Monday, October 30, 2017

Hellblade – Senua’s Sacrifice Review: More Than A Action Game!

Along with Platinum Games, Ninja Theory is worth mentioning as one of the developers of action games with lunge that no longer need to doubt. Gamers who could have Playstation 3 may know his name through Heavenly Sword is quite charming at that time. While not a few new to know through the project reboot Devil May Cry DmC project that had triggered the controversy due to changes in the main character - Dante is quite drastic at that time. Now they return after a few times through the process of delay. The latest project - Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice finally slid into the market.

What makes Hellblade interesting? Since this is their first project as an indie developer. This means, Ninja Theory decided not to involve publisher at all and push the release of this action game with money from their own personal pockets. While on the other hand, they are also ambitious to push the quality of AAA games from it through the implementation of Unreal Engine 4 is optimal.

Hellblade's creative freedom without publisher intervention manifests itself in a theme rarely touched by the gaming industry itself. A game that is ready to make you question the reality itself. A game that will even make you no longer able to distinguish what is real or not.

So what exactly is Hellblade offering: Senua's Sacrifice? Why do we call it more than a mere action game? This review will discuss it more deeply for you.


As promoted by his name, Hellblade will take you into the world of a female character who lived in a Nordic civilization in the past - Senua. A warrior with exceptional sword skills who decides to take back what should be his right.

Inspired by so many tragedy stories that adorn the mythology not only of Greece, but also of the Norse in the past, Senua is in his holy mission to challenge and fight destiny. Unable to accept the fact that his lover - Dillion is no longer able to touch, kiss, and punish, Senua decides to take it back from the ruler of Helheim (hell in the Norse) - Hela. Simply to perfect the life that for Senua, now will never be the same again. Equipped with swords, intentions, and commitment to him, he is ready to penetrate the fog and death for one name - Dillion.

Of course, this trip is not easy. As one of the guardians of the world who was not even dared to be interrupted by other Norse gods, Helheim and Hela became an impossible goal. Even to be able to open the door to hell, Senua must fight against the other two gods guarding him - Surt for fire and Valravn for illusion. Not only that, a beast ready to pounce at a nearby night will also hinder the journey of Senua. But in the end, Senua still has one big challenge before he is able to take back Dillion.

Can Senua save Dillion from Hela? What kind of challenges should he face? What's the biggest problem Senua will face? You can certainly answer that question by playing Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice.

The Power of Unreal Engine 4

Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is an indie game, in that sense, it is not supported by the "big money" publisher standing behind it. But such status, does not necessarily make Ninja Theory has no ambition and commitment to make it as an action game with the approach of an AAA game that we are familiar with. Especially from the side of the presentation that he offers. Unlike most indie games that end up relying on 8 or 16 bit pixel visualizations, they rely on Unreal Engine 4 as a base. The seriousness and dedication of this Ninja Theory succeeded in making Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice look amazing.

Unreal Engine 4 quality that is supported by the right motion and face capture process produces a game that is not only beautiful, but able to project emotions appropriately as well. He managed to make the character Senua have its own depth as a human being, not just the main character without feeling that just able to kill the monster or any enemy submitted to him.

Thumbs up is deservedly directed at the actress who plays Senua - Melina Juergens who does her job very well. So powerful and accurate is the emotion he projected, that you will be able to feel clearly when Senua is scared, anxious, painful, until he reaches resolution to no longer retreat and surrender. Everything is reflected through the motion of the face, eye details, to the overall exposure handled Unreal Engine 4 with fantastic. Making it offer an even more amazing quality than some AAA games though.

The world built by Ninja Theory as a "battleground" for Senua also deserves its own appreciation. His journey to save the lover from hell took him in and through so many creepy places, from forests, swamps, ruins with stagnant water, to a temple with a complex architecture. Everything is handled with a variety of visual effects that make the journey and the battle that you have to pass feels dramatic. The effects of light entering in the form of a gentle sunlight that illuminates your journey while walking on the beach, to the fog with rain that accompanies your intense battle over the ruins. Everything will make your eyes pampered. Understand that, they also include Photo Mode in it.

