I had no idea what Hellblade was about (I knew and saw nothing of it except the Hellblade 2 trailer at the Game Awards last year ). Though I’m quite late to the party, I started the game because I wanted to try something new on the Game Pass and it catched my attention. This was my first Ninja Theory game since Kung Fu Chaos in 2003 (which I loved).
I just finished it last day and… wow, this was an incredible and unique experience. I loved every second of it. Probably in my top 5 of the (old) generation and maybe of all time
I still can’t believe that this game was made by an average team size of 20 ? In 3 years, self-published and with a micro budget of under $10 million including marketing ?
Hellblade’s Budget Required Ninja Theory to Use Their Own Boardroom as a Motion Capture Studio
Some things that amazed me :
- The voice acting and the sound design are truly incredible, especially with the power of the 3D binaural audio. And I’m shocked to discover only once I completed the game that Senua’s actress wasn’t even an actress before Hellblade. Because her performance was absolutely stunning ! Also, having a female lead character is great.
- The atmosphere and the story-telling are top-notch. The game’s narrative is easily one of the most powerful I’ve played this generation. There’s a lot of care and passion. The words are always chosen carefully.
This scene is probably my favorite (and probably the most beautiful and the most heartbreaking in the game) and this was the moment that sealed the game for me. The voice-acting, the music, the performance, the 3D binaural audio… I felt immersed like few games can.
- The soundtrack is fantastic. The right songs for the right moments.
( don’t listen to the music if you plan to play the game because it’s fully part of the experience and this is one of the best scenes )
- I really really loved the combat. Simple yet enough enemy variety to keep it exciting and tense. Some really great effects and animations when considering the ridiculous number of people working on the game. Very dynamic, fast and the panicked / helpful voices in Senua’s head add a lot to the experience.
( notice the blood particules, the hair, the “dark smoke” when Senua withdraws her sword… some amazing details that I didn’t even notice until now )
The game really has high-value animations, even for non-human creatures that couldn’t benefit from motion-capture.
- The graphics and visuals are stunning
Absolutely zero HUD on the screen. Even the health bar is hidden. No inventory. I loved that. Just a focused experience.
The opening was very powerful as well. A very haunting scene when you don’t know what to expect from the game.
- The ending was also incredible in my opinion. Really well done.
I learnt the hard way to not be afraid of death, Senua. Because a life without loss is one without love. Turn your back on death and you only see the shadow that it casts. The longer you hide from it, the longer the shadow grows, until all you can see is darkness. When our time comes, we must look death in the eye and embrace it as a friend. Only then can we let go fear, and emerge from our darkness.
Personnally I loved the puzzles. I think some of these were quite clever and creative (without being too hard or too long to solve). Though it may be noticeable that they had to reuse some mechanics and elements, causing some repetition, but it didn’t bother me at all.
The lorestones that provide additional story info on the Norse mythology and Druth’s stories were all well-paced, not excessively hard to find and very interesting to listen (and narrated with a great and passionate voice acting once again). Was always eager to hear the next one and sad when I knew I listened to the last one. This is how collectibles should be done.
There are way too many collectibles in some other games that are boring and add absolutely NOTHING at all.
Now I can’t wait for Hellblade 2 (twice the size of the Hellblade dev team it seems, though it would still be small by AAA standards).
I just hope that COVID won’t impact its development too much (especially with the motion-capture) and that they will have all the time they need to craft the game they have envisioned.
Probably my most anticipated XGS game with Halo and Perfect Dark at this point. I rewatched the Game Awards trailer and I’m so excited to play it, I’m sure that it’s going to be a memorable experience again
I’m really glad that Microsoft acquired them (I read that it was Xbox that approached them first)
Will finish with my favorite quote from the game:
The hardest battles are fought in the mind, not with a sword.