A few months ago, I finished my master’s degree in psychology. I nerd out if I can combine my love for video games and interest in the human mind. My typical go-to game is anything farming-related; however, I wanted to play something with a story. After scrolling around Xbox Game Pass, I ran into Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. The first thing that stood out to me was that the developer Ninja Theory worked with neuroscientists while creating this game. Of course, that piqued my interest, so I downloaded it and began playing.
Here is where I would like to note that Hellblade depicts mental illness in a way that can be triggering. In addition, there are some graphic images and things that can be upsetting to some players. Please avoid reading this if things of this nature are triggering. However, if you or someone you know is struggling with mental illness, here are some wonderful resources.
Hellblade originally came out in 2017 and was remastered for the next generation of Xbox consoles in 2021. The story begins on a boat, with Senua paddling to Helheim as a comforting narrator explains her background. Senua is out to save the soul of her beloved, Dillion, from the goddess Hela. Unfortunately, as the narrator explains this, you hear a cacophony of other voices bombarding the scene. Senua calls these voices Furies and believes they are spirits. These spirits gathered to her as part of a curse brought on by the Darkness. Armed with her sword and knowledge from the Furies, she set off to save Dillion’s soul.
I followed the advice from Ninja Theory and played Hellblade with headphones in. Although I must admit, it ramped up my anxiety. After every enemy encounter, I needed to pause, remind myself to breathe, and wipe up a bit of sweat. Nevertheless, Senua quickly became a character I cared about deeply. At one point, I even found myself thinking that the voices she speaks with could, in fact, be spirits guiding her on this journey. Every time I died and more of the Darkness crawled up her arm, I felt terrible. Ninja Theory did a fantastic job at making me connect to Senua in a way I have not experienced in any other game. In the end, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was beautifully made, and I am looking forward to seeing what Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II has in store.
Odds and Ends
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is currently available on Xbox One, X, and S, as well as PC, VR, PlayStation 4, and Nintendo Switch. No release date has been determined for Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II at this time. If you want to learn more about the upcoming sequel, head on over to the Xbox website.