Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, or simply Hellblade, is a dark fantasy psychological horror action-adventure video game developed and published by Ninja Theory, released worldwide independently on Microsoft Windows and PlayStation 4 on August 8, 2017. Described by Ninja Theory as an “independent AAA game”, it was developed by a team of approximately twenty developers and written and directed by Tameem Antoniades, with additional writing by Dr. Elizabeth Ashman Rowe, a university lecturer specialized in Scandinavian culture.
Inspired by Norse mythology and Celtic culture, Hellblade follows Senua (played by actress Melina Juergens), a Pict warrior who must make her way to Helheim by defeating otherworldly entities and facing their challenges, in order to rescue the soul of her dead lover from the goddess Hela. In parallel, the game acts as a metaphor for the character’s struggle with psychosis, as Senua, who suffers from the condition but believes it to be a curse, is haunted by an entity known as “The Darkness”, voices in her head known as “Furies”, and memories from her past. To properly represent psychosis, developers worked closely with neuroscientists, mental health specialists, non-profit organizations, and people suffering from the condition.
The game blends several genres, including adventure, action, hack and slash, puzzle solving, and survival horror; voice acting is an integral part of the game, while its cutscenes combine performance capture by Juergens, and live action performances by other actors. Hellblade was a commercial success and received very positive reviews from video game critics, who praised it as a work of art and applauded its uncommon choice of revolving around psychosis, the quality and uniqueness of its approach of the condition, and its story and main character. The game’s sound, overall presentation, and Juergens’ performance were also praised, although reception of the gameplay and other non-artistic elements was less enthusiastic. It was also singled out for its production value and graphics, considered superior in quality to what independent games are usually able to provide.