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> Hellblade Senua's Sacrifice
SubRosa
post Aug 15 2017, 01:07 AM
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I started playing it today. So far it is alright. It has some utterly fantastic things. The story is simple, but draws you in from the start. Senua is journeying to Hel to get her dead boyfriend back. Or she is hallucinating because she is insane? She is clearly mad. Maybe it is both?

The game recommends you wear headphones when you play, which I agree with. The game uses binaural audio for the voices you constantly hear in your head. So one voice might speak in one ear, and the next in the other, or some in both. There are a lot of voices in Senua's head. The headphones really makes them come alive.

The voices are not just atmosphere either. They both tell the story, and give you hints on what to do next. There is no UI in the game. So the voices are your only guide. I am sure this is no accident. For the voices are Senua's only guide as well.

The creepiness really sucks you in. There is fighting, but the game is primarily story-driven. The combat is only secondary. At least so far. I have seen a lot of reviewers slam the combat for being simplistic. But I do not mind it at all. I have never been into fighting games that are all about mashing buttons in the right combinations like Mortal Kombat.

But there are some really simple things that really bring the game down. Most I think stem from being made with a console in mind. Most notable is that there is no manual saving, and no way to manually load a save. The game autosaves, and loads the last autosave when you restart it. If your save gets corrupted, I imagine you simply F'ed in the rear and have to start completely over. But we know that never happens right?

The graphics are mostly outstanding. But one issue I have is that the camera is too close to Senua's right shoulder, which makes the field of view really narrow. I found a fix for this:

The game's .ini files are found in Users\{Your Username}\AppData\Local\HellbladeGame\Saved\Config\WindowsNoEditor

Open Engine.ini and add the following:

[/script/engine.localplayer]
AspectRatioAxisConstraint=AspectRatio_MaintainYFOV


There is also no way of turning off Motion Blur and Colorfringng in the game's options menu, but you can do it this way:

Open scaleability.ini and add:

[PostProcessQuality@3]
r.MotionBlurQuality=0
r.SceneColorFringeQuality=0

NOTE: In the file scaleability.ini (the @3 is the quality setting you have it set to in gameusersettings.ini, 3 is the very high ingame setting. Set this number to match what you have in gameusersettings.ini)


Turn off Film Grain

Open Engine.ini file, find [SystemSettings], and make the following changes:
r.Tonemapper.GrainQuantization=0
r.Tonemapper.Quality=0



Skip Intro Videos

Go to to your Hellblade\HellbladeGame\Content\Movies and rename the following files:
NinjaTheory_Logo.bik
ThirdParty_Logo.bik
UE4_Logo.bik.


There is also a softness to the image. I am not sure what it is. I might be FXAA, or some other post-processing effect. I have seen some people say that turning Post-Processing down to Medium fixes this. But others say it made no difference for them. I will have to experiment.

The final thing that really gets to me is the camera always auto-centers itself, all the time. So if you look up, the camera automatically pulls down to center. The same if you look down. That gets really, really annoying.


Senua

Her BF

The gate to Hel looms

Really close up

This post has been edited by SubRosa: Aug 19 2017, 02:00 AM


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TheCheshireKhajiit
post Aug 15 2017, 01:25 AM
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She looks like a Celtic Warrior Queen!


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ghastley
post Aug 15 2017, 01:40 PM
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She looks like Pig-Pen's sister!


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Acadian
post Aug 15 2017, 10:00 PM
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Another wonderful review in progress I see for another promising game! I'm so glad you share your impressions in detail of the games you play. Senua looks rather delicate - almost birdlike. Wow, the graphics do indeed look marvelous!


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SubRosa
post Aug 16 2017, 01:24 AM
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I turned down the Post Processing to Medium, and the image does look much sharper than it did on Very High. So I am happy with that. I also added a few more tweaks to the first post.

I had more time to play today, and can make some more observations.

One thing that is really different about this game is that there is no user interface. It does not need one, as there is no inventory. There are no items, no spells, no map, no journal, no health bar, no nothing. What you see is literally what you get. It is very minimalist, but it works to help keep you focused on the story.

As I said before the game is story-based. That is it's real strength. The story comes out gradually as Senua explores Hel. Partly it comes from the voices in her head talking to themselves (and to her, but those mostly seem to talk to one another). The other part comes from Druth - the ghost of an Irish Celt whom she found in the wilderness. Druth was enslaved by the Norse, but eventually escaped after years, only to be found by Senua before his death. So he has a lot of observations on Norse culture with an inside view.

