Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice [VR Version] (2017)

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice [VR Version] (2017)

For years I heard nothing but great things about Hellblade. Praised not only for it’s amazing graphics, but mostly for it’s “realistic” interpretations of mental health and hearing voices/ Not to be confused with multiple personality disorder/schizophrenia, but just having different voices or people in your mind talking to you.

The game itself was something that I wasn’t sure of how it would play as every time I tried to sit down and play it, I found myself saying “Oh I’ll play this later tonight, when I’m alone and can devote my time to it”, since I heard “You have to play with Headphones” and other rumblings. And yes, this is true. You will not get the proper experience out of what the game is trying to do if you play it in a unintended setting or environment.

I actually did not realize that Hellblade was going to be set in Norse Mythology just like a lot of other popular media. It seems the whole “Marvel/Thor” really kicked off this big pop culture push to have Norse Mythology as a major setting for a lot of movies and games. I personally have nothing against it, and always liked it, but now it 2024, and even in 2017 it was already starting to seem old.

Let’s get into the game itself though, Senua is a local village girl who is plagued by these voices in her head and she can’t escape them. Often made into a outcast, but has found the love of her life Dillion, and when the local Norsemen tribe comes and pillages her village, Dillion is killed. Senua takes his severed head and is on a quest to restore his life and save his soul from Hela and Helheim… I guess. Mostly because the story isn’t really explained very well since there is so many flashbacks and swirling voices contradicting things happening that I was unsure of several major things in the game.

And maybe that’s the point. The voices Senua hears are always talking to her and telling her she isn’t good enough, or laughing at her hardships or millions of other things. It’s a fairly impressive attempt at the whole “hearing voices in your head” thing that no other real games I can think of pulled it off very well. However for myself, it never really had that much of a profound effect on me. I just never had the whole “OH MY GOSH” moment that made it feel like anything else than just a neat parlor trick.

As a Christian, the whole voices thing felt more like a demonic presence than anything else, and made me feel uncomfortable, but I know God would protect me from such things and it wasn’t scary at all. Instead it felt like a streaming chat, where some people are just going to say mean comments or tell you that you suck and you can just ignore it. I just never connected to the whole gimmick very well even when immersing myself in the game as much as possible with headphones and even playing it in VR.

Virtual Reality really is the prime way to play this game and it’s an incredible experience. The game still looks phenomenal and the atmosphere the game presents is just amazing. I’d suggest that it’s really the only real way to play it.

The combat and puzzles are fairly basic with only two real points giving me a bit of an issue. One of the perspective puzzles near the 75% mark nearly made me give up thanks to not realizing that light also could be used in perspective, not just shadows or physical elements. The combat while not much to it was fun enough to keep me engaged, and also challenging when the enemies gang up on you at the end. The timing of the parry is key to staying alive and it’s the only part I was never great at, but I did get the rhythm down near the end.

All in all my time with the first Hellblade was a great one. Virtual Reality really expanded the experience to make me feel more immersed and appreciate the minor touches to the environment that might be lost while just sitting on a couch and playing it on a TV. It’s a quick little game that can be finished in two sittings at around seven hours and worth the time investment, as it’s an experience you just don’t get in video games all that often. The one downside is it doesn’t lend itself to replayability and the gimmick (for me at least) of the voices really didn’t have a profound effect on me.