Permadeath feature in ‘Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice’ has players polarized

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Why it matters to you

A save-wiping feature in Ninja Theory’s Hellblade has left players divided on an otherwise well-received game.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a unique game for a number of reasons, including its twisted approach to narration and storytelling and its constantly shifting world, but one of developer Ninja Theory’s design decisions has left players conflicted. Upon dying several times in the game, no matter where you happen to be, your save file will be erased and you’ll be forced to start the entire game over from the very beginning.

For many players, this raises the stakes of Senua’s mission considerably and creates a new layer of tension on top of her constant psychotic delusions.

While the feature sounds like a novel idea in theory, Hellblade takes about eight hours to play through when accounting for time solving puzzles. If you’re near the end of her journey and happen to get killed in a battle or mess up one of the game’s chase sequences, you’ll be forced to repeat all of your previous accomplishments. This has left some players feeling like the game could waste a considerable amount of their time.

On PlayStation 4, one way to game the system — assuming you won’t feel too bad about cheesing your way through the game — would be to upload a save file to PlayStation Plus’ cloud storage before entering a difficult area. Should you die enough times for the “rot” to move up Senua’s arm and kill her for good, you could then download your older save and try again.

Why would you have to do this instead of simply reloading a save file from earlier in the game? Hellblade doesn’t keep any extra files — the most recent auto-save is the only save file you have available at any given time. This shouldn’t cause too many issues, but some players have encountered progression problems related to this feature. Popular critic Jim Sterling encountered a game-breaking moment late in the game because he failed to pick up a particular item before the game saved, leaving him without a way to move forward. Offering additional save files would seem to solve this problem, though it would effectively render the “permadeath” mechanic useless.

Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is available now for PlayStation 4 and PC for $30. For more on the game, check out our review. We managed to make it through the game without having our file wiped.