British Studio Ninja Theory has always impressed me with his approach to video game development, with special emphasis on a thorough study of the characters and create deep, fascinating history. First, they released a classy slasher, Heavenly Sword (2007), then the light appeared action adventure Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (2010), and the reinvention of the cult series Devil May Cry (2013) only cemented the status of a respected among the gamers developer. But then something went wrong. Problems with the lack of publishers and the financing of new games has forced Ninja Theory to become an indie developer. And the first project to be released in the new independent format, was a game called Hellblade: Senua”s Sacrifice.
Game: Hellblade: Senua”s Sacrifice
Platform: PlayStation 4, Windows
Release date: August 8, 2017
Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: Ninja Theory
The theme of the new game was born of itself. At some point the head of the Studio Ninja Theory Tameem antoniadis interested in the topic of mental disorders and the ability to recreate the symptoms of this psychosis in a video game, for players to experience: what it’s like to perceive the world not as ordinary people. The future of the game it was decided to move in the VIII century ad in the Orkney Islands, where at that time lived the Picts. The theme of disorder in video games is uncommon, therefore, to find a publisher for such an unusual project was almost impossible. Hellblade: Senua”s Sacrifice was developed solely on their own funds studios, the developers themselves call it as “indie game of the AAA class.”
The game tells the story of the Celtic warrior by the name of Senua, daughter of the druid Simbela suffering from mental disorders. How many Senoi remembers, she always heard in my head with different voices, turning to her. Her mother during life also suffered from auditory hallucinations, so we can assume the disease is inherited. Psychosis made the girl an outcast, and her father did not allow for Senua to leave the house and communicate with other people. Once she slipped out of the house and met the young warrior Dillon, who accepted her for who she is, and loved with all my heart. But the happiness of the lovers did not last long. The village was attacked by Vikings. The Dillion sacrificed to the Northern gods, and all other inhabitants massacred or burned.
Miraculously, Senua managed to survive. And now the only meaning of her life was the salvation of the soul of his beloved. For this she is ready to go into the world of the dead, HELHEIM, where she was once told by a wise old druid named Drut, and to ask of women Hel to free the soul of Dillion from eternal suffering. The girl decided on a dangerous journey, despite the fact that it might be her last. The voices in my head, Senoi do not stop for a second and trying to dissuade her from her foolhardy venture, and the world is distorted through the prism of her madness, but nothing can break the will of the young warrior, because in the world of the living she’s all alone and there’s nothing left.
To recreate the game as realistic as possible psychosis, the developers of Ninja Theory as consultants brought to work on Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice several professors. One of them was a Cambridge University Professor Paul Fletcher, specializing in neurology. Was considered dozens of hours of archival video recordings suffering from psychosis people, and also carefully studied numerous scientific papers. To be more convincing in the Studio was invited by the people in his time recovered from different mental disorders. They were asked as detailed as possible to describe what they saw and heard the world during the illness. Only after it has been collected an impressive research base, the developers have begun to translate human madness on the screen.
People with a mental disorder sees a pattern in seemingly ordinary things. Where healthy sees a shadow, suffering from psychosis, discovers the contours of familiar objects or a sign. It is this deviation in the brain based puzzle game. Senua see a locked gate with runes on them, then she needs to find the image of the runes in the surrounding locations below the gates opened. Runes can hide in the reflections, the shadows, the trees, the patterns on the rocks, and in General – anywhere. From time to time, Senoi have to go through the magical arches and portals that change a reality. For example, you see the destroyed bridge, then pass through a special archway and — about a miracle! — bridge again! Sometimes you will need to look at the reality at the correct angle, and then out of the clear pieces you can, like a puzzle, collect the entrance to the cave, or anything else that allows you to travel to previously inaccessible locations. Developers skillfully manipulate the surrounding reality, to entertain the player. And they are quite good at it, though the puzzle and start again.
Gradually you will begin to notice around himself inconspicuous details specific to the state of psychosis. For example, the trees swaying to the beat of your movements, subtle eye distortion of the surfaces of surrounding objects, various optical effects, literally breaking reality into pieces, the light becoming too bright. All developers have translated to the screen, based on interviews with people who had suffered from mental illness in the past. More details about all this can be learned from the documentary, which is packaged with the game. But I highly recommend you watch it after you pass the game to the end. In the film there are major spoilers that can spoil your impression of the passage Hellblade: Senua”s Sacrifice.
How to make the player heard the voices in your head? Here it was impossible to do by traditional methods, so the developers used to write the most votes a special binaural microphone in the shape of a human head. The sound received at microphone membrane using improvised auricle and auditory channels during playback feels as realistic as possible. However in order to fully enjoy it, you have to play exclusively in high-quality headphones. No the TV speakers or the monitor is not able to convey the depth of binaural sound when you physically feel that, as someone standing next to you whispers something into your ears. Gradually the sound of a voice fills your inner space and realize what it’s like to share your inner world with several characters. The nice thing is that the sound is actively used in the game process. At some point in the game you have to navigate in total darkness with just the sound. Very cool feeling, I tell you. Music Hellblade: Senua”s Sacrifice under a quality sound. I came to a complete delight when intense symphonic melodies joined harsh hoarse vocals of the Vikings.
