I spent the majority of my six-hour playthrough of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice grasping for a touchstone to understand the experience. It unfolds like a beautiful, dark, tense visual novel, placing the excellently raw, human performance of its main character front and center on her journey into the land of the Northmen. Her story is one of confusion, sadness, fear, and loss, and it’s punctuated by moments of beauty, and strength that has left a lasting impression on me.
It follows the titular Senua, a celtic warrior, who embarks on a mission to the homeland of the Northmen in order to penetrate the depths of their version of hell, the mythological Norse land of the dead called Helheim. It’s bound by threads of historical fiction, historical non-fiction, mythology, and metaphor all admirably weaved together to create a unique backdrop that’s ripe for exploring the darker tones and themes Hellblade tackles.