Ninja Theory launch Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Ninja Theory, the gang behind Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and DmC: Devil May Cry, today launched their new story-driven stabber Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice [official site]. This one’s a bit slower and moodier than those two, starring a Celtic warrior who grapples with her own mental health as she goes on a vision quest into the Viking underworld. Ooh it’s worse than a garden centre on a Bank Holiday Monday.

Hellblade is less of a murderfest than one might expect from Ninja Theory, with more walking and puzzle-solving than Brutal! and SSSensational!!! action. It certainly does have stabbing, mind, and with one nasty twist: the more Senua dies, the more corrupted she becomes, eventually leading to a full-restart game over.

We’ve plenty of games about folks who are insane in the membrane, insane in the brain, and crazy as a coconut, but Ninja Theory say they’ve tried to make this less of the usual kookfest. As product development manager Dominic Matthews told Red Bull Games:

“Through Wellcome, a global charitable foundation, we’ve worked with neuroscientists as well as people who have lived-experience of voice-hearing, visions and having unique beliefs. In particular, we’ve worked closely with Professor Paul Fletcher – psychiatrist and professor of health neuroscience at University of Cambridge – to understand the scientific foundations of psychosis and with a local recovery college group who have kindly told us of their experiences and helped us realise them in-game. This has done so much to not only help us make the portrayal realistic, but also rich and compelling. It would have been wrong to go into making a game like Hellblade without conducting proper research and we’re incredibly thankful to all of our collaborators in the area of mental health for the support and insight they’ve given us.”

Also, it looks pretty and I’d like to stab those monsters.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice costs £24.99/29,99€/$29.99 on Steam and GOG. Our Adam was planning to tell us all Wot He Thinks but he’s off on holiday, so wot he thinks currently is likely along the lines of “I’d love an ice cream” or “I don’t even need to wear clothes today.”

39 Comments

  1. MasterPrudent says:

    “…the more Setsuna dies, the more corrupted she becomes…” Been playing a certain jrpg recently? :)

  2. Premium User Badge

    AutonomyLost says:

    Bought this last night, waiting to try it out this afternoon. I’m optimistic!

  3. Voxavs says:

    Well, don’t wanna to bum you out or anything, but it’s pretty basic, kinda like Firewatch. Great atmosphere, non-existant gameplay.

    • davebo says:

      I’m interested. Did you play Heavenly Sword and how does it compare? That was a pretty repetitive hack and slash but I liked it enough to borrow it from a friend and play through it, so I always felt bad I never gave Ninja Theory any money. Are you saying it’s so puzzle-oriented that there’s no “fighting” gameplay, or that there’s just not much original going on?

    • noodlecake says:

      That’s fine. There are lots of incredible games with basic gameplay but a fantastic story/atmosphere/visuals. I recently finished What Remains of Edith Finch and it blew my mind.

  4. GhostBoy says:

    *with one nasty twist: the more Senua dies, the more corrupted she becomes, eventually leading to a full-restart game over.*

    So they brought back the lives mechanic in videogames. How quaint. And how little I suddenly care for playing this game.

    I understand from other sites reviews that the threshold is high, and the game is generally short. Which just further adds to the question, of what exactly this adds to the game? If it isn’t a threat unless you spectacularly mess up, it doesn’t add to the tension. And if it is, you better hope there is not a single trial-and-error bossfight, QTE death or timed section where failure is insta-death in the game, that is not flawlessly coded and intuitive to all players, or you are just punishing players for sake of the devs questionable design decision.

    If you want to increase tension and up the stakes, do so via the storytelling, not by annoying the player.

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      Godwhacker says:

      Sounds like quite a fun twist to me.

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        AutonomyLost says:

        It is, and the way it’s introduced is tastefully done in my opinion. I was wary regarding the mechanic when I found out about it, but it definitely heightens the tension of combat and the stakes of the journey.

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      SuddenSight says:

      I could be a way to sell the tension. I remember an interview with the Amnesia: The Dark Descent devs a while back about how they implemented sanity (here). They mention that the feeling of unpleasantness and the fear that something bad could happen matters more than the reality of it.

      In that sense, making an auto-kill threshold and then setting the threshold impossibly high (but unspecified) could add tension as players are always worried their game might end forever. However, actually ending the player’s game that way doesn’t seem great and actually forcing the player to restart would probably kill the tension entirely (assuming they don’t just drop the game).

    • Xocrates says:

      Well, here’s an interesting development, apparently the permadeath thing is actually bs: link to pcgamesn.com

      Which (assuming the report is true, and I see no reason it isn’t) makes the move tenfold more bizarre. Like I get that they want the tension of permadeath without punishing the players, but then why not simply have it be an option? Why not punish the spread of rot in some other way? Why lose sales to the people who don’t want permadeath, while at the same time risking pissing off the people who do?

      Who came up with this and thought it was a good idea?

    • JarinArenos says:

      Apparently the game just flat lies to you to ratchet up tension. Honestly, I think it an interesting choice, though I’m not sure if it’s a good one, it doesn’t particularly irritate me either. Regardless, “lives” aren’t really a concern here, it’s much more plot-focused.

