The British studio Ninja Theory has always impressed me with its approach to video game development, with special emphasis on careful character development and the creation of a deep fascinating story. First they released the smart slayer Heavenly Sword (2007), then the adventure thriller Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (2010) appeared, and the rethinking of the cult series Devil May Cry (2013) only consolidated the status of the esteemed developer among gamers. But then something went wrong. Problems with the lack of publishers and the financing of new games forced Ninja Theory to become an indie developer. And the first project, released in a new independent format, was the game Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice.
The game: The game: The heroic: Played: Release date: August 8, 2017
The developer: The Ninja Theory
The Publisher: The Ninja Theory
The topic of the new game was born by itself. At some point, the head of the studio Ninja Theory, Tamim Antoniades, became interested in the topic of mental disorders and the ability to recreate the symptoms of a real psychosis in a video game so that the players could feel: what it is like to perceive the world around differently than ordinary people. The action of the future game was decided to be moved to the Orkney Islands in the 8th century AD, where Picts lived at that time. The theme of mental disorders in video games is infrequent, so finding a publisher for such an unusual project was almost impossible. Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice was developed exclusively on the studio's own resources, while the developers themselves call it "indie-game of the AAA-class".
The game tells the story of a Celtic warrior named Senua, daughter of druid Zimbel, suffering from mental disorders. How many Senoy herself remembers, she always heard in her head different voices addressed to her. Her mother during her life, too, suffered from auditory hallucinations, so that we can consider the disease transmitted by inheritance. Psychosis made the girl an outcast, and her father did not allow Senua to leave the house and communicate with other people. One day the girl slipped out of the house and met a young warrior Dillion, who accepted her as she is, and fell in love with her whole heart. But the happiness of the beloved did not last long. The village was attacked by Vikings. Dillion was sacrificed to the northern gods, and all other inhabitants were cut out or burnt.
Somehow Senua managed to survive. And now the only meaning of her life was the salvation of her loved one's soul. For this she is ready to go to the world of the dead Helheim, which the old wise druid named Drut had once told her, and to ask the giantess Hel to free Dillion's soul from eternal suffering. The girl decides on a dangerous journey, despite the fact that it can be the last for her. The voices in Senua's head do not cease for a second and dissuade her from a reckless venture, and the world around her is distorted through the prism of her insanity, but nothing can break the will of the young warrior, because in the living world she has no one else left.
To recreate the most realistic psychosis in the game, the developers from Ninja Theory as consultants attracted several professors to work on Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. One of them was Professor of Cambridge University Paul Fletcher, specializing in neurology. Tens of hours of archival videotapes of people suffering from psychosis were examined, and numerous scientific works were thoroughly studied. For the sake of persuasiveness in the studio were invited people who at one time were cured of various mental disorders. They were asked to describe in as much detail what they saw and heard around the world during the illness. Only after an impressive scientific base was collected, the developers began to embody human insanity on the screen.
A person with a mental disorder sees a pattern in seemingly ordinary things. Where a healthy person sees a shadow suffering from psychosis, he recognizes the contours of familiar objects or a certain sign. It is on this deviation in the brain that game puzzles are based. Senua sees a locked gate with runes on them, after which she must find the images of these runes in the surrounding area, so that the gate opens. Runes can hide in reflections, shadows, branches of trees, patterns on rocks, and in general – anywhere. From time to time, Senua will have to go through magical arches and portals that change reality. For example, you see a ruined bridge, then you pass through a special arch and – about a miracle! – the bridge is again in place! Sometimes you will need to look at reality at the right angle, and then from transparent shards you can, like a puzzle, collect an entrance to a cave or anything else, allowing you to get into a previously inaccessible location. Developers skillfully manipulate the surrounding reality to entertain the player. And they do it quite well, although in time puzzles begin to repeat themselves.
Gradually you will begin to notice around yourself the subtle details, characteristic for the state of psychosis. For example, trees swaying to the beat of your movements, barely perceptible by the eye distorting the surfaces of surrounding objects, various optical effects, literally breaking reality into pieces, light becoming too bright. All these developers have implemented on the screen, based on interviews with people who have suffered from mental disorders in the past. More details about all this can be found in the documentary, which is distributed with the game. But I strongly recommend that you watch it after you have finished the game. In the film, there are serious spoilers that can spoil you the impression of Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice.
How can I make a player hear voices in his head? It was impossible to do with traditional methods, so the developers used to record these voices special binaural microphone in the form of a human head. The sound coming to the membranes of microphones through improvised ears and auditory channels, during playback is felt as realistic as possible. However, in order to fully enjoy it, you will have to play exclusively in high-quality headphones. No TV or monitor speakers are able to convey the depth of the binaural sound when you physically feel the way someone standing next to you whispers something in your ears. Gradually, the sounds of voices fill your entire inner space and come to understanding: what it's like to share your inner world with a few more characters. It's nice that the sound is actively used in the gameplay. At some point in the game you will have to navigate in pitch darkness with just one sound. Very cool feeling, I tell you. Music in Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is a quality sound. I was completely delighted when the hard, hoarse vocal parts of the Vikings joined the strained symphonic melodies.
