
laughing at her misfortune. They even discuss
what would happen to them if Senua died. They
would die too. At one point Senua turns her
head and replies verbally to something they
said. This reaches its climax when they take
on a form of their own and talk to her face
to face begging her to not proceed. I had
tears in my eyes, it's a powerful scene.
games have strange weird monsters but the
more progress made through this game the more
it becomes clear that everything may be in
Senua's imagination. Later in the game a
flashback scene involving her mother reveals
what caused Senua's mental trauma to begin
with, but that may have tipped the balance of
an already disturbed mind.
ending is a little open ended and open to
interpretation. I like to think she was re-enacting
her memories during a vision quest and was
never really in any physical danger. But she
was bloody and still had the burn of rot upon
her arm so I may be wrong.
I've never experienced audible hallucinations
and while I've seen a lot of frightening
things over the years they have all been
totally silent. But I do identify with the
notion of hallucinations having personalities
of their own even to the extent of them
feeling fear. This game is really spot on
with how they managed to tell the story of a
traumatised woman dealing with her delusions.
It's not something that film and TV appear to
deal with properly. The genre of a game is
much more personal with the player
experiencing what the main character is going
through, seeing through their eyes,
experiencing what they are going through.
a stigma that surrounds mental illness with
people not wishing to talk about it hoping
that it will go away. Then there are people
who will wear a label of mental illness like
a badge with a self diagnosed illness they
read about online being their flavour of the
month. In many ways it's a double edged sword.
I enjoyed this game, not the sword fighting
so much, but the story itself. I'll likely
play it again in the coming months.
Senua gets caught in the pouring rain.
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