SallyNasty's Game Club — Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice (Feb. 2019)

steinkrug wrote:
ClockworkHouse wrote:

It lands in an uncomfortable middle ground where it's not actually interesting enough to fully engage with but not easy enough (even on easy) to mindlessly hack through. I wouldn't mind there being just less of it overall and what is there a lot easier, especially with the threat of permadeath hanging over everything.

This is the kind of game I'd want to recommend to people who are less experienced players, but the combat puts up a huge barrier to that, and that's a shame.

This is pretty much exactly how I feel so far. A nice addition would be a “storytelling” mode that makes the combat trivial. I’m not sure yet if I’d prefer using that myself, but it would definitely make the game more accessible to those that are just interested in the themes and setting.

I was thinking that too, but I wondered if they didn't want to make the combat too easy, in case it becomes a power fantasy. Another option would just be to reduce the enemy count, especially later in the game.

Played this about this time last year, and it was an early GOTY contender, but unfortunately for it, I played a lot of great games last year. I envy anyone getting to play it for the first time.

I really could've done without the combat entirely, but then what would they do with Chekhov's Sword?

Couldn't have waited a few months?

Hellblade coming to Switch in Spring 2019.

I'm steadily making progress through this, but the further I get, the more I'm disappointed by the more overtly video gamey aspects of it: the combat, the collectibles, the puzzles. The environment and Senua's character are completely engrossing, and I find that I'm caught up in everything that's happening … until an enemy materializes or I spot a collectible audio log or I get stuck wandering around a building trying to line up the rafters in just the right way. Then the rhythm is just broken, and it takes me while to get back into it.

I don't know that I'm disappointed by the presence of these things so much as by the lackluster execution. The lore stone audio log things give you more information about Norse mythology but not any additional insight into what's happened to the characters or their world. The illusory puzzles were fun, but the rune alignment puzzles have been badly overused. And the combat is just dull and unsatisfying.

I'm left with the feeling that the developers set out to make a walking sim but worried that their game wasn't video gamey enough. Or alternatively, they set out to make an action game and over time drifted into something more like a walking sim. Either way, the end result often feels like it occupies an uncomfortable middle ground.

I’m feeling the same way after a second session. I enjoy the audio experience and the motion capture animation of the lead, but I don’t think I’m actually enjoying playing it. The combat doesn’t do much for me and the puzzles are leaving me cold too. I really appreciate the theme of mental illness and that makes me want to like it more than I do.

Clock nailed my experience.

I eventually got tired of it when the videogame-ey-ness of it entirely got in the way of the walking simulator it wanted to be.

Spoiler:

The Fire Demon maze. I died literally twenty times in that section and finally dropped it in disgust.

I really liked the Trials of Odin, especially the building with the masks. That was followed by an area that had so many enemies, oh my God! I'm glad I'm playing on easy.

Jonman wrote:

Clock nailed my experience.

I eventually got tired of it when the videogame-ey-ness of it entirely got in the way of the walking simulator it wanted to be.

Spoiler:

The Fire Demon maze. I died literally twenty times in that section and finally dropped it in disgust.

That was definitely the low point of the game.

I finished earlier this evening. I'll have some more thoughts tomorrow, but I felt that my appreciation for the game was greatly enhanced by watching the making-of video included with it. Even in parts where I felt they were unsuccessful, I have a better sense for what they were trying for. Did anyone else watch it?

I did, and also enjoyed it more for having watched it.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

I'm steadily making progress through this, but the further I get, the more I'm disappointed by the more overtly video gamey aspects of it: the combat, the collectibles, the puzzles. The environment and Senua's character are completely engrossing, and I find that I'm caught up in everything that's happening … until an enemy materializes or I spot a collectible audio log or I get stuck wandering around a building trying to line up the rafters in just the right way. Then the rhythm is just broken, and it takes me while to get back into it.

