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Thread: The voices in my head told me to make a Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice thread

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: Switzerland

    The voices in my head told me to make a Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice thread

    Perhaps this is an instance of closing the barn door after the horse went and posted in the "NOW what are you playing?" megathread, but here goes anyway...

    I've been playing Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice recently. I've enjoyed most of Ninja Theory's output, even if they're often only okay games elevated by their story, aesthetics and atmosphere, and I liked what I heard about the game's attempt to address the issue of psychosis, though it's risky to do something like that justice in a game.

    While I definitely like how Hellblade puts us in Senua's head, not least by means of a fantastic use of binaural sound, I have to say that I especially enjoy the game for its aesthetic pleasures. It is probably one of the best-looking games I've ever played, and its art design is also pretty unique, or at least I can't remember any games that went for this sort of look and pull it off. I also enjoy how Hellblade interweaves mythology and psychology; Senua's quite clearly troubled, but in the world the game depicts it's impossible to clearly delineate mental illness from the world of gods and monsters, apparitions and magic.

    At the same time, the game itself does become a bit repetitive, and it's not a long game to begin with. I expect that I'm about an hour away from the end and I'm definitely ready to move on. I wonder how much I'll think of the game in one or two years' time, but as an experience, in the moment, it's worth playing IMO.

    Though one thing that's important for anyone who's interested but hasn't played it yet: A) Play it with headphones and B) switch off any 3D sound 'enhancements' your system has. Skip either of these and chances are you'll get a severely compromised version of the binaural sound, a feature that I think is pretty unique in games and that IMO is one of the things Hellblade does best.

  2. #2
    It's a game I want to play at some point, but my current mental health makes it feel like a bad idea to dive into it at the moment.

  3. #3
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: Switzerland
    If I may ask, what's your current mental health situation? I can definitely imagine Hellblade making for a deeply unpleasant experience if the way it expresses its protagonist's psychosis resonates too intensely with your own situation.

  4. #4
    Chakat sex pillow
    Registered: Sep 2006
    Location: not here
    Agreed. I found it to be a powerful experience in the end, and it's for the same reason I wouldn't recommend playing it too soon, WK.

  5. #5
    I'm currently battling with a depression rooted in various childhood experiences and how they relate to my current situation. I am getting professional help with it, but while Hellblade doesn't seem like it would resonate too much, I don't want to risk it affecting me in my current state.

  6. #6
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: Switzerland
    Sorry to hear that, WingedKagouti, that's shitty. While Senua doesn't suffer from depression, the story is pretty heavily about her own traumas, including childhood one, so yeah, you're probably right not to touch it at the moment.

  7. #7
    Administrator
    Registered: Sep 2001
    Location: above the clouds
    I'd recommend something light and casual WK. At least in my experience any game with an intense experience or potential frustration is not helpful if you're depressed. I'm thinking of something like Slime Rancher, which wouldn't be good if cute stuff makes you angry...

    I'd like to play it just to have an opinion on it, but I'm drowning in games, mostly RPGs.

  8. #8
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: Switzerland
    I finished Hellblade and would definitely recommend it to anyone who can forgive a game for being mediocre as a game if it does interesting things with mood, atmosphere and storytelling. Having said that, I'd say that I admire Hellblade more than I like it. As the credits rolled, I felt exhausted more than anything, and while that is an interesting and unusual feeling for a game to evoke, I'm not quite sure what I'll take away from the experience. It did give me a glimpse into the world of a psychotic (and from what I've read, it does this pretty well), but after the first hour or two it didn't altogether build on this except in terms of the story. It's already a short game, but IMO it might have been better if it had been one or two hours shorter, because there were definitely moments when I thought, "Oh, they're doing that again", and there is an element of diminishing returns to how they use sound, visuals and gameplay to put us inside Senua's head.

  9. #9
    Member
    Registered: Feb 2007
    Location: Sevastapol Station
    Ugh, I just watched a youtube video titled "The REAL problem with Hellblade nobody mentioned" thinking it would be an interesting thought on the narrative.

