Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice Complete Playthrough Review SPOILERS

Going into this game, I knew it was going to be something of a psychological trip. I cannot believe it is nearing four years since its release. I feel like just yesterday I was avoiding YouTube playthroughs and critiques. (Guess that goes to show how backed up my list is.)

Even though I went into this game knowing Senua was experiencing psychosis from personal loss, what I got was something way beyond my expectations. The game begins in a boat fit for one, but you quickly realize there is more than one mind aboard. The narrator is one of the many voices in Senua’s head that talks pretty much all the time during the game.

I feared that the constant talking from these voices would grow annoying rather quickly, like they were for Senua, but I came to appreciate their presence once I discovered their purpose to the player. I heavily advise playing this game with headphones so you can hear everything they say, as they can often help you. They’ll give hints to some of the puzzles you come across, and they’ll also make you feel good when you figure something out. However, there is one downside. The voices often also reflect Senua’s self-doubts and lack of confidence. Sometimes they’ll tease her and put her down, but that grows less common as you progress and gain confidence. I was deeply impressed by what this one element of ambiance gave to the overall experience.

I was also shocked (but in that good new way) by this game’s attempts to make me have a panic attack. You quickly realize the game does not give you a tutorial. You do not know the button commands until you pause to look at them in the menu. Most of the controls are obvious to experienced players, but to someone who may prefer more story-based games, I imagine they would be panicking when the first bout of combat takes place.

The game forces Senua to die once and explains how every time she dies, the rot on her arm would grow larger. It threatens that if the rot grows too much, you’ll have to start over and lose all progress. Man, did that freak me out. I think I died about a total of five times, and each time my heart stopped as I wondered if I’d have to start again. I actually didn’t learn until after beating the game (thanks internet) that the game will not punish you, no matter how many times you die. The rot slowly progresses no matter what, and the game only said that to scare you. Holy crap. Thanks.

Bringing things back to the voices, they also like to provide you with false bouts of unneeded anxiety. I recall when exploring a dark temple, the voices at one point said something like, “Oh no, she touched the walls!” which immediately made me stop and think, and freak out. What was going to happen because I touched the wall? I imagined everything from beasts racing down the halls to kill me, to the floor below me turning into quicksand and swallowing me whole. Want to know what actually happened? Nothing. This sort of doubt seed was also planted in a different area of the game where you needed a torch to keep something from chasing you in the dark. If you were holding onto the same torch for long enough, the voices would start to scare you by saying that it would go out soon. Yet again, no matter how long I waited (once I was in a safe place), the torch never went out. Oh my god, game, stop it. (But please don’t.)

The voices are connected to Senua, so it made sense some of her worries and doubts were communicated to the player through them. She could have feared for a moment that the torch would go out, so the voices repeated that to us.

You spend the game defeating demon-like enemies and bosses, each a bit more challenging than the last. The Norse theme plays heavily in their design, and you can learn more about the inspiration for the world by listening to the Norse stones that are placed throughout the game. Some tell of Norse legends, some of Senua’s past. I recommend listening to each one you find because it does nothing but add to this already fantastic atmosphere.

I did find the ending a little lackluster, but it didn’t take anything away from my overall experience. I felt happy about Senua’s story ending the way it did and wouldn’t dream of taking that from her. This sort of game is about the journey, not the end. *Hint, Hint* If you collect all of the Norse stones, you receive an extra clip right before the last battle, which is considered the ‘true’ ending.

If it wasn’t obvious, I immensely enjoyed this game. For me, it was a shining 10/10 experience, which I cannot say happens often. However, one note of disclosure is that I would not play this game if you find yourself at a low point or are easily influenced by anxiety. You should be in a good mental position if you want to play this. Also, there is one boss fight that contains a lot of strobe light effects, so I’ll slap a huge seizure warning here as well.

The Outer Worlds Complete Playthrough Review SPOILERS

I’ve heard talk of this game for some time and was glad to see that it was next up on my gaming list. The Outer Worlds was made by the creators of Fallout, which I think many players would suspect even without knowing that bit of trivia.

It has that same sort of rustic future theme, but with its own universe and unique lore. It is also more simplified than Fallout titles, so it is easy to get a quick handle on things. Long story short, things are going to shit and with your involvement, you could possibly help make the future suck a little less. Food, clean air, survivability and politics all are issues doomed to fail in a matter of months.

What I found great about this game was that it makes these issues very clear within the first few moments of exploring the first town, Edgewater. No one is happy, everyone has problems and none of their basic needs are being met. They live off saltuna in a can, and only get one or