Opinion PlayStation PC

Why you need to support games like Hellblade

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I have just paid for my pre-order of Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. The game first caught my attention in September 2014 with the reveal of the protagonist "Hellblade's female lead - a character of beauty, anger, and history," and I've not stopped talking about it since. I've covered almost all Ninja Theory's dev dairies, and I've not been this excited about a game since ... I can't even remember. Today, we finally have a release date, and the long wait is almost over.

  • Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice release date: 8 August 2017
  • Platforms: PC and PS4
  • Steam: R319
  • PlayStation Store: R475

As you can see in the price, Ninja Theory delivered on the promise of not charging a triple-A price for Hellblade. We'll have to play the game to know if they also delivered on the promise of the game being of triple A quality - Hellblade aims to be triple-A quality while selling at a lower price.

If you pre-order via Steam or GOG.com you also get the exclusive Hellblade: Senua’s Song #1 digital comics short, produced in partnership with Valiant Entertainment and featuring the artwork of comics master Ben Templesmith.

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If you're a GameZone reader, then you know that I am very much against hype culture and pre-ordering games, and I've been writing about that for years - so why did I choose to purchase Hellblade, and not even wait for a review copy?

Because sometimes you have to support something you believe in - even if it turns out to be less than what you hope. Games will almost, always, be less magical than what we expect it to be. I believe Ninja Theory, and specifically Hellblade, is worthy of my support because it's an attempt to take gaming to a 'better' place. Better in that they're trying to achieve something new because Hellblade could show us something we've not yet seen in gaming, VR, and film. For me, if they succeed isn't the yardstick - it's that they've paid the price to try - and so I will, in turn, give them my support.

So what exactly is it that Ninja Theory attempted to achieve with Hellblade that sets it apart from other video games? Since the beginning, they've been open with the development process - sharing the tools of their trade with other devs and the public. They've remained independent because they wanted full creative freedom to make the game they wanted - something that doesn't try to be everything to all people - and so land on our screens almost 'identity-less.'  If there's one thing a lot of gamers have had against Indie games, it's quality; visually and otherwise, yet from the start, Ninja Theory has said that they're working on delivering a top quality experience.

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In order to deliver that quality they've had to invent new ways to develop video games, and we've taken you through all those steps over the past few years. One of the key things is the real-time performance capture that delivers an uncannily real Senua. Talking about Senua, Kim Libreri, CTO of Epic Games described it as "Creating a believable, digital character, that you can interact with has been a holy grail since the birth of computer graphics."

But even more than the remarkable work they've attempted to do with capturing the protagonist, is the work they've done with integrating "madness" into the story. I've talked about this in Hellblade - the madness that drives Senua's sacrifice, and it's perhaps the biggest drawing card for me. I've been playing games for about 30 years, and it's become near impossible to play something original - something 'other'. Other than the strong focus on action with a shallow story draped around it - or just an interactive story. At its heart, Hellblade is a "journey of suffering" it's about a glimpse into the mind of someone suffering from dementia, a tormented soul. It's about playing a video game and looking trough the lens of madness.

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I am excited when video games take me to a place I've not been. I've always said that gaming is like travelling without moving - and in Hellblade we're travelling not only to a fictional world but also to another mind. One of the ways Ninja Theory will demonstrate or enforce this is by the use of sound. In Hellblade "sounds will change and morph interactively" to allow the player to hear the world as interpreted through Senua's mind.

Hellblade is fascinating, it's innovative, and it aims to do something different. It makes the statement that Indie devs can make great games. That games don't have to be something that appeals to the masses to succeed. It's deserving of your support, regardless if it succeeds because it becomes a stepping stone for the next frontier in video games. Did I mention that Ninja Theory kept the price as they've promised? Lately, it's become the norm to over-hype and under-deliver, so Hellblade's price alone makes me want to support the game.

By my purchase, I am making the statement that I support independent devs who make a game according to the picture in their hearts - and they're not overcharging to make that dream come true - and they're delivering something gorgeous and interesting.

 

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"Hellblade is fascinating, it's innovative, and it aims to do something different"

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