GameSpot's Best Games of 2017 has finally kicked off, so join us as we unveil what we thought were the 10 best games released this year. We recently revealed that the #9 spot went to What Remains of Edith Finch. At the #8 spot is Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, which is available on PS4 and PC. Read on to see why we chose it as one of the best for 2017.
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is a game that forces you out of your comfort zone, and for all the right reasons. Presenting a troubled young woman's tempestuous journey of self-discovery and redemption through her eyes, developer Ninja Theory's "indie-AAA" experiment takes a lot of risks when telling its harrowing, introspective story about the often lonely struggles of suffering from past trauma.
In doing so, Hellblade offers one of the year's most subversive narrative-driven action-adventure games, serving as a window into the challenging experience of living with a mental illness. If there's one sentiment that it conveys, it's empathy.
On her journey through a long-abandoned Nordic land, a Pict warrior named Senua is confronted with relics from her past--both corporeal and spiritual. As she explores the region and learns of its history, she experiences visions that recall the warmth from lost loved ones, while also reflecting on the darker aspects of her guilt-ridden past. As she solves perspective-bending puzzles, and fights with feral tribesmen, Senua is pushed to her mental and physical limits.
Ninja Theory's talent for detailed performance capture and inventive visuals are put to great use in Hellblade. Many story interludes feature live actors and these moments blend in with the in-game visuals in a way that illustrates a surreal quality to Senua's skewed, and often turbulent perspective. This is especially apparent in Hellblade's brilliant sound design with the use of binaural audio (audio recorded with two mics, creating a 3D audio effect). Senua's conflicting inner-voices plant seeds of doubt into herself--and you in turn--jumping between tones of mockery for struggling to overcome obstacles, to a voice of reassurance when Senua feels vulnerable.
Finding out what's truly real isn't the end goal in Hellblade. The tangible and metaphysical aspects of Senua's perspective are all shaped by her unique psychosis--presenting a world where reality and her visions are one and the same. In doing so, Hellblade firmly presents itself as a game that respects its lead character and her experiences, while also expressing empathy for the complexity of mental illness.
In Ninja Theory's harrowing action-adventure, it isn't so much about helping its lead character overcome her demons and cure her of her troubles--but rather, it's about seeing her accept these issues as a part of who she is. In the eternal and ever-human challenge of coming to grips with who you are, Hellblade shows us--through the lasting connections Senua has with her loved ones--that you are not alone in the struggle. By its conclusion, Ninja Theory's spellbinding jaunt through a troubled young woman's experience ultimately proves to be one of the most heartfelt and uplifting experiences of the year.