Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice Review

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Posted: A year ago, last updated 6 weeks ago.

Author: Andy Robertson.

OverviewOverview

This is a dark fantasy adventure, drawing on Norse and Celtic mythology, where you play a young female Pict warrior, Senua. You explore and fight your way to Helheim to rescue the soul of her dead lover. As you play, though, you hear multiple voices in your head and wrestle with a decaying grip on reality. In this way the game aims to represent, and offer a metaphor for, psychosis. You battle difficult enemies and solve puzzles but often fighting directly, or obvious solutions, are not the best way forward.

Created in partnership with neuroscientists, mental health specialists and those with lived experience of psychosis, the experience aims to share something of what it’s like to live with this kind of illness. The voices, confusion and delusions weave in and out of the action as Senua struggles to come to terms with the trauma and guilt of her past.

For adults, the game can provide a different window on the experience of someone close to them who struggles with mental illness. Some parents have played the game with older children as a way to engage with this difficult subject. The game succeeds by avoiding reducing its rendition to a literal or journalistic recreation. The story of Senua’s struggle is as much about resilience, persistence, bravery and dealing with guilt or failure as about any specific medical diagnosis. In this way it offers a deeply relatable experience.

DetailsDetails

Rating: PEGI 18+, ESRB MATURE 17+

Release Date: 08/08/2017, updated in 2018

Platforms: PlayStation 4 and Xbox One

Genres: Action, Adventure, Fighting and Narrative

 

CommitmentCommitment

Duration: This game will take between 8 hours and 14 hours to complete. The main story of the game can be completed in around 8 hours. Taking your time or playing on a harder difficulty level can extend this challenge to 14 hours.
 
Players: This is a single player game.

CostsCosts

Does not offer in-game purchases, 'loot boxes' or 'battle/season passes'.

This game is free with Xbox Game Pass.

Age RatingsAge Ratings

This game has been rated ESRB MATURE 17+.

 

This game is rated PEGI 18 which restricts availability to ADULTS ONLY and is not suitable for anyone below this age. This rating has been given due to strong violence and sexual expletives. The examiners report expands this rating with the following: Gameplay violence although very bloody is nevertheless determined not to be gross violence. One of the cinematic sequences however does contain a scene in which the player’s character is set alight, agonised loud screams can be heard as she runs, with flames engulfing most of her body. She eventually falls to the ground; her skin is charred and she dies. The game also contains use of the word "*!@?*".

Central character suffers from psychosis which is manifest as hallucinations (visions and flashbacks) and delusions. She hears voices all the time in her head. Schizophrenia is also a symptom.

AccessibilityAccessibility

The game provides audio of the voices that your character is hearing in her head. This offers a degree of assistance. For example, if you needs to jump off a ledge you can hear voices arguing "why isn't she down there" followed by "its because she's afraid". This is useful and important assistance information. Because of the overlapping nature of this audio it is not completely covered in subtitles, although the loudest voice is provided.

The game has an adaptive combat difficulty option so that combat isn't the barrier between success and failure. Spoiler: The game auto-saves, and tells you that if you fail too often you will have to start again from the beginning. This is a device to make the player feel the weight of dying in the game and it never actually forces you to reset.

Difficulty

How you can adjust the challenge of play, and assistance the game offers when you fail or get stuck.

Select Difficulty: Select difficulty from a range of presets.

Adjustable Anytime: You can adjust the difficulty while playing.

Save Anytime: The game automatically saves progress or you can save any time, and not lose progress.

Assistance

View Control Mapping: You can view a map of controls during play.

Assistance When Stuck: The game notices if you get stuck and provides assistance, such as skipping levels, hints or tutorials.

Assistance With Direction: Indication of where to go next with arrows, cookie trail and the like.

Rubber Banding: Trailing players are dynamically given an advantage, or the game gets easier if you die frequently.

No Unlocking Required: Access any mode, location, character, weapon or vehicle from the start.

Reading

How much reading or listening comprehension is required, and how accessible this is.

High Text Contrast: Text colour contrasts to background.

Subtitles

Large Clear Subtitles: Subtitles are large and clear, or can be adjusted to be.

Some spoken content has subtitles: Some spoken content has subtitles.

All Dialogue is Voiced: All of the game dialogue and narrative can be voiced.

Controls

How you control the game, different options for alternative inputs and whether you can remap these settings to suit your needs.

Multiple Buttons & Two Sticks: Can play with multiple buttons and two sticks.

Mouse and Keys: Can play with mouse and multiple keys.

Motion Controls Not Required: You don’t need motion controls to play the game.

Remap Controls

You can customise the controls for the game as follows:

Remap Buttons: Re-map all buttons/keys.

Remap Mouse and Keyboard: Remap mouse and keyboard.

Invert X/Y Axis: You can invert the direction required to control looking and aiming.

Holding Down Buttons Optional: Holding down buttons not required or can be turned off or switched to toggling the action on and off.

Vibration Optional: Controller vibration not used in the game or you can disable it.

Adjust Mouse/Stick Sensitivity: Adjust how sensitive mouse/stick controls are.

Image

How you can adjust the visuals to suit your needs, and offer additional information if you can't hear the game.

Colourblind friendly: Game doesn’t rely on colour or can switch to colourblind friendly mode.

Audio

How you can adjust the audio of the game and whether audio cues compensate for aspects of the game that are hard to see.

Customise Audio Levels: Control volume levels of specific events and elements in the game.

System Settings

PlayStation 4 has a range of accessibility settings. Some are system only, some work in games (invert colours and button mapping). Xbox One has a system features, the excellent co-pilot share controls mode and adaptive controller support for all games... read more about system accessibility settings.

Supported by PlayabilityInitiative and accessibility contributors: @JonahMonaghan, Andy Robertson and @ronald_brady



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