After a long three years of development, Ninja Theory’s last game is finally available. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice follows Senua, a Celtic warrior who sets out on a personal journey to the Norse land of Helheim. Psychosis and mental health play a big part of the story, though up to now not much was known about the moment-to-moment gameplay. With the game now available to purchase, new details have started to slip out including a very interesting punishment system when dying in the game.
Surprisingly, this permadeath system has managed to fly under the radar up to this point, until reviews and gameplay videos pointed a spotlight on it. While a typical Game Over screen allows the player to pick back up from a recent checkpoint, repeated deaths in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice add a new level of tension to the experience.
After a number of deaths during the campaign, players will not only see a permanent Game Over screen, but the save file associated with that playthrough is deleted entirely. Naturally, players will need to start the experience over from the start on the next playthrough.
While this feature sounds somewhat draconian in nature, it’s heavily tied into the story of the game rather than simply serving as a tool to punish players. Early in the game, players learn about this rot that is negatively impacting Senua. Each death causes the rot to spread from Senua’s arm further throughout her body until it ultimately reaches her brain. At this point, Senua gives in to her afflictions and dies. With the game now available to the public, it’ll be interesting to see player reaction to this gameplay mechanic.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is the studio’s attempt at forging a middle ground between indie games and big budget triple-A titles. While handling both the development and publishing duties, Ninja Theory has set the game at a budget price while still maintaining the high production values and technical skill fans expect from the studio. Part of the technical skill on display comes from the studio’s use of full-motion video and facial capture, something for which the studio is known for from its previous titles like Enslaved: Journey to the West.