Visually, the game looks good. Unreal Engine 4 enables you to portray realistic surfaces, lighting, special effects. But given the small budget, you will run into muddy textures or low-poly objects. Personally, I strongly cut eyes simplified technology reflections, when, for example, the fire from the torch is reflected in the surface of the water about ten meters from the main character, with no change in size. It looks, to put it mildly, not very impressive, not to mention the fact that such a reflection is contrary to the laws of optics. I don’t know, the problem is Unreal, or miscalculation programmers Ninja Theory. Such roughness somewhat smeared impression in General is a very beautiful game. Despite this, production designers and masters on special effects tried the game for the glory. Some scenes are very impressive, and the on-screen embodiment of the visions of Senua just can’t leave players indifferent. We would like to praise the design, war paint and costumes. The developers have done a great research work, examining the culture of the Picts and carefully making their appearance on the screen.
Low budget project invariably impact on the duration of the game. Pass Hellblade: Senua”s Sacrifice can be done in about 6-7 hours. In the world of games there is practically no research component. No, you can look for stone monuments with the runes, focusing on which Senua hear in my head the voice of the druid Agreed, telling her the legends of Norse mythology. You can look in the surrounding area of the hidden face of the mother of the protagonist, which communicates with Senoi through rocks, water surface and other surfaces. But that’s all. The passage of the maximum linearly. You just run forward, solve puzzles, fight enemies, then return to the previous fork and moving in the other direction. No open world or a fascinating research here was not and could not be. While developers just can’t afford it, although all the makings for that they have.
The combat system in the game is simple and effective. Senoi, able to Dodge attacks of opponents, block their attacks, attack fast but weak, or powerful but slow strikes of the sword. From time to time, you have the opportunity to focus on the enemy, and this second time is greatly reduced, allowing Senua to strike a few deadly blows without risk to their health. It’s nice that the voices in my head the main character tells her when to Dodge the attack, or how to defeat that particular enemy. Enemies usually come in waves and are presented in the form of the Northmen, who plundered and burned the native village of the protagonist. The game only a few types of enemies, including Vikings, with swords, axes, shields and so on. Strategy for dealing with them all one: avoid enemy’s side or rear and attack in those moments when he is vulnerable. Given that battles happen regularly and are not very diverse, they quickly begin to irritate, rather distracting from the storytelling, rather than complementing it. Closer to the final game of the opponents is so much that it literally makes me nervous. Several bosses are interesting, but not enough to be remembered for a long time. And there is nothing to be done, this is the harsh Scandinavian reality.
In the beginning of the game, Senua is infected with some kind of “rot”. The palm of her right hand where she is holding a sword, dark. Every defeat in battle or after death from any other causes, rot gradually ascends the hand to the shoulder, and then through the neck enters the head of the protagonist. Once this happens, your save file is simply removed from the memory of your gaming console or computer. The developers did this on purpose so that the player always felt a real threat of death. We strongly recommend you to be extremely cautious and try not to die. Linked to this is a funny story: one of the popular game journalist died too many times in the game and eventually lost the save file. Considering that this is a bug, he without hesitation gave the game 1 out of 10 and wrote a scathing review. Later, when he explained that it was originally intended, he admitted his wrong and the review is still removed.
Separate praise the game deserves acting. The role of Senua a long time could not find a suitable actress. Auditioned many, but none coped with the challenge. This continued until, until the Director of the game did not notice artistic girl for Melina Jurgens, working in the Studio Ninja Theory is a specialist in video editing. So the employee got the main role in the game and coped with the task perfectly! Melina is so accustomed to the image of Senw that she unconditionally believe. Every emotion depicted it on screen, transmits all the pain and suffering which had to go through her character. Not far behind the rest of the actors who took part in the project. Especially I would like to highlight the girls, depicting the voices in my head, Senua. They masterfully fluttered around binaural microphone and whispered a different version of events, without admiration to look at it (and, of course, listening) is simply impossible.
Hellblade: Senua”s Sacrifice, suffers from minor technical flaws. For example, I often get irritated with the fact that the game camera fell into the wall and showed me the game from the “wrong side”. The walls failed not only the camera, but some of my enemies. So one day I could not finish the battle. The enemy walked over the surface of the rock and could not get to me and I to him. The battle was not over, and I could not move the plot forward. Because of this I had to restart the game from the last save point and start the fight from the beginning. Not to say that it happens often, but still happens. The developers, meanwhile, are not sitting idly by and actively releasing patches that correct these shortcomings. It is worthy of sincere respect.
- The most realistic portrayal of mental disorder in a video game.
- Amazing acting Melina Jurgens – causes sincere respect.
- Interesting puzzles, which are based on the distortion of space.
- Great job art Directors and masters on special effects.
- Incredibly realistic binaural sound, and great music.
- The game is a good guide to Norse mythology.
- The risk of deleting save causes the player to become really afraid of death.
- A fascinating documentary about the creation of the game.
- Impression of the game spoil a few different technical problems.
- The monotonous enemies and too often the battle quickly tire.
- Game camera does not always behave appropriately and falls into the wall.
- There is practically no study of the world.
Hellblade: Senua”s Sacrifice – a unique video game, trying to convey to people the important idea that psychosis does not necessarily make one worse the surrounding healthy people. Soaked in blood, suffering and Norse mythology the story is of a deeply personal tragedy of the unfortunate Celtic girls ready on all for the sake of the soul of his beloved. Gorgeous binaural sound coupled with wonderful acting literally force the player to feel like the main character. But the lack of budget, monotonous battles and minor technical flaws a few spoil the impression of this largely experimental project. In any case, we wish the developers well-being and further creative growth as Hellblade: Senua”s Sacrifice in any case can not be considered a game a failure. Give it 8 points out of 10 and look forward to new works Studio Ninja Theory.