From the presentation side, Hellblade also includes a technique that we personally, have never found before. Namely create a cut-scene presentation of the story by melting the 3D characters, which in this game, of course - Senua with video characters taken directly from the actor / actress who plays it without using a three dimensional model altogether. Integrating the two in the story does produce a unique visual approach, but on the other hand, it does not seem so flashy and tacky. Ninja Theory itself mentions that techniques like this make them save a lot of development time because no need to mess around with the problem of building a character model for him.

From the presentation problem, Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is amazing. For a game that carries the name "indie" without big funding support publisher, Ninja Theory managed to produce games with quality visualization and design that is not even hard to beat the title AAA games with a large budget though. A journey that will make your eyes pampered.

A Personal Fight

Despite making the story and character the main attraction, Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice still contains what the Ninja Theory has been up to - an action game with solid content. That Senua's hard struggle to defeat destiny does not end up just as a walking simulator game that asks you to enjoy and hear the existing story only, but contains elements of combat that are ready to overwhelm you at the same time. After all, you do act as a female warrior with unquestionable sword skills.

Most of the Hellblade gameplay is not dominated by this aspect of action. That's different from hack and slash action games mostly like Devil May Cry or Bayonetta for example, which asks you to fight against waves of enemies consistently from one area to the next until you get the next story progress, action is just one part of Hellblade. It has plenty of quiet periods to move the story and sometimes, contains puzzles for you to accomplish.

That's right, puzzles. While not fighting, Senua's exploration side in the linear world is indeed often confronted with a series of puzzles rooted in the same concept - looking for a pattern. Often the door you have to go to ends up locked with one to three different symbols. Your mission is to look for similar shapes and patterns around you, especially through a series of objects that you never expected before. You do not have to think much of it logically, just have to pay a little extra attention to guessing about what kind of object combinations might end up being the "key" of this pattern puzzle. Along with the progress of the game, this puzzle is a bit more complex because it requires you to see it from a certain point of view or even find an extra way to be able to get it from the required angle.

Of course, in the end, Senua must fight to protect himself or make sure his journey to Helheim will not stop there. Ninja Theory here, again proving themselves as one of the veteran action game developers who can not be seen with one eye. The Hellblade battle itself can be called a mix between DmC thanks to its fast combo system and Dark Souls, at the same time. A camera approach that locks you to one specific target will make it easy to make quick decisions when to attack, hold, or even roll to minimize damage. But not 1 vs 1, you are also sometimes faced with many enemies at once.

So the key is to play strategically. Not just attacking blindly with your main sword, you also have to survive. If you have the right timing, you can reflect enemy attacks and unlock their defenses to throw light heavy + heavy kill combos that sometimes, can produce different animations. Not just quantity, the quality of each enemy you face will also offer a higher challenge as progress. You will meet a larger enemy with a deadly giant ax, a gladiator with a shield, until the druids are able to strike quickly with the existing sword. The good news? Senua is also equipped with a special ability called "Focus" which makes it able to slow the time for a while and attacked blindly.

No doubt, every battle in Hellblade does feel personal. You are faced with situations with camera effects and mechanical battles that make Senua have to finish them off, one by one, as difficult and as much as anything. You also have to pay attention to the visual clue and sound that comes from it, because it is not uncommon, you will be attacked by another enemy behind. Each battle will keep you alert, because if you are a little negligent, then you will end up getting consequences that you do not want to bear of course.

One of the basic mechanics injected by Ninja Theory at Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is the absence of a game over system, unlike most other games. But whenever Senua dies or fails to accomplish the ultimate mission, a black liquid attached to his right hand will become widespread and spread. If you die quite often and this fluid arrives to his head, then you can say goodbye to the progress of your journey. At least, that's what the Ninja Theory promised itself.

