It seems that Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice features a “hidden” permadeath system. If you die too many times, the game will simply boot you to the very beginning. On top of that, it will also delete your save file, ensuring that you’ll have to start over. Hellblade offers a pretty unique visual clue as to how many goes you have left, and the whole thing ties together with the story.
Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, the new brainchild of Ninja Theory, launched today on PC and PlayStation 4. The game is an effort from the developers to produce a shorter game of triple-A quality, and sell it at half the usual retail price. By all accounts, the game is an engrossing experience that marries horror with hack-and-slash seamlessly.
Interestingly, Hellblade has a pretty unexpected mechanic that’s not often seen in this game genre: permadeath. The game keeps track of how many times you’ve died. Get yourself killed too many times (about eight times, according to Eurogamer), and you’ll have to start over. To really hammer the point home, you’ll also lose your save file. What’s also interesting is how the permadeath mechanic elegantly ties together with the plot of the game and Senua’s overall character arc. We’re going to go into further detail about this, so spoiler alert from here on out.
At one point, fairly close to the start of the game, you’ll face an unbeatable opponent. After that encounter, goopy, black tendrils start covering Senua’s right hand and arm. The more you die, the higher that corruption climbs. Once it reaches your head, that’s it, game over. You can kiss your save file goodbye, and it’s back to square one. Yes, the game does offer you a pretty strong hint that the oily stuff is bad news, but if you don’t know that they’re hinting at permadeath, you’ll rip your hair out the first time it happens. As frustrating as it sounds, though, one has to admire for how elegantly the developers wove the permadeath into the story.