Like every Wednesday, today in Game you will find a chronicle that hangs over a series or scene of a game to explain the feathers, whether related to narration or mechanics. For this twenty-fifth issue, we focus on the playful expression of madness in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.
For Charles Bukowski “Some people never go crazy. Their lives must be really boring”. & the ninja theory won’t say otherwise. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice fully embraces this vision of the American poet and novelist. Because who is better placed than the Pictian warrior and her journey through the forbidden countries of Helheim to sink into madness with a smile on her face?
Senua’s journey begins on the banks of the realm of the dead. And the first contact with this universe is as disturbing as it is unusual.
“Hello who are you?” … whatever. Welcome. You don’t have to fear anything with me. I will continue to talk close to you without warning others. I will tell you the Senua story. A story has already ended, starting again.
Ninja Theory breaks the fourth wall from the first second. This daring choice creates a unique context, even for a video game and ensures a deliberate distortion of the story. The discomfort can be felt with the first stroke of the paddle. Multiple storytellers contribute to the growing feeling of discomfort. Various entities accompany Senua in voice-over and tell her story. These stories, which overlap, emphasize the loss of bearings of the heroine and that of a player who became a voluntary witness to the story. A mysterious storyteller, a connection between life and death and a supposed ally, an inexorable liar named Druth, give the keys to this universe … at least in appearance. And appearances are deceiving. Senua’s flickering mental health takes shape through artifacts, superimposed appearances, and visual persistence. The staging itself is on it and leaves it no delay. A camera of a third person, from the point of view of the player who personifies detachment of himself, approaches, investigates, turns around … and Senua perceives this presence. The viewer then becomes an actor, Senua’s journey … that of the player.
Psychosis leads to loss of contact with reality through visual and audible hallucinations. And Hellblade builds its experience around this fundamental principle.
Senua is not alone in her head. The poor woman is constantly harassed by multiple voices who comment on every movement in real time. These Furies sometimes support the Pictian warrior and sometimes represent this stream of conflicting thoughts that haunts her. What merely causes whispers becomes hearing loss for both the player and the heroine. This cacophony, allegory of its psychotic condition, plays the role of both a precious ally and the worst enemy. These voices are always quick to offend and belittle you, and ensure your survival in the kingdom Hell … reinforce this sense of dizziness through spatialization and contextual relevance of this invective. The repetition of specific lexical fields contributes to the aggressiveness of the form and the acidity of the background …
They are coming. You’re a coward! Go away!
These chosen words leave a lasting impression on the mind and lead to positive thinking supported by the encouragement and advice of the same voices.
The song of Valravn. It’s there. No, there! There are two of them. Focus!
This significant contradiction expresses the cognitive dissonances of heroin. Senua staggers, and the player with that, one tirade after the other … Neither can escape the voices and collapse under a wealth of sounds and information. No one escapes from their own mind and must decide to fight it.
“The toughest fights are those of the mind” gladly repeated Dillion, Senua’s fiancee. And that can no longer be true in Hellblade, because the British studio materializes this internal conflict through the gameplay.
Building up the levels reflects the mental health of the heroine. The Celtic warrior walks through the forbidden lands of a realm of the dead, ready to do anything to condemn her to wander. This maze of corridors and rooms divides the player’s progress and, by extension, the fragile spirit of Senua. One mystery after another, the latter breaks the ditches that hinder a tortured soul that can tilt in the darkness at any moment.
I am so sorry. The darkness destroys everything. Everyone.
Ninja Theory literally plunges the avatar into the darkness, hiding Senua’s view for a disturbing series. Senua loses control, the player loses control when a deep sense of worthlessness settles for the long term … survival is the thread … the voice of Dillion. In Helheim, Senua struggles to break free and particularly destroys Valravn and Surt guards of Hela’s gate, gods of illusion and giant of fire, respectively. These two entities symbolize two sides of the same coin, in this case the spirit of Senua, torn between his demons, here his psychosis and his love for Dillion. PermaDeath, another illusion of the game, exists here only to increase the sense of need and to make Senua’s spirit coincide with that of the player.
Doing and re-creating Hellblade multiple times would weave an unchanging bond between Senua and the players who defied the Helheim.