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Video Game / Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice

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Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is an Action-Adventure Video Game developed and — for the first time — published by Ninja Theory.

Based upon Celtic and Norse Mythology, the game tells the story of the eponymous Senua, a warrior traumatized by a Viking invasion, as she embarks on a very personal journey through a hellish underworld which are the psychosis manifestations of her own reality and mind.

The game is somewhat similar to the Soulsborne games in terms of combat, focusing on timing your strikes and dodging the enemy's blows. Be warned, as Senua can't take many hits before she goes down.

It was released on August 8, 2017 for the Playstation 4 and PC. An Xbox One release was later set for April 11, 2018 and a Nintendo Switch release for spring 2019.

Needs Wiki Magic Love, and there is a character sheet that also does.

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This game provides examples of:

  • Abusive Parents: Zynbel. He emotionally and physically tortured his daughter for years in an effort to rid her of her "darkness", which included locking her up in a pit and constantly belittling and shaming her for her mental illness, believing it to be a curse from the gods. He also killed Senua's mother by burning her alive, when Senua was only five years old.
  • Action Girl: Senua herself, a female Celtic warrior.
  • Aerith and Bob: Actual Celtic names (Findan, Drúth) and plausible corruptions of Celtic names like Dillion (derived from Dyllanw) and Senua (an erroneous spelling of Senuna) exist in the same society as the fictional "Galena" and the aggressively fictional Zynbel, which contains letters and sounds found in no Celtic language.
  • Alliterative Title: The "Senua's Sacrifice" part of the title.
  • All Just a Dream: The ending is ambiguous as to how much of the game actually happened to Senua. Potentially the entire game could be a hallucination brought on by Senua's mental illness and the trauma of Dillion's death.
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    • One of the "trials" (which is revealed to be a Flashback) shows Dillion talking to her during one of her episodes. She imagines she's in a dark house with monsters chasing her. In reality, she's lying in bed while he's talking to her. He states that she's "gone" during this time, but then she states that he "brought her back". It's very likely that the majority of the game is a mixture of Flashback and Imagine Spot (with psychotic episodes taking the place of imagination).
  • Alas, Poor Yorick: Senua does this a couple times with Dillion's head.
  • Ambiguous Disorder: Averted. The symptoms of Senua's "darkness" strongly indicate that it's paranoid schizophrenia, and as mentioned under Shown Their Work, there was considerable effort taken to ensure that the protrayal was accurate. While it's never explicitly identified in-game, as it would have been totally unknown given the game's medieval setting, it is consistent with an intended real-world condition rather than just a mish-mash of inconsistent symptoms.
  • Anachronic Order: Senua's backstory is revealed in anachronistic flashbacks throughout the video game.
  • ...And That Little Girl Was Me: Druth tells Senua the story of Findan, a man captured by the Norsemen who took a chance to escape, dying in fire. This was Druth's story. He left his old name and identity behind after passing through the fire, considering that person to have died.
  • And the Adventure Continues: When the story is over, Senua beckons the player to join her somewhere new, as she wanders away...
  • Anti-Frustration Features: When hunting for runes or ravens, you don't have to align the lines perfectly - as long as you get them mostly in the right place, the game will accept the rune or mark as found. Also, when you're close to the position where you can align a rune, the rune starts appearing all over Senua's vision, sharply limiting the area you need to search for alignable objects.
    • The camera stays close to Senua even during combat, which makes it easy for enemies to get behind you if you're fighting several. To keep them from getting cheap shots in, Senua's voices yell "Behind you!" when you need to dodge an attack from offscreen.
  • A Love to Dismember: Senua keeps the head of her beloved Dillion on her hip. It's covered in cloth, so it's not as graphic as it sounds. Doubles as a Tragic Keepsake, since he died in a Viking invasion.
  • Artistic License – History: Senua is said to be a Pict from Orkney, though she looks nothing like one. Her outfit gives off more of a fantastical Native American vibe, quite far removed from the long flowing tunics, mantles and cloaks that the Picts seem to have worn.