    Nope. It was a youtube reviewer complaining about a review embargo. They claim it's for the benefit of the consumer, but it's really just that they want to beat each other to the punch for views.

  10. #10
    El Shagmeister
    Registered: Jul 2000
    Location: Under your fingernails.
    I loved it.

    <3

  11. #11
    Member
    Registered: Nov 2003
    Location: Poland
    So did I. It's not a really great *game,* but it's a great experience. I absolutely love the concept of the aesthetic - the world as seen by a Caledonian girl fed Norse mythology by a half-crazed scholar, and for some reason I couldn't help coming back to the sea of corpses segment. The sort of trance-like tranquil fury it inspired thanks to a combination of visuals, music and gameplay is something I rarely experienced in games, save for maybe something like Hotline Miami, as bizarre as that comparison might seem.

  12. #12
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Quote Originally Posted by Thirith View Post
    I finished Hellblade and would definitely recommend it to anyone who can forgive a game for being mediocre as a game if it does interesting things with mood, atmosphere and storytelling.
    Quote Originally Posted by van HellSing View Post
    So did I. It's not a really great *game,* but it's a great experience.
    Shirley, video games are more by now than merely the extension of games onto a video screen?

    There are even board games that have a focus on aesthetics and the experience rather than on game mechanics.
    Last edited by Starker; 10th Oct 2017 at 00:53.

  13. #13
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: Switzerland
    Shirley, not everyone who plays games is looking for experiences. For some, gameplay and gameplay only is king. It only seems fair to try to give people an idea of what expects them.

  14. #14
    El Shagmeister
    Registered: Jul 2000
    Location: Under your fingernails.
    I, for one, was, and certainly got it. Thus, for me, it was a great game.

    <3

    Also...


    (Video may contain spoilers, you have been warned)


    Heart melting, gah...

  15. #15
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Quote Originally Posted by Thirith View Post
    Shirley, not everyone who plays games is looking for experiences. For some, gameplay and gameplay only is king. It only seems fair to try to give people an idea of what expects them.
    The point is more that games are not necessarily defined by their gameplay. Otherwise, if games are judged based on how "gamey" they are, it paints a very narrow view of the medium. A lot of great games have mediocre gameplay, like Silent Hill 2.

    It's like films are judged not only by their cinematography, but also by the characters and the dialogue and the plot and the music. And yes, not all people are looking for those things. For some, cinematography and cinematography only is king. And these people can have their pure cinema in films like Koyaanisqatsi and Baraka.


    All that said, though, my real point is that there's no need to apologise for Hellblade or to look at it as a sort of an interesting failure when it succeeds on so many fronts.
    Last edited by Starker; 10th Oct 2017 at 08:35.

  16. #16
    El Shagmeister
    Registered: Jul 2000
    Location: Under your fingernails.
    Couldn't have said it better myself, Starker.

    <3

  17. #17
    Chakat sex pillow
    Registered: Sep 2006
    Location: not here
    Quote Originally Posted by Starker View Post
    The point is more that games are not necessarily defined by their gameplay. Otherwise, if games are judged based on how "gamey" they are, it paints a very narrow view of the medium. A lot of great games have mediocre gameplay, like Silent Hill 2.

    It's like films are judged not only by their cinematography, but also by the characters and the dialogue and the plot and the music. And yes, not all people are looking for those things. For some, cinematography and cinematography only is king. And these people can have their pure cinema in films like Koyaanisqatsi and Baraka.


    All that said, though, my real point is that there's no need to apologise for Hellblade or to look at it as a sort of an interesting failure when it succeeds on so many fronts.
    So I had to dust off my login credentials for this: I don't disagree with what you're saying, but what you're saying is also just sliding towards the the opposite end of the spectrum of the argument with no room for a more balanced take.

    There are certain expectations everyone has of video games, which is a base level of game-ness that is usually non-negotiable. Let's say you go to watch a movie at a theatre. You buy your ticket, get your popcorn, find your seat. The lights go down, the soundtrack fades in, but there's nothing happening on the screen: ten minutes in you realise that either there's a technical issue at the projection booth, or someone's hustled you into experiencing a radio play instead of a movie. Either way, it's unpleasant.

