Senua’s Sacrifice’ won big at the BAFTAs, here’s 6 things to know about the game
This article contains minor spoilers for Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice by game developer Ninja Theory made a splash at the gaming BAFTAs on Thursday, winning five awards, including the Game Beyond Entertainment award, which focusses on the social impact of games.
This is because Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, while set in the world of Norse mythology, is about psychosis and mental illness.
Here are just a few things you should know about the game.
1. The makers collaborated with people who live with auditory hallucinations as well as medical experts
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice features a main character living with psychosis, and the developers wanted to reflect this often too stigmatised experience accurately. To that end they received funding from the Wellcome Trust to research mental health.
Throughout Hellblade the player hears voices which speak to the main character Senua. They are incessant, numerous, and deeply unsettling.
To portray the hearing of voices accurately, the team at Ninja Theory worked with experts and neuroscientists and psychologists, but also with people who live with auditory hallucinations (often referred to as “hearing voices”). They did so through the Voice Collective, and gleaned valuable insights.
2. They used 3D sound to reflect the experience of auditory hallucinations
Having talked to people with experience of hearing voices, the team wanted to be able to situate the “voices” in space. They used a binaural audio recording to position the voices, so when you play the game with headphones it can sound like the voice is right up close whispering into your ear, or a few feet away screaming.
3. The game lies to the player about permadeath
Near the beginning of the game there is a fight that Senua cannot win. After she dies, dark tendrils start creeping up her arm and a message flashes up:
The dark rot will grow each time you fail. If the rot reaches Senua’s head, her quest is over. And all progress will be lost.
This was a promise of old-fashioned permadeath, having all your save files deleted if you fail too many times. However, it turned out to be a bluff, a trick to put the player on edge.
“We did it because it was in service of the story and the experience,” Tameem Antoniades, a lead developer on Hellblade, told Venture Beat. “We wouldn’t have done it just to make the game hard, needlessly hard. We felt justified that it added to the experience while knowing that some people wouldn’t like it.”
4. It is set in the Norse underworld
The main plot of Hellblade revolves around the Celtic warrior Senua from the island of Orkney off the north of Scotland, seeking to rescue the soul of her lover Dillion. Dillion was blood-eagled (follow the link at your peril) by marauding Vikings, and so remembering stories of Viking myth she journeys into the Norse underworld to get his soul back from the goddess of that underworld, Hela.
Vikings really did raid Orkney. They even sheltered in a prehistoric burial mound called Maeshowe and left graffiti all over it. Silly old Vikings.
5. It looks gorgeous, but isn’t bank-breakingly expensive
Hellblade was envisioned as an “independent AAA game.” That means that it looks as beautiful as any big blockbuster franchise (à la Assassin’s Creed) but whereas such titles have become more and more expensive over the years, Hellblade at release was £24.99, whereas the latest Assassin’s Creed: Origins will currently set you back £54.99. The drawback is that Hellblade is considerably smaller than your average AAA game, with roughly seven to nine hours of gameplay.
6. It just arrived on Xbox
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was released on PS4 and PC last year, but now it’s finally on Xbox, and optimised for Xbox One X.
If you’ve been affected by any of the issues discussed in this article and want to talk to someone or find out more, get in touch with Mind by calling 0300 123 3393 or texting 86463.