Speaking of voices, the voice acting is stellar. Here is an example.

As a side note, there are runestones scattered throughout the game that you can interact with. They start little segments about Norse mythology narrated by Druth. They are not needed to complete the game. But they are nice little touches. I have also read that if you find all 44 of them you will get a special extended ending of the game.

The game is very linear. Sometimes you have choices to go one way or another, but sooner or later you have to go back and do the side you passed by. It is like a Bioware game that way, where there is a set number of chapters you have to do, but you can do them in any order you want.

Most of the game is exploring and solving puzzles. Most of the puzzles are cases where you are given a rune or set of runes. Then you have to walk around and look at the environment to find that rune. Often it is a case of lining up several different objects from just the right angle so they call come together to form the rune. It is neat, but can get tiresome when you come upon a difficult one. To help out, when you come near the area where the rune can be seen, you will see dozens of the same rune appear glowing in the air all around you. So that can help you get on track. Plus the voices in your head will sometimes help point you in the right direction.

A small part of the game is combat. You can tell when combat starts because Senua draws her sword (you cannot do this on your own). You tend to get one or two enemies coming at you at a time. The movement controls become very sluggish, to the point where it is nearly impossible to move at all. You have a block, a fast attack, a heavy attack, and an evade button. The evade just makes you back up if it is the only button you push. If you use the Evade + a movement button you will do a roll to the right or left, or a charge forward. This literally the only way you can move in combat.

I find it is best to block until the baddies attack, and exclusively use the fast attack on them a few times until they get their bearings again. Then block as they prepare another attack. After a few rounds of this you will see a glowing blue-white rune similar to the mirror Senua wears on her waist. Press The Focus Key when you see it, and it slows down time. Then it is time to start mashing the Heavy Attack until you kill the bad guy. Often you can wipe out two or even three of them in mirror time.

You can tell if you are losing because the edges of the screen start to go red. But more than that the voices in your head will tell you: "She's losing!". Combat is generally not too hard. But it can get frustrating because of how hard it is to move. If you die the game reloads the autosave before combat began. I died a lot in my first Boss fight with Surtur. But killed Valravn my first go (it was hard though).

In your first fight you 'die'. I think this is scripted so it always happens no matter what you do. You get this black rot growing in your hand. The game then tells you that every time you die, the rot will spread up your arm. If it gets to your head, death is permanent (and the game is over). But I have seen many say online that this never actually happens. I died about 6 times fighting Surtur, and never saw the rot move. So my advice is not to worry about it.


The picture is sharper with post processing down to medium and motion blur disabled

A mythology-telling runestone

A close up

There is a puzzle piece rune nearby

Burning

Surtur

Senua smites!

The killing blow

Now on to Valravn

That is not Valravn

Not Valravn either

Searching for the next rune

Facing Valravn

Splekt!

Valravn falls

Darkness

And Light

This post has been edited by SubRosa: Aug 20 2017, 05:33 PM


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hazmick
post Aug 16 2017, 07:04 PM
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I thought the combat worked really well with the theme of the game. Senua's just a human warrior - no magic, no fancy acrobatics, just hitting stuff until it dies. It get's pretty difficult later in the game as tougher enemies are introduced. Another note - if you time your block right you can parry an enemy attack, staggering them and allowing Senua to counter attack more easily (and recharges the mirror quicker).

The way puzzles work are really cool. I especially liked the perspective based puzzles in Valravn's area, where you see a different version of the world (one in which a door might be open or a wall missing) through some wooden archways. There's a really neat puzzle area later on that has you switch between two different worlds several times to get through it.


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Acadian
post Aug 16 2017, 08:25 PM
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Wow, no interface sounds interesting but would certainly up the necessity of listening to those voices! Normally puzzles are a real downer as they generally send me straight to a game guide to avoid frustration. Skyrim was a refreshingly fun exception in that even a blond wood elf could figure them out. That saving thing sounds a problem as well. It is a real luxury when you can simply hit pause, save & exit if something calls you from the game.

Your screenshots here really showcase the exploration with a bit of puzzles and combat. The game certainly looks good and sounds fun. So glad you’re enjoying it!