So, what about the gameplay side offered by Ninja Theory in Hellblade? Standards are the words we choose, but the design of the battle they offer in them is to be recognized, resulting in an intense, serious, and personal sensation at the same time. A battle that feels "heavy" on every swing of Senai sword. It is not as difficult and as complex as Dark Souls for example, and it only requires your ability to guess the timing of enemy attacks to parry or bounce their attacks for extra bonus attacks. Animated attacks made Senua comes with a presentation that deserves to thumbs up.

Need a Headset!

Hellblade is not an ordinary action game, something we'll talk about in the next session. After talking about visual presentation and how he utilizes Unreal Engine 4's ability optimally to not only produce beautiful games, but also have an emotional weight in them, Hellblade also contains audio designs in our eyes, deserves its own appreciation. And no, we are not talking about epic music that will accompany your journey to enter through the door of hell for the sake of the source of love. We are talking about the conditions that Senua must pass.

As we know, based on the information that Ninja Theory has spread since the beginning of the game development process on this one, Hellblade does make a psychology problem - in this case psychosis as the main attraction. That unlike most main characters who are physically, mentally, and morally perfect, Senua must deal with "darkness" within himself - in this case, the psychosis he experiences. One of the things psychosis sufferers has to deal with is the hallucination of voice that will keep talking in your ears as if you are always accompanied by 4-5 people in each of your activities, something you can not just stop doing. Something also well represented by Hellblade.

To be able to get the sensation of being a real Senua, this is probably the only game we've so far recommended to play using your best headset instead of just using the speakers. Of course not just to capture the Hellblade audio detail from the cool side of the environment, but also to feel the simulation of senua psychosis optimally. Using a good headset will be able to make the sounds inside the head of this Senua feel trapped inside your own head. Supported with 3D Audio effects that exist, you will be able to feel how complex and not normally the contents of the head of this female warrior.

But beyond that, audio design outside the contents of the head of psychosis Senua also deserve thumbs up. There are some music with chanting ready to make your hair goose bumps while trying to kill the gods and creatures of mythology under it, to just hear the details of the voice of a crow who never seems to stop following the footsteps of Senua. For a game with audio handling as good as this, not using your best headset will be one of the biggest mistakes that might make you unable to appreciate this game with should. Moreover, the psychosis experienced by Senua is indeed the main attraction.

Understanding All

What makes Hellblade so special? Of course, because of the psychological conditions that must be faced by Senua - the main character. That unlike most games that position the main character as a formidable character, without a gap, and perfect, Senua is a person with psychosis. So why is he so special?

This may be a question that normally, you will throw. Very understandable considering the awareness and knowledge about mental illness in Indonesia is very limited. We do not even get the information we need to understand it in high school to university, unless you make Psychology your course. Whereas on the other hand, the basic knowledge of what happened to Senua is the first step to appreciate what Ninja Theory is trying to offer with it. Something we are trying to discuss here.

Senua has psychosis. Simply put, psychosis is a condition in which the sufferer will find it very difficult to distinguish what is real and what is not. Psychotic sufferers usually present with two main symptoms: delusions and hallucinations. Hallucinations mean they get stimuli / stimuli are not real, which they perceive very real. This means, they see, hear, taste, taste, to smell something that really does not exist, but it feels realistic for them. All these unreal stimuli come into their lives and it is difficult to distinguish them from real ones. As an example? You often hear cases of "madmen" in Indonesia who like to speak for themselves? This is not because they like to talk to themselves. What happens is that they try to answer or respond to the voice / talk of the hallucination, as happened with Senua in Hellblade.

Psychotic sufferers also experience Delusions. Delusions are a condition where one strongly believes something that will / is / is happening to him, when all the facts in the real world simply do not prove it. They often assume that the insignificant things in this world end up as a hidden message or mission they must bear. One of the best examples? The case that happened to John Nash in the movie "A BEAUTIFUL MIND" which was inspired from the real world story. Nash's delusion made him feel that he was a secret agent whose messages of mission were all reflected in daily newspaper reading. That every newspaper has a message devoted exclusively to him and he must live, something he must solve. Delusions make Nash believe, believe, and make it hard not to believe that it is not real.