Visually the game looks decent. Unreal Engine 4 allows you to embody on the screen realistic surfaces, lighting, various special effects. But due to a small budget, every now and then you will come across unclear textures or low polygonal objects. Personally, I was struck by the simplified technology of reflections, when, for example, the fire from a torch is reflected in the surface of a water surface about ten meters from the main character, while not changing in size at all. It looks, to put it mildly, not very impressive, not to mention the fact that such a reflection is contrary to the laws of optics. I do not know, the problem is the Unreal engine or the miscalculation of programmers Ninja Theory. Similar roughnesses somewhat smear the impression of a generally very beautiful game. Despite this, the production directors and special effects wizards tried their best in the game. Some scenes are very impressive, and the screen version of the visions of Senou simply can not leave the player indifferent. Separately I would like to praise the design, combat coloring and costumes of the characters. The developers have done a great research work, studying the Picts culture and carefully embodying their appearance on the screen.
The low budget of the project has invariably affected the duration of the game. Pass Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice can be in about 6-7 hours. At the same time, in the game world, the research component is almost completely absent. No, you can look for stone monuments with runes, focusing on which Senua will hear in his head the voice of druid Droot telling her the legends of Scandinavian mythology. You can also search in the surrounding objects the hidden face of the mother of the main character who communicates with Senua through the rocks, the water surface and other surfaces. But that's all. Passage is as linear as possible. You simply run forward, solve puzzles, fight with enemies, then return to the previous fork and move in the other direction. There was no open world or fascinating research, and could not be. While developers simply can not afford it, although they have all the makings for this.
The combat system in the game is simple and effective. Senua is able to dodge enemy attacks, block their attacks, attack with fast, but weak, or powerful, but slow punches with a sword. From time to time, you have the opportunity to focus on the enemy, and at this moment time slows down very much, allowing Senua to inflict several deadly strikes without risking one's own health. It's nice that the voices in the head of the main character tell her when to dodge an attack or how to defeat one or another enemy. Enemies, as a rule, come in waves and are presented in the form of northerners, who looted and burned the native village of the main heroine. The game only a few types of enemies, including Vikings with swords, axes, shields and so on. The strategy of dealing with all of them is one: bypass the enemy from the side or from behind and attack at those moments when he is vulnerable. Considering that the battles take place with an enviable regularity and do not differ in variety, they start annoying you quite quickly, rather distracting from the narrative narrative, rather than supplementing it. Closer to the final of the game of opponents becomes so much that it literally starts to enrage. Several bosses are interesting, but not enough to be remembered for a long time. And there's nothing you can do about it, such is the severe Scandinavian reality.
At the very beginning of the game, Senua is infected with some kind of "rot". The brush of her right hand, in which she holds the sword, darkens. With each of your defeats in battle or after death from any other causes, the rot gradually rises on the arm to the shoulder, and then through the neck penetrates the head of the main character. As soon as this moment comes, your save file is simply deleted from the memory of the game console or computer. The developers have done it on purpose, so that the player constantly felt a real threat of death. I strongly recommend that you be extremely pointed and try not to die again. There is a funny story related to this: one popular journalist in the West dies too often in the game and eventually lost the save file. Considering that this is such a bug, he did not hesitate to stick the game 1 point out of 10 and wrote a devastating review. Later, when they explained to him that this was originally intended, he admitted his injustice and the review still deleted.
The actor's game deserves special praise in the game. For a long time, Senna could not find a suitable actress. Tried many, but not one cope with the task assigned to it. This continued until the director of the game noticed the artistic girl Melina Jurgens, who works at the Ninja Theory studio as a video editing specialist. So the employee received the main role in the game and coped with her task perfectly! Melina has become so accustomed to the image of the Seine, that she unreservedly believes. Every emotion she portrays on the screen conveys all the pain and suffering that her heroine had to go through. Do not lag behind the rest of the actors who took part in the project. Especially I would like to highlight the girls who represent the voices in Senua's head. They so masterfully fluttered around the binaural microphone and whispered different versions of what is happening, that without admiration to look at (and, of course, listen) is simply impossible.
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice suffers from minor technical flaws. For example, I was often annoyed by the fact that the game camera fell through the walls and showed me the game from the "wrong side". The walls fell through not only the camera, but also some of my enemies. So one day I could not finish the battle. The enemy walked behind the surface of the rock and could not reach me, and I – before him. The battle did not end, and I could not move forward on the plot further. Because of this, I had to restart the game from the last save point and start the fight from the very beginning. It can not be said that this happens often, but it does happen. Developers meanwhile do not sit idly by and actively release patches that correct such shortcomings. It is worthy of sincere respect.
- The most realistic image of a mental disorder in a video game
- Melina Jurgens's stunning acting play – evokes sincere respect.
- Interesting puzzles, based on the distortion of space.
- Excellent work of art directors and masters of special effects.
- Incredibly realistic binaural sound and great music.
- The game is a good guide to Scandinavian mythology.
- The risk of removal of conservation forces the player to truly fear death.
- A fascinating documentary about the creation of the game.
- The impression of the game somewhat spoil different technical problems.
- Monotonous opponents and too frequent battles quickly tire.
- The game camera does not always behave adequately and falls through the walls.
- There is almost no research of the surrounding world.
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is a unique video game, trying to convey to people the important idea that psychosis does not necessarily make a person worse than the surrounding healthy people. Impregnated with blood, suffering and Scandinavian mythology, the story tells of the deeply personal tragedy of the unfortunate Celtic girl, ready for anything to save her beloved soul. Magnificent binaural sound, coupled with a wonderful acting game, literally makes the player feel like the main character. But the lack of budget, monotonous battles and minor technical flaws somewhat spoil the impression of this largely experimental project. In any case, I would like to wish the developers prosperity and further creative growth, since Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice can in no way be considered a disastrous game. I bet her 8 points out of 10 and look forward to the new works of the Ninja Theory studio.