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Die Too Many Times In Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice And You Might Lose Your Progress, Or Is It?


Ninja Theory’s latest game Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is now out on PC and PS4 (though not available yet in Asia for PS4) and one fascinating thing that we now only learned is how high-stakes the game is, possibly. After your first unavoidable death in the game, a warning of sorts appear that warns you that should you let the Pictish warrior Senua die too many times, the black rot on her hands will slowly grow to the head. If it reaches the head, your journey is over.

Some folks are taking it for a warning message to indicate there’s permadeath in the game. Permadeath in rougelikes are now common these days, but to lose all progress in a very linear story-driven game? The very idea has caused some strong reactions– people not wanting to buy the game outright as it does not respect the time of the players. Notable game critic Totalbiscuit outright bashes the gimmick. He has since deleted the tweet.

For context, in Hellblade, Senua is undergoing a journey into Norse hell. She’s also suffering from psychosis, which is why you might see things that may not be real, and the many voices playing in your head. The ‘permadeath’ is there to not just bring some stakes for an otherwise linear experience, but to reinforce the desperateness the character is facing- throwing everything she has in hopes to see a loved one live again and have the players share a similar struggle to keep her alive.

But here’s a thing: so far, it has yet been reported of any cases where save files are deleted. In fact, there are many variables that controls how the dark rot on Senua’s arms grow- some deaths count more than others. Some are even saying it might as well be a fake-out. If movies have the unreliable narrator, then this can be considered a video game equivalent. Senua is suffering from psychosis after all.

(If you want to be spoiled, Eurogamer and PCGamesN has conducted some experiments on the topic)

But in any case, it has sparked some interesting conversations. PC Gamer has an opinion article of it in defence of ‘permadeath’ in Hellblade (major spoiler warning). Hellblade is out now for only RM56 on Steam.