Psychosis is part of Senua's life. We're sure you already understand what's going on here. It is true that everything that happens to his mission to save Dillion from Helheim and the goddess's hand is frightening - Hela is no more than Senopa's psychotic mind. That nothing of this is happening, and Senua's hallucination makes this epic journey a "reality" that now accompanies him. Through a story that runs and sometimes shows the "real" Senua figure, you can see that he is just a victim of a past civilization that lacked adequate medical knowledge of this psychological condition. He was imprisoned, tortured by his father, referred to as a curse by his tribe, until he was exiled. Dillion became a significant figure because he was present as a "light" that seemed to understand Senua's condition. Now imagine if your only bridge on that reality ends up being tortured. So what you find is the "mythological world" that Senua is trying to deal with, complete with the hallucinations of the voice that keeps talking to him.

Why is it significant to understand this? Because through it, you will be able to begin to understand Hellblade and its appeal at a deeper level. When Senua is at the end of the game with a full cut on his face, then you understand that this is nothing more than a sign that Senua is already in the stage of injuring himself. That with the small sword he had taken and seen in one of his realities, he incised the deep wounds several times on his face while trying to rationalize the death of the dillion he loved. He never fought, he never killed any god, he injured himself.

Just like a puzzle level you face too. That like the case of psychosis that befell Nash, Senua is also trying to find irrational relationships that the world keeps a secret and mission for it to be completed and embraced. If Nash reflects on the "secret message in the newspapers," Senua projects it through "door locks with symbols" which he seeks to discover through the various forms of objects around him. Is it reasonable for you that a door will open if you find a tree shaped "P" for example? Not for us, but rational for the world that Senua's brain formed itself.

If we look at Senua's psychosis case and our basic knowledge of psychology and some other case studies, we ourselves have a separate critique of Senua's hallucinations. Almost all the sounds that are scattered in his head, unfortunately, we think too "smooth" and "conformist" compared with cases of psychosis that occurs in the real world. Like the simulations we include through the video format above, psychosis sufferers are usually dealing with tones and messages that are louder, darker, and defiant. That there is always a voice that refuses and criticizes whatever you do, there is always a voice that recommends you to finish yourself, to a voice that continues to produce different topics to distract you. While in Senua's case, these voices are too soft and follow what he wants.

So by understanding what is the psychosis and the conditions faced by Senua, you will enjoy Hellblade from different glasses. Not a mythical epic tale of God of War that demands you to kill a god and save your beloved from him, but rather follow a formula similar to what Yager Development injected in Spec Ops: The Line. A "reality" created by Senua's own brain.


So nothing else deserves to be given to Ninja Theory, besides the two big thumbs up for what they managed to do with Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. A commitment to ensuring an indie project with limited funds is not only able to offer the quality equivalent of big-budget AAA games, but even beyond it. The optimal implementation of Unreal Engine 4 produces a game that is not only beautiful and dramatic, but also capable of projecting deep emotions. Intense and satisfying weapon battles wrapped with stories about psychological diseases rarely discussed by the creative media, especially the gaming industry. Supported with fantastic audio technology, the implementation of Photo Mode for you who like to show off, to just a collection of stories about Norse mythology that you can gather from it does produce a game experience experience that although brief, but memorable.

But of course, Hellblade can not be called a perfect game. If you have to talk about the weaknesses that exist, then the presentation of stories and puzzles can be said to be the two great points that deserve to be discussed. Story? So true. Hellblade may produce special effects for gamers who not only understand deeply, but at least have a rough knowledge of what psychosis or schizophrenia is. Because Ninja Theory itself will not help you gain more explicit understanding of the story that he stretcher, produce a plot that may be very confusing in the eyes of some gamers. The puzzle he offers, although it supports one of the elements of the story, is hard to enjoy. Just looking for a symbol by turning the camera around here can not be spelled out, as something interesting.

Beyond that weakness, Hellblade is an action game that deserves high praise. Offered at an affordable price, the creative freedom of Ninja Theory in this project is projected through a unique and different story presentation, in a quality that will likely provoke more conversation and appreciation in the future. Extraordinary!


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