    • Senua herself has a southern British name, her partner has a Welsh name, and her parents have fictional non-Celtic names.
    • Senua's sword's design and her society's reverence of severed heads are inspired by the continental Gauls, rather than the Picts.
  • Artistic License – Linguistics: "Druth" is mispronounced, possibly for the sake of a rhyming pun with "truth". The "th" should be silent.
  • Awesomeness by Analysis: Senua learned to become at least passably good at swordfighting simply by watching Dillion from afar before he started actually training her.
  • Beauty Is Never Tarnished: So, so averted. Senua begins the game slightly disheveled and it only goes downhill.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Dillion is still dead, either because Hela will not resurrect him, or Senua was deluding in believing resurrecting him was possible. It's not particularly clear. However, Senua ends the game having confronted her personal demons and able to separate the positive influence Dillion and her mother had from the trauma and shame inflicted by her father. The ending hints that she has moved on from Dillion's death and has a brighter future ahead. In addition, if it was real, then it's strongly implied that Hela released Dillion's soul from her grip and allowed him to go to whatever other rest is due to him, which was Senua's goal in the first place.
  • Blackout Basement: One of the Warrior Trials takes place in pitch blackness, with Senua forced to rely on her senses of touch and hearing to navigate. Navigating Garmr's lair without a torch also qualifies.
  • Bloody Bowels Of Hel: The Sea of Corpses is an area of Hel built of bodies of the damned that cry in agony and grasp at Senua as she wades through Rivers of Blood.
  • Breath Weapon: The Beast breathes pure darkness.
  • Broken Bird: Senua has suffered her entire life and she has lost her one ray of hope, Dillion. She's beset by constant self-doubt, believing herself cursed and the cause of suffering to those around her.
  • Burn the Witch!: The unfortunate fate that befell Senua's mother, who shared her daughter's mental illness and was burned at the stake by Senua's horrifically abusive, zealous father who believed it to be a curse from the gods.
  • Casting a Shadow: The Beast uses this in its boss fight. Especially dangerous as darkness is Senua's major Trauma Button.
  • The Corruption: The black "rot" that slowly spreads up Senua's arm.
  • Crusading Widow: Senua, of the "bring them back" variety.
  • Crucified Hero Shot: Dillion's corpse is framed this way.
  • Damn You, Muscle Memory!: Dark Souls players wrestle with blocking being the right bumper instead of the left. Instead of blocking, they accidentally charge into their opponents.
  • Darker and Edgier: In contrast to Heavenly Sword's fantasy set or Enslaved's colorful post-apocalypse, it's the most mature game from Ninja Theory.
  • Darkest Hour: Senua falls into several deep, dark, mental valleys throughout the game, but two moments stand out in particular: about a third of the way through the game, having bested two gods and earned access to the bridge leading to Helheim, The Darkness manifests as Hela herself and destroys the bridge, swats her into a void and breaks her sword. The second point comes near the end when she loses Dillion's head and is distraught that her quest is over, as she won't be able to rescue his soul without it. In both cases she eventually finds cause to overcome herself, first replacing her sword with a magical blade by passing Trials of Odin and in the second case by finding the resolve to continue, defeating The Beast and retrieving the skull.
  • Darkness = Death: Darkness is never a good thing in the game as it stands for Senua's illness and environments suddenly becoming darker often herald a change for the worse. There are, however, some parts where she must run from light source to light source while hallucinations assail her, as staying in the darkness any longer than necessary will kill her. Garmr can actually spit darkness in his boss fight. Have fun fighting him while your screen mostly shows Senua's hallucinations in the darkness rather than the actual enemy who's still trying to eviscerate you. It is also implied in the ending that Senua grows to accept her mental disorder and stops thinking of it as a curse.
  • Dark World: One area contains large masks that lets you switch between a light and a dark version of the area. In the light world, the sun is shining and Senua's voices fondly recall Dillion. In the dark world, it's raining and the voices lambast Senua for supposedly causing Dillion's death.