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ghastley
post Aug 16 2017, 08:50 PM
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I just saw a review that noted you can get auto-saved just after making a fatal error that blows your chances of survival, making it "start a new game" time. That's as bad as a corrupt save, even if it is your own fault.

How long a story is it, and so how much of a rewind is that?

I've had Skyrim reload me straight into a death-cam, so I could imagine the same bad timing being possible here.

This post has been edited by ghastley: Aug 16 2017, 08:51 PM


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SubRosa
post Aug 16 2017, 10:50 PM
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hazmick:
All in all I like the combat too. I think it works just fine. I just wish I could move around easier. I am wondering if I am having a controller issue?

I really liked the Valravn area too, with the way you could look through the illusion gates to see the world differently. So far I like the way the puzzle finding works too. I did get frustrated with one in the Surtur chapter. I had to go up on a watch tower, and I had the samples of the rune floating in the air up there so I was sure it was somewhere on top of the tower. After about 15 minutes I finally found it down near the ground. I think it was formed by a post and part of a building. But you had to standing up on the tower to see it from the right perspective to form the rune.


Acadian:
The puzzles are generally not too hard, and the game gives you hints with the glowing runes hanging in the air near where the answers are. It is really more a matter of perception than brain work.

The saving bothers me too. The game autosaves a lot, and before every meaningful encounter. So if you quit you won't have to backtrack through anything difficult when you start up again later. It is a lot better than the older games like Tomb Raider Anniversary, where the save points were far apart, so you had to redo a ton of really difficult and intricate acrobatics every time you quit and restarted.



ghastley:
That is exactly what I am worried about. I cannot count how many times games have put my save right before I died, even when I actually saved before the fight started. I have never understood why companies force this one save idea in Survival modes, or why any player would want that. It is like unprotected sex with a stranger, fun for a while, but the consequences can be devastating.

But like I was telling Acadian, the auto-save points are often, and before every major danger. So if you die in combat or in a trial you don't lose any of your game.

I have not finished the game, so I am not sure how long it is. I know it is shorter than most games (which is the reason for it only costing $30 instead of $60). Some people say that it is about 8 hours. It looks like there are 11 chapters. I have put 4-5 hours in, and have only gotten through the first 3 chapters. In fact, I have not even gotten to Hel proper. I am still working on getting through the gate.

This post has been edited by SubRosa: Aug 16 2017, 10:51 PM


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hazmick
post Aug 16 2017, 11:44 PM
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Combat movement is really slowed down, and the camera angle/distance makes it really claustrophobic. Dodging is the only way to really move with any speed, and I often found myself dodging away from combat, through groups of enemies, to try and get a better view of things. There's an enemy variant later in the game that can move really fast, and poor Senua's like a sitting duck.

I know which tower you mean. Had a rune shaped like a 'D'? Took me an awfully long time to find it.


It took me about 7 or 8 hours to play through the game, though I missed some of Druth's runestones so I want to go back through and find them.


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"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."

"...a quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business."
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SubRosa
post Aug 17 2017, 01:19 AM
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I finally figured out my main problem with moving in combat. When you block you cannot move. As you said, you have to use the Escape key plus one of the direction keys to really move with any speed. I found that Escape + W means you charge forward. If you time it right you can get a really cool charging attack upon the baddies.

I just defeated one of the sword and shield guys (who always give me problems), by constantly hitting Escape + D to move the right. Senua ducks and rolls to the side, and gets partly behind him. Then she can get a couple of quick attacks in until she has to duck and roll again.

I spent most of today going back to make sure I got all of Druth's lorestones in the Valravn and Surtr zones. I am not sure if I got the ones before that. But I think I did. Those ones are all very obvious, and on the main path. I thought about restarting just to make sure I get them all. But I think I am going to just cross my fingers and hope for the best.

btw, This is a good page for finding all the Lorestones. It had directions and pictures to them. It helped me get the ones I missed. This is a decent walthrough with boss fight hints, the location of the Lorestones, and how to solve the puzzles.

I also learned something interesting about the Lorestones. When you activate them it makes a ring of glowing runes pop up in front of the stone. This is actually a progress bar for how many stones you have found. It starts at 12 O'Clock, and goes clockwise around the circle. Each glyph stands for a stone, and the dots show the beginning and ending of each chapters. Here is an example.