This sums up my experience with Hellblade, as well. Whenever I find myself needing to do one of these tasks, I’m...not annoyed, but I want to complete them quickly so I can get back to wandering and listening to the audio (headphones, of course).

I’m happy to be playing this game, though! I’m probably not as far as everyone else, but I’m enjoying the story immensely.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

I finished earlier this evening. I'll have some more thoughts tomorrow, but I felt that my appreciation for the game was greatly enhanced by watching the making-of video included with it. Even in parts where I felt they were unsuccessful, I have a better sense for what they were trying for. Did anyone else watch it?

I watched it too. I thought the line about never knowing whether they had gone too far, or not far enough, in depicting psychosis, explained a lot of the problems I had with the game. Getting that balance between an authentic portrayal and something completely insufferable for most people must have been incredibly hard.

I think they struck that balance pretty well with the audio and visual hallucinations. They were vivid enough to give an impression of psychosis, but limited to certain areas, so we could take a break for as long as we needed in the interstices. Having a few collectibles in these areas gave us something to do while we cooled off, and I liked the retelling of the Norse myths.

The pattern matching puzzles were less successful, though. They don't seem to work as a simulation of delusion. Sufferers in the video are besieged by patterns, can't stop seeing them everywhere, whereas in the game you have to deliberately seek them out. It's almost the exact opposite experience. And if you happen to miss one it can block your progress which is the last thing you want in a game that's all about maintaining an experience.

Combat I think is even less warranted and wasn't mentioned at all in the video. I wonder if it's just a hangover from the original hero's journey concept that the game began with. If you fail, you can die and restart, which is the absolute worst for "immersion" and even if you succeed, "slaying your demons" didn't seem to be part of any sufferers' experience.

But now I'm just getting snarky Obviously NT put a lot of effort into being genuine, and did a lot more research into the condition than I've done. Overall I'm glad I played the game, and I got something different from it than from just about every other game I've played recently.

ComfortZone wrote:

The pattern matching puzzles were less successful, though. They don't seem to work as a simulation of delusion. Sufferers in the video are besieged by patterns, can't stop seeing them everywhere, whereas in the game you have to deliberately seek them out. It's almost the exact opposite experience. And if you happen to miss one it can block your progress which is the last thing you want in a game that's all about maintaining an experience.

If I were to armchair redesign the game, I would have merged the two concepts of the lore collectibles and the hidden runes so that you were finding patterns in the environment that told you more about the story, rather than finding monoliths.

With the combat, for me, I found that it was undermined almost immediately on a narrative level by the unreality of it. I didn't get the impression at any point that the enemies you face were Northmen that Senua saw as demonic but instead that they were all hallucinations. Because of that, it didn't feel like there was any kind of threat to them or any narrative reason for them to be there. Their sole purpose was to have some action elements and as gatekeepers for content, which made the lackluster combat design stand out even more.

All of that said, I thought the game was a really unique and memorable experience, and I'm really happy I played it. I loved the glimpse into Senua's experience and also into the historical depiction of the Viking conquest. The Vikings were a brutal society, but that's normally glossed over in pop culture depictions of them. Seeing the conquest from Senua's perspective gave a sense of just how apocalyptic and horrifying that must have been for the Celtic peoples.

It's an intense and at times overwhelming experience, but whenever the game would get out of its own way, it was amazing.

Hmmm, well I was going to hop into this tonight, but apparently I need a $25 adapter to use a headset with my XB1 controller. Not doing that.

Are headphones really that essential? I will probably just wait for a Steam sale down the road if so.

You must have an older controller, then. The newer ones have a regular headphone jack.

And yeah, I would say that headphones are that important, but others might disagree.

ClockworkHouse wrote:

You must have an older controller, then. The newer ones have a regular headphone jack.

And yeah, I would say that headphones are that important, but others might disagree.

Yeah, it looks like I have a first gen controller. It has no jack. Oh well. I'll catch up with this thread another time.

Yikes, I don’t know if I’ll be able to get to this by the end of the month...