  5. Uninteresting Curse File Implement says:

    That girl needs therapy!

  6. monkeymcnugget says:

    Kind of interested in this but going to buy it day one purely to support ninja theory. DMC and enslaved deserved far more than they got. Also supporting a new £25 price point and should be commended.

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      AutonomyLost says:

      That’s basically the reason I chose to purchase this without reading any reviews or watching any kind of trailer from the last six months or so — to support Ninja Theory. I knew from way back that I’d be buying this game regardless, as the early development videos and footage hooked me instantly, and to have a studio like NT up front say that this would be a game primarily developed for the PC, with AAA production values, by a small yet talented team, was intriguing. Looking at the game last night on my wishlist, I figured why wait. Turns out the gamble paid dividends, and I’m thoroughly enjoying the game. I hope this sells well (especially at the $30 price-point) and the studio can continue in the tradition of creating original IP.

  7. EkoAzarak says:

    omfg i need this game. eta to finishing work: not soon enough!!!

  8. Monggerel says:

    DMC was a nightmare.
    Not because I didn’t like NuDante (I didn’t, but I generally don’t expect to like videogame characters).
    DMC was a nightmare because in a spectacle brawler (what fans of the genre might call “Character Action Game”, god bless their clueless souls) about fighting demons the part where you fight demons was atrocious. The weapons felt like garbage, the combos were raw flavour without purpose, and, unforgivably, certain enemies required certain specific weapons to be damaged at all – and if you hit them with the wrong weapon type, the weapon bounced off, Dante staggered backwards, and the combo was broken.

    That’s bad. That’s Mastodon’s Albums Since Blood Mountain bad (more like Mastodon’t). That’s 5 megahitlers bad.
    Don’t do that, people. Don’t ruin your own game with idiotic mechanics. Just don’t.

    Also NuDante was a twaaaaaaat heyooooo

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      DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Ninja Theory essentially make Call of Duty style campaigns for the stylish action game genre.

      I’m interested in this as the story and looky bits seem appealing, but I am well aware I probably won’t be buying this for the swordy bits.

    • Pich says:

      Or that nobody remember that Ninja Theory pitched the game by basically calling old Dante gay link to twitter.com

      Yeah no thanks NT

  9. wombat191 says:

    I will admit that while I want to buy this, it does look interesting but the permadeath and the fact it hits a little close to home with psychosis means I’m very wary of it

  10. SadOldGuy says:

    Unfortunately, this type of permadeath also requires this AAA game to be completely bugfree so that your deaths are your fault and not the game’s fault. And early reports have shown some bugs. I do not like games that waste my time.

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    AutonomyLost says:

    I had a chance to play this a bit earlier than I expected today; I am loving it. Really, really digging it. It’s apparent from the get-go and entire opening sequence that this is a labor of love and is going to be a tightly-crafted narrative experience, which I have found lacking in a great many number of games that I’ve otherwise enjoyed playing. The voice work and its minute detail begs to be listened to on headphones, and is really outstanding thus far.

    Other than that, the game looks gorgeous and showcases Unreal Engine 4 quite nicely, it runs like a top, and supports 21:9 ultra-wide natively. I’ll try and keep my expectations in check, but I think I’ve already been put under Hellblade’s spell.

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    Don Reba says:

    I think Hellblade will be a runaway success, and in a couple of years we will have a buffet of Hellblade’em ups with detailed face animation, over-the-top acting, and binaural audio.

  13. lancelot says:

    Adam, please put something on. You’re making us all uncomfortable.

  14. zsd says:

    I liked DmC, was initially interested in this, looked at some developer diaries. Visually appealing but

    So.
    Many.
    Red.
    Flags.

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      Don Reba says:

      THERE ARE SO MANY RED FLAGS don’t worry it’s all in your head WILL HE PLAY IT? he won’t play YES HE WILL play it STAY AWAY try it

  15. FreshHands says:

    Well, haven’t played much of it yet, so who knows how this is going to turn out.

    But the aesthetics and atmosphere alone are worth the money I paid for it. I mean, seriously, if you are into digital art, norse mythology and creepy shit (and willing to pay for that) you can’t really go wrong here.

    If it turns out to be something like a bad trip Dear Esther with swords – well, I have paid much more for games that left me dead cold eventhough they took me hours to not complete.

    An aquired taste, for sure. Hope it will go well for them. Originality with this kind of tech is hard to find these days.

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    Angstsmurf says:

    This is what AAA games should be like. No filler quests, no loot boxes, nothing that takes you out of the atmosphere. Props to the voice actor who somehow made the joke “Yes, a cow. I bet you didn’t see that one coming” bearable.

  17. wombat191 says:

    I decided to bite the bullet and buy it.. Yeah it’s messing with my head badly.

    Fair warning be VERY careful if you are considering getting it

  18. snv says:

    Sadly the mouse and keyboard controls are so broken that i personally find them unbearable.
    It feels like i would have to constantly fight the camera controls.

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