The first chapter has 4 Lorestones, so there are four glyphs in the first group. Here is where it gets really interesting. White glyphs are stones you have found. Red ones are undiscovered. So you can use this to track how many stones you have discovered. Based on that pic, I guess I did find all the stones in the first chapter after all.


The light

Dillion

The Darkness

The Bridge to Hel

This post has been edited by SubRosa: Aug 20 2017, 05:36 PM


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Acadian
post Aug 17 2017, 06:20 PM
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Dillion is quite the contrast of cheerful sunlight backlighting a decaying body. I notice on the right side of the shot, it looks like mirocu is there and has helped himself to a few bites of that poor decaying fellow.

Oh, Bridge to Hel looks ominous!


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haute ecole rider
post Aug 18 2017, 01:54 PM
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Thanks for posting your experiences with this new game. It certainly sounds very interesting. The graphics are quite good based on your screenies. What I found most interesting is that the protagonist/PC is a very realistic looking woman - like many of the young ladies I work with. Not some busty waif whose gravity defying assests make immmmmmersion rather difficult for someone like me . . .

Her expressions are quite well done, too, and I find the detail in her clothing quite interesting.

Your description of the events, story and gameplay certainly make this sound like the kind of game I would find very engaging and enthralling. Certainly something to pick up when a) it's on sale and cool.gif I have the time to play this alongside ESO . . .


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ghastley
post Aug 18 2017, 06:12 PM
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I found a few "making of" videos and the reason she's normal and the facial expressions are so good is that it's all motion capture. If they exaggerated her body, she wouldn't match the movements of the real actress, so she's built like the real thing, even down to facial proportions, so the expression mo-cap can work.

Get your gravity-defying bodies while you still can! biggrin.gif


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SubRosa
post Aug 18 2017, 10:32 PM
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Acadian: The whole scene with Dillion started out really nice. Sunshine, plants, flowers, back home in the Orkneys. Then it all turned to crap, starting with Dillion in the tree. This game is very mercurial like that, as Senua's memories and moods swing from one extreme to another.


haute ecole rider: I was very glad that they did not over-glamorize Senua as well, and give her skin-tight, glossy leather, stiletto heels, etc... She is meant to be a real person, and she looks it. Seuna is modeled from a real woman, who also does her voice. She actually had to spend time working out with a bodybuilder-trainer to get in shape for it.

The regular price of the game is only $30. So it is already half the price of any other game...


ghastley: I watched some of those developer videos too, including the one with voice actress. I was really impressed with how well she did, especially since she is not an actress by trade.



The way is shut

Memories of better times

Home sweet home

But those dreams have turned to ash

Broken dreams

Up in flames

Shores and swords

Can Senua draw the sword from the tree?

But it's not a sword at all

It's an illusion

Even illusion is painful in this place between life and death

Horror


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hazmick
post Aug 18 2017, 11:43 PM
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Ah, I see you've met Hela. Love her design.

And you're at the tree, my favourite section! Can't wait to hear what you make of the next few parts - some cool mechanics to work with.


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"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."

"...a quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business."
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Acadian
post Aug 19 2017, 06:39 PM
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I can see where you could really get pulled into Senua's story. Her emotions really project through her facial expressions and I imagine her voice adds even much more. Seems like a cool game!


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haute ecole rider
post Aug 20 2017, 01:48 AM
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Even though I'm looking at static screenies, I can see so much emotion and personality in the character's face. In fact, she isn't "the character" anymore, she's Senua, with a life of her own.

I recall several games I've played that used motion capture, and it added a sense of reality because their movements were so smooth and fluid, and very natural, not exaggerated like they often are in pure CG generated toons. Wing Commander III and IV, with Mark Hamill and Francois Chau. Myst:End of Ages, which I recall as having the second most compelling storyline (after Exile) and had David Ogden Stiers playing one of the two main NPCs. I've always liked how motion capture conveys personality and emotions so well, however I tend to find them a bit jarring in a CG environment, as they just don't match up in clarity and detail.

But looking at these screenies, it looks like it might be worth revisiting the idea of motion capture again to see how much it has progressed since those early days. Looking forward to trying this game out some time in the future!


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SubRosa
post Aug 20 2017, 02:11 AM
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hazmick: I did not even realize it was Hela at first. I thought it was a giant. When I met her again at the end of the game it was a lot more obvious who she was. Then I could see that half of her body was burned and corroded.

