Opinion: Hellblade’s Awards Prove We Need More Games Like It

Hellblade_ Senua's Sacrifice™_20170807231918

[Credits: Ninja Theory]

During The Game Awards 2017 it was almost impossible not to hear Ninja Theory’s indie title Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice be mentioned. After all, it has only recently been released into the wild after more than three years in production due to the extensive research the team behind it underwent. But the research wasn’t in regards to graphics, mechanics or locations.

Rather, all of the games research went into a specific study: mental health. More specifically, a mental disorder called psychosis, which sees those whom live with it having a disconnection from reality in some way. Some of the illnesses characteristics include hallucinations, delusions, thought disorder, disorganized behavior, and even catatonia.

For Senua, her psychosis isn’t just a painted on illusion to sell a game, but rather a underlying feature of the games entirety. It ranges from the narrative voices she hears, to the sights she sees and even the foes she may face as she explores her way through the Norse realm of Helheim in order to save her beloved Dillion’s soul.

Hellblade_ Senua's Sacrifice™_20170808001553

[Credits: Ninja Theory]

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is an Astounding Masterpiece Made by an Independent Team

Unlike games of its kind, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice wasn’t made by a triple-A team nor was it actually published by a big name studio either. Instead, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is the child created by labor of love. It’s a game that a studio spent years studying, developing, and crafting into an artistic masterpiece.

Unlike titles such as EA’s Star Wars Battlefront II or Activision’s Call of Duty: WWIIHellblade is something quite different. It’s a game developed by approximately twenty people developers and was provided additional writing by Dr. Elizabeth Ashman Rowe, a lecturer at Cambridge University whom specializes in Norse and Celtic culture.

But what drives Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is its masterfully created designs ranging from its animations, its sound design, and its realistic visual’s that the team spent years upon years working on. While all of these provided an extremely immersive respect, it wouldn’t have been possible without the aid of some special guests that Ninja Theory recruited.

Hellblade_ Senua's Sacrifice™_20170807230510

[Credits: Ninja Theory]

The Team Researched Psychosis and had the Help of both Medical Professionals and Patients living with the Disorder

To help bring Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice to life, the team worked harder with both medical professional’s and those diagnosed with psychosis. Due to the complexity of the disorder, Ninja Theory had to both understand what those whom have it experience on a daily basis and work close with them in order to portray such complex experiences into the game as visual aids.

As gamers may not understand the disorder itself, Ninja Theory had to carefully design Senua herself. To portray the disorder the best they can, the team didn’t just design the voices based upon text-book explanations. Rather, the team spent years designing the games visual and audiotory queues, providing those whom experience the game with a unique experience ranging from the voices Senua hears to her memories of Druth as he told the story of Ragnarok or even the Norsemen and their rulers that she encounters.

In the game, the team portrays her visual queues in unique ways ranging from small “portals” she must enter in order to alter the world about her or even lining up symbols that appear as her hallucinations. Within the game encounters are quite surprising as the Norsemen themselves appear from the world about her. Some of them manifesting directly before her out of thin air. Others almost melting away from the shadows as they violently approach her.

Even with these minor queues, Senua’s tale isn’t one we should just ignore and simply brush off due to its portrayal of psychosis.


[Credits: Ninja Theory]

The Importance of Hellblade’s Success Should Resonate Through the Industry

When it comes to games, we’ve often been told that single player games are dying and that the linear pathways they sometimes provide isn’t enough to keep gamers busy. However, that has begun to change in recent months thanks to the likes of games such as Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice and even Bethesda’s multiple releases this year, which all provided astonishing single player stories. However, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice has stood out among the crowd for a multitude of reasons.

First, it has provided proof that the interest in single player games remain and do not require high production costs to provide an astonishing experience for a budgeted cost. Those whom have bought Hellblade did so at almost half the cost of modern games, sitting at an enjoyable $39.99 USD. Secondly, within just a few months of launch, the independent AAA game saw over $13 million in revenue as well as over 500k copies sold. The game even reaped the rewards as one of PlayStation’s most played games at the time of launch.

Let alone has the game seen staggering success, the game has also proven the fact that games do not need high-end budgets for a AAA experience that fans will love, enjoy, and play. Unfortunately, it doesn’t stop the inevitable trend that is already underway, a trend where games are being treated as a service, and not a retailed product for fans to own even if their connections are unavailable.

Unfortunately, major publishers including Activision and EA have begun to turn their backs on this practice, leaving indie developers to keep the art form alive. Such an approach has even has lead to major games publisher of titles such as DOOMWolfestein II: The New Colossus, and Prey launch an initiative to help save single player games and show the world that the invested interest in gamers is still there in narratively driven titles.

the game awards logo

[Credits: The Game Awards]

But also proves the fact we need more games like it, that we need more games that are willing to inform, to educated and deliver meaningful experiences that we’ve never had before. While it seems that such an art form is being traded off for microtransactions, loot boxes, and the likes; there are still developers out there that care about their fans, that want their fans to have an experience unlike any other before.

Last, but not least. We want to congratulate Ninja Theory for winning Games for Impact Award and The Game Award for Best Sound Design.

Lastly, we want to congratulate Melina Jeurgens for her award for Best Performance as Senua in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. Congratulations to all of last nights winners, we are proud to have been able to see you obtain the awards you worked hard for, and hope to see you continue with your successes in the future.

Editor’s Note: In our review for Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Dustin rated the game at a 9 out of 10. One of our highest scores given to an independent developer in 2017.

About the Writer:


Dustin is our native console gamer, PlayStation and Nintendo reviewer who has an appetite for anything that crosses the boarders from across the big pond. His interest in JRPG’s, Anime, Handheld Gaming, and Pizza is insatiable. His elitist attitude gives him direction, want, and a need for the hardest difficulties in games, which is fun to watch, and hilarity at its finest. You can find him over on TwitterGoogle+, and or you can find him on PSN with RaivynLyken.

Leave a Reply