  • Deal with the Devil: The goal of the game is to make one of these with Hela, who's said to be the only goddess capable of bringing people back from the dead, in exchange for Dillion, Senua's dead beloved.
  • Driven to Suicide: Senua looks like she's on the edge several times, while Senua's mother is past it, having ended her life to escape her "darkness" and be with the gods. Or so her father claims. In reality, he burned her, quite probably for defying him.
  • Evil Sounds Deep: The Shadow has a very deep voice and is quite evil.
  • 11th-Hour Superpower: Once Senua realizes just how badly her father abused her and her mother and gains strength from it, enemies fall far more quickly. The soundtrack switching to Just Like Sleep helps underline her new resolve.
  • Final Death: The rot that Senua gains after her first death, which will crawl up her body with every death, wiping all save data if it reaches her head. Except not really. You can die as many times as you want and your save data won't be touched. The warning about deleted save files turns out to be less about gameplay mechanics and more about the fear and paranoia Senua feels.
  • Fission Mailed: Happens twice in the game with fights where Failure Is the Only Option. In the first combat sequence Senua is struck down and dies before it is revealed to be a hallucination. The second incident is the ending where the waves of enemies are endless and will continue until you eventually die. Then the ending cutscene plays where Senua offers her soul in exchange for Dillion and Hela appears to agree, killing Senua before Hela morphs into Senua (with Hela's corpse visible in the background) and the player is left to question what really happened.
  • Flayed Alive: The unfortunate fate of Senua's love Dillion. He was sacrificed by Norse raiders in the style known as a Blood Eagle, his limbs and the flesh of his back tied to posts.
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: Senua hears voices, and one of them seems to be the narrator herself. The narrator thus whispers — to the player — to not disturb Senua too much, and at least one time Senua glowers at the camera for treading on her thoughts.
  • Full-Boar Action: The Beast is a boar-dragon abomination.
  • Gainax Ending: Not surprising, considering the nature of the game's plot. However, the game ends in an uplifting note, implying that Senua has moved on from Dillion's death.
  • Game-Breaking Bug: Jim Sterling's initial 1/10 score was because of one. It's triggered by not lighting your torch in an area that kills you in the dark, and the game autosaving after you've long passed the light source you needed), and triggering it renders the game unwinnable. It was fixed in a patch shortly after Sterling's review made the rounds.
  • Gameplay and Story Integration: The puzzle segments that have you seek certain runes by looking at compositions of unconnected objects seem random at first, but they fit in quite nicely with Senua's unusual way of thinking, and the rest of the game is designed to keep you paranoid, fearful and in a permanent state of dread. Up until the second-to-last combat sequence, where Senua's improving confidence and rage allow you to tear through enemies in the way of a more traditional power fantasy.
    • In keeping with the themes of questioning reality and what's apparently obvious, Senua's death animation isn't a death animation at all. Button Mashing before an enemy gets to you while Senua is struggling on the ground will cause Senua to get a Heroic Second Wind and dodge out of the way to get back into the fight.
  • Genre-Busting: It's a narrative-driven and cutscene-heavy adventure game with relatively sparse Hack and Slash combat, long, borderline Walking Simulator segments and lots of symbolic environmental puzzles set in what the protagonist sees as the Norse underworld and horror elements straight out of Silent Hill. Suffice to say, don't go in expecting God of War with Norse Mythology.
  • Head Butt Of Love: Senua performs one with Dillion's skull at one point, and it turns into an Imagine Spot of the two of them doing it back when he was alive.
  • Heal It with Fire: After her first encounter with Hela on the bridge, Senua is thrown to the rocks below. Afterwards, she uses the remains of her shattered sword and a torch to cauterize the wound on her face.
  • Hearing Voices: Senua hears them constantly, coming from a variety of locations and with a variety of ages and genders.
  • Helpful Hallucination: Some of Senua's voices aid her in combat, telling her when an enemy is attacking from behind, pointing out their weaknesses, and so forth. Outside of combat, they occasionally provide moral support.
  • Hesitant Sacrifice: When Senua is approaching Hela's location, her voices question what will happen to them if she should die and begin to beg her not to keep going, because of this reason. She apologizes, but says that if they don't want to die, they can leave her alone.