    With video games, especially the kind of video game Hellblade tries to sell itself as, if there are in fact sequences that require user skill to negotiate successfully - set patterns of stimulus leading to prescribed reactions within a certain window of time - these can be universally appraised as executed well, or not so well. And that's a fair criticism of both Hellblade's combat and its early 'run to the exit' sequences. Were they thematically apt? Absolutely. Were they properly designed and sign-posted? Sure, but subjectively -- only to a decent extent most of the time.

    Does Hellblade do other things well? Absolutely. As a player of it, though, what are my expectations? Well, I'm a contradictory ass, so while I want its skill-based gameplay to be tight and predictable, I also want it to be novel and locked-in thematically to explore the dimensions of its themes -- which it does only to a certain extent. Past a certain point, there's nothing new to be gleaned, and things become tedious. Is that a comment on the protagonist's state of mind? Sure, we can say it was authored that way, that was the point. But what did we learn from it?

    You know, it's interesting that you bring up Silent Hill 2. That's a game on my top 10 list of games, and in terms of gameplay, its mechanics were rote, but its execution wasn't. SH2 is a game that monitors how you do things up to a certain extent - how often do you look at certain items in your inventory? How often do you heal up? What are the things you choose not to do? Those things help the game decide what ending you get. From a sheer design perspective, it was novel, remains novel, and somehow these things manage to enhance the core story instead of detracting from it (well, except the things you do to get the UFO and dog endings). And yet: yes, its combat was shitty, some of its puzzles were silly, and all that could have been better.

    Hellblade deserves its accolades, but it also deserves to be held up to the design standards it brings to the table. If a movie has shitty editing and cinematography, its other elements had better pull double their weight to make up for it. Hellblade manages this feat, yes, but at the same time you can't ignore its flaws because, by virtue of the fact that it's a video game, the flaws are in integral parts of the experience. The combat never stopped feeling off, and its puzzles never stopped seeming just a little contrived in a way that didn't actually help its story. Instead of enhancing the story, they manage to detract just that much from it, and that means there's room for it to be better -- and it can only be better if it is appraised by virtue of how its component parts come together, or not.

    I'm not going to be back to jaw about this, but that's just one of my longstanding viewpoints, whether you agree or disagree with it. Have a good discussion, folks.
    Last edited by Sulphur; 11th Oct 2017 at 14:01.

  18. #18
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Oh, I'm not saying that you should overlook a game's flaws. By all means, it's perfectly fair to criticise Hellblade's gameplay. That's a different thing entirely.

  19. #19
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: Switzerland
    But you should also be able to say, "Look, if you like slow, moody sci-fi with a philosophical slant, you should check out Blade Runner. If the only sci-fi films you like are Star Wars and Aliens? Perhaps Blade Runner isn't your cup of tea." That's not making excuses for it, that's giving people an idea of what to expect.

  20. #20
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    The point I'm making is not that it's wrong to criticise Hellblade's gameplay, it's that the gameplay is not the be-all and end-all of it. Blade Runner is a very flawed movie, but if Blade Runner's flaws don't make Blade Runner a mediocre movie, then why should Hellblade's gameplay flaws make it a mediocre game?

    IMO, there's no need to describe games like Silent Hill 2 being "mediocre as a game, but it does interesting things with mood, atmosphere and storytelling". Rather, in my mind, it's a superb game with great mood, atmosphere and storytelling, even if it has pedestrian but serviceable game mechanics.

    I guess what I'm getting at is that gameplay can be a tool, rather than the end goal. And it doesn't have to be the tool either.
    Last edited by Starker; 11th Oct 2017 at 16:13.

  21. #21
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2001
    Location: Switzerland
    Because I am not interested in recommending a game that isn’t for everyone in a way that makes everyone think the game is for them, because that sort of disappointment makes for the most boring conversations.

    What I was originally trying to say is this: If you value gameplay above all else, this may not appeal. Perhaps I didn’t put it very well, but I think it’s a valid statement.

    Anyway, shouldn’t we rather talk about the game?
    Last edited by Thirith; 11th Oct 2017 at 15:59.

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