I really liked the Tower trial, where the whole area had two versions - light and dark, and you had to keep switching from one to the other to get through.

The Blindness trial annoyed me after a while. The darkness was fine, but I did not like how the game got all blurry a few feet away. It started to hurt my eyes. If they had just made it completely black at that distance I think it would have been better.


Acadian: Senua rarely speaks. I guess you could say the voices in her head do most of the talking. She also does not look into the camera when you pan it around to look at her. Usually you can only see her straight on during the cinematic cutscenes. It is like she does not want to be seen or noticed. When you learn more of her history you understand why. It really does pull you in to her story.


haute ecole rider: They really went all out to make Senua come alive. And they did a marvelous job at portraying her psychosis, and Norse mythology. It is really an outstanding game.


I found a workaround for the single save game. The game save file is kept in the Users\{Your Username}\AppData\Local\HellbladeGame\Saved\SaveGames folder. What I did was create subfolders within it for all the chapters of the game. Then at the beginning of each chapter I Alt+Tabbed to the desktop and copied the main save to the appropriate subfolder. At one point I missed a Lorestone and had to go back. So I deleted the main save and copied back the one I had put in that chapter's subfolder. It worked perfectly.

Well, I finally 'beat' teh game like a red-haired stepchild. P4eAR M3 N00b$! laugh.gif

Seriously though, this was a fantastic game. It is hands-down the best new game I have played this year. Nothing else can hold a candle to Senua. Not since Pillars of Eternity. I would say that in the last three years, the best games I have played have been (in order of their release) Wasteland 2, Pillars of Eternity, and Senua's Sacrifice.

As many people say, it is a short game. I would guess I spent about 16 hours on it. I have seen others say they did it in as little as 6 hours. I went back a few times to make sure I got all the Lorestones, which made it take longer for me. If I had not I would guess it would have taken me about 13 or 14 hours. Given that the price tag is half that of a normal game, I do not have any problem with that. TBH, I am kind of glad that it is done, and I am out of Senua's head. It is not very pleasant in there, not to mention awfully crowded!

There was one thing at the end I did not like. Drove me crazy in fact. There are several big boss fights in the end, as you work your way across three platforms to Hela. In one you have to refight all the bosses you killed before - Surtur, Valravn, and Fenrir. Another was just a bunch of generic Norse monster-men. Once you get to where Hela herself is there is just an endless battle of monster-men. The game literally spawns an endless horde of monsters until you finally die. I got really frustrated trying to win that battle. It was only after I finally got killed in it that I learned you are supposed to die. That is counter-intuitive, to say the least. I wonder how many other people got really ticked off like I was at the time. I think that could have been done better. Like by actually being able to defeat the monster-man horde, and then go to the final cutscenes with Dillion and Hela.

But those final scenes did payoff hugely, and assuaged my previous annoyance. Senua finally got her redemption, and the peace she never found in life. I was actually surprised at how positive it was. I really never expected things to work out well for her. But it came out more than good. The ending even hints at a sequel. It might be because I found all the Lorestones and got the extended ending. I am not sure what the regular ending is like. It might be less rosy.


Back to the bridge

Test of Blindness

Memories

Gramr has been reforged by Senua's trials

Through the darkness

Sea of Corpses

Sea of Corpses II

Climbing over the dead

Blue skies again

Fenrir

Dillion

Senua struggles on

Hela

The End

Senua Rising

Back to the Light

This post has been edited by SubRosa: Aug 28 2017, 03:59 AM


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hazmick
post Aug 20 2017, 02:41 AM
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The blindness trial was pretty nerve wracking, those darkness monsters were super creepy!

Getting all the lorestones grants you a bonus scene with Druth just before the end, when you go through the portal with the runes around it. As far as I know the actual ending is the same with or without the lorestones.

I liked the way it ended too. I died so many times fighting Fenrir, I was worried that Hela would be even tougher. The endless wave of enemies did a good job of building up the pressure, and just as you think all is lost...happily ever after. Well, not quite, but certainly happier than I was expecting as well. Not sure where they could go with a sequel, but I'm just glad this game got the praise it deserves.


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"If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world."

"...a quotation is a handy thing to have about, saving one the trouble of thinking for oneself, always a laborious business."
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