  • Interface Screw: Garmr has the ability to cover the screen with an onslaught of visions during his boss fight. The visions can only be dispelled by focusing or striking the boss with a heavy attack.
    • One of the Odin Trials reduces Senua's vision to barely a foot in front of her, and what she can see is blurred. The player must rely on sounds in the darkness and controller vibration (representing a breeze) to find their way. Also, there are things in the darkness that must be avoided.
  • Legendary Weapon: Gramr, the legendary sword of Sigmund from the Völsunga saga, is claimed by Senua before finally entering Hela's domain. True to the original myth, she pulls it from the trunk of a massive tree.
  • The Lost Lenore: Dillion for Senua, big time. His death in the Viking raid of their village motivates her to journey to Hel and recover his soul from Hela.
  • Madwoman in the Attic: Senua's abusive father locked her in a basement for years due to her mental illness.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: Is it real? Is it in her head? We may never know for sure. The point is: it's real for her.
  • Medium Blending: Done subtly. Actual camerawork is sometimes imposed over cutscenes to materialize the people Senua knew in her life, such as Druth, Dillion, her mother, and her father.
  • The Mentally Disturbed: A significant portion of the game consists of vengefully deconstructing the stereotypes; Senua is a warrior but she's not unconsciously dangerous, her illness isn't something she can overcome with willpower alone, it's not a fun quirk or a disease, and it's the attitudes of those surrounding her that harm or help her.
  • Mental Story: The story is entirely experienced from the perspective of Senua's psychotic mind. Whether her journey to Hel is happening in reality is unclear, but it's all real to Senua.
  • Mr. Exposition: Druth, an escaped slave of the Vikings who raided Senua's villages. He taught the mythology of the Norse gods to her, which she experiences in flashbacks and through the game's scattered lorestones.
  • Narrative Backpedaling: When Senua is first exposed to the Rot, she crawls in agony as her body shrivels into a black wound before dying with the camera in a close zoom on her open eyes. The camera then pulls back slightly to reveal Senua standing witness to this beside her corpse and The Narrator calling the event a vision of things to come.
  • Neck Lift: After losing in the final battle, Hela picks up Senua by the neck and fatally stabs her with her own sword. Or so it seems.
  • Neurodiversity Is Supernatural: Zig-Zagged all over the place: Senua's magic could be derived from her psychosis, entirely independent of it, or all in her head. Senua's father and Druth both see Senua's illness as supernatural, however both of their approaches are shown to be flawed. The most sympathetic character, Dillion, simply treats her as a human being.
  • Never Suicide: A flashback near the end reveals that Senua's mother didn't kill herself - her husband burned her at the stake, with five-year-old Senua watching. He claims he did it because she defied the gods. Senua is pretty sure it's because she defied him.
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Druth. While he clearly means well, the rather disturbing Norse myths he tells Senua become the basis of some of her darkest hallucinations.
  • Nothing Is Scarier: A lot of the game is spent just wandering around sunlit forests and empty houses. Those parts are arguably more creepy than the overtly supernatural horror scenes. The Narrator claiming in the intro that "they" are watching you and asking if you can see them (you can't) doesn't exactly help.
  • One Steve Limit: Senua uses the sword Gramr against Hela's guardian Garmr. For obvious reasons, the latter only identified as Garmr, but usually called "the Beast".
  • Power Born of Madness: Senua's voices warn her whenever an enemy creeps up behind her, and she can enter Bullet Time by focusing. While the latter one is almost certainly not "real", Dillion believed Senua's sight could make her a more powerful warrior.
  • Playing the Player: The game indicates that there are a set amount of deaths the player can have before their save game is wiped and they are forced to start over. Player experimentation indicates that this is not true, but rather intended to impart some of Senua's fear onto the player.
    • The game itself still does this to a degree. Senua's voices directly communicate with the player at certain points of the game, and the entire adventure blurs the line between the real world and Senua's mind quite frequently.
  • Precision F-Strike: Senua curses only once. She screams, "Fuck the gods!" at her druid father Zynbel when he is using religion as justification to burn her mother at the stake.
  • Psychological Torment Zone: Senua is already troubled by her mental illness before the story begins, but the landscape of Helheim does everything it can do to aid her madness.
  • Red Oni, Blue Oni: The first two bosses, the brutish, fiery Surtr and the crafty, agile Valravn.
  • Rivers of Blood: The Sea of Corpses. It's all in Senua's mind, but it's still disturbing as hell.
  • Self-Harm: When Senua is first touched by The Corruption infecting her arm, she tries to scratch it off in a way that would likely make her arm bleed. Later, when her first sword is broken, she uses a piece of it to cauterize the side of her face.
  • Scenery Gorn: Many areas of the game have sections littered with dead bodies, killed in several different and gruesome ways. However, the Sea of Corpses takes the cake when it comes to gorn.
  • Scenery Porn: Lots of it. The game is full of impressive vistas and one of the prettiest games ever made with Unreal Engine 4.
  • Sequel Hook: After dropping Dillion's skull into an abyss, Senua beckons the player into following her, as there is "another story to tell". The narrator agrees. This is more likely a call-back to the beginning of the game where the narrator says that there will be no more stories after this one. It's meant to show that she is moving on.
  • Shout-Out: The photo mode's Deliberately Monochrome black and white filter is named Schindler.
  • Sliding Scale of Fourth Wall Hardness: During introduction, the Narrator, one of the two most prominent voices in Senua's head, acknowledges the player as a new voice and narrates her story to you throughout the game. Senua looks directly into the camera at several key moments, although whether she is addressing the player is uncertain. In regular gameplay, it's actually impossible to look straight into Senua's face as she always turns her head away from the camera when it comes close.
  • Shell-Shocked Veteran: Senua was already traumatized before she experienced a kind of therapy by watching Dillion train with his sword and imitating him. She was skilled enough that he encouraged her to undergo warrior trials, and she succeeded. Returning from a self-imposed exile to find Dillion and the rest of the village massacred, pushed her over an edge she was teetering on her entire life.
  • Shown Their Work:
  • Solve The Soupcans: Justified example. Many of the riddles seem nonsensical - why does opening gates depend on aligning random objects in your line of sight so they form a pattern? Why does repairing bridges require viewing floating fragments in a way that creates an optical illusion? Because either the Viking underworld and its god of illusions Valravn work that way or Senua's mind does.
  • Sword of Plot Advancement: After her original sword is broken, Senua completes trials to reforge the magical blade Gramr which will enable her to combat Hela. In gameplay, acquiring the sword unlocks a new Charged Attack.
  • Talking to Themself: Senua speaks into the mirror she carries at one point, hearing The Shadow speak from her reflection.
  • This Means Warpaint: Senua uses blue warpaint (also called woad) in the present - most flashbacks are indicated by her being barefaced.
  • Thousand-Yard Stare: Senua's default look is an impassive glazed stare, her mouth slightly agape.
  • To Hell and Back: The entire plot of the game is either Senua doing this, or the events that lead up to it being Senua's only choice.
  • Trauma Button: Pitch darkness, and to a lesser extent fire, serve as these to Senua.
  • Two-Faced: Hela's body is split between pale flesh covered in runes and charred black scars with embers burning.
  • Unreliable Narrator: We see and hear the world from Senua's perspective. Given the fact that she suffers from a serious disorder aggravated by trauma, how much and what actually happens is up to the player's interpretation.
  • Vocal Dissonance: Hela speaks with the voice of The Shadow, a menacing male voice from within Senua's mind. The Shadow is the voice of Senua's father Zynbel, but altered and warped to be even more intense and intimidating than his human voice.
  • Villain Has a Point: In the final showdown with Hela, Senua comes to realise that Zynbel referring to her mental state as a "darkness" was an ignorant, fearful lie. Zynbel/Hela (it's hard to tell) counters by pointing out that if there is no supernatural darkness and no Hel, then Senua's quest to restore Dillion's soul is impossible. Senua ignores him and fights on, but it's only when she's defeated and lets go of Dillion's memory that she is able to find peace.

Alternative Title(s): Hellblade

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