Naturally, this post includes potential Hellblade spoilers.
In his warm review, Leif praised Ninja Theory's Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice as a "powerful portrait of the strength of will over personal demons." He did reckon it could benefit from more in the way of exploration and enemy variety, however one feature that appears to have ruffled a number of people's feathers is the game's approach to permadeath. Dying too many times in Hellblade results in having your save file wiped entirely.
Speaking to this point, here's Leif's words:
"The trouble is that mistakes mean something here. Senua doesn't have many opportunities to screw up. Hela infected her arm with rot, and the tendrils of decay creep further up her limb with each death. And when they reach her head? Game Over. Progress erased. It's a possibly contentious element that helps make Senua's plight relatable. When she hesitates, I hesitate. When she's scared, I'm wary. I have something at stake, too, however minor.
"The approach explains the relatively short eight or nine-hour running time. It's not as harsh as it could be. I died maybe six times in my playthrough, and by the end the rot had only snaked up around three-quarters of her arm. Good thing, too. Sometimes I failed for the dumbest reasons, as in a sequence when, in panic, I neglected to pick up a torch that would have chased off a beast hunting me in the darkness. I let my fear overpower my logic. Senua wouldn't have done that."
It's worth noting here that I've yet to play Hellblade myself, so I'm not sure how many deaths it takes for the tendrils to reach the titular hero's head. From what I understand, Hellblade isn't as difficult as, say, Dark Souls whereby repeated deaths are integral to the game's learning curve. And as captured by this tweet of Mark Brown's, the game warns players of its permadeath workings like so:
Here's how Hellblade's Permadeath mechanic is explained in the game itself pic.twitter.com/eUZwZVIHvAAugust 8, 2017
Hellblade explores themes of mental health, therefore it seems clear this approach to permadeath reflects that. Nonetheless, a quick glance at Twitter this morning suggests a fair few folk are disgruntled.
So, over to you: what do you lot reckon? If you've suffered a Hellblade save file wipe, let us know in the comments below.
We've reached out to Ninja Theory about the divisive feature and will report back as and when they respond.
Update, and another spoiler warning: The folks at PCGamesN put the permadeath warning to the test—click through for their results, but avoid reading more if you want to keep some mystery in tact before playing.