Although some gamers have been likening Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice to the Dark Souls series, due to its punishing combat system, the bulk of the progress through the game is actually made by solving puzzles. Mastering combat is important to avoid the terrifying permadeath possibility, but knowing how to solve puzzles is just as important.
There are a variety of puzzle types in Hellblade, which all build on each other throughout the game, but one of the primary recurring puzzle mechanics is hidden runes. In these puzzles, Senua needs to memorize a series of runes etched onto a locked passage and then go find something in the environment that matches each of those symbols. After every symbol has been found, the gate will open.
The basic mechanic is not very complicated, but Hellblade keeps instructions to a minimal and doesn’t offer helpful hints (like the ones found in Tomb Raid or Uncharted) for players who are stumped.
Sometimes other mechanics will be thrown on top, but this is the basic recurring formula for solving a rune puzzle:
- Locate a locked door with runes on it (note: some doors are locked with chains and can’t be opened with a rune discovery).
- Use R2 to focus on the door until a series of runes start to glow.
- Once the runes have come into focus, walk away from the door and begin exploring the surrounding area.
- At this point, the voices in Senua’s head may try to help lead her in the right direction, but it’s a better strategy to just try and find a spot where one of the runes starts floating everywhere around Senua’s head. This means you’re on the right track.
- After the rune appears, begin following the path and more and more should show up. If they disappear, then you are heading in the wrong direction and need to backtrack.
- When in the area with the most runes floating around, hold R2 to focus again. At this point, an outline of the rune should float in the middle of the screen.
- Begin looking around for something in the environment that looks like the same shape and align the outline over that structure. It could be anything from a bridge, to a shadow, to some hanging ropes.
The core puzzle solving mechanics are quite simple, but it’s definitely easy to get a little confused due to the lack of instructions. Stick to the above steps and any of the rune puzzles should be fairly easy to solve.
One thing to keep in mind for rune puzzles later in the game is that sometimes Senua may need to access a new area to get a better vantage point before she can focus on a rune shape. Don’t be surprised when you start to find puzzles within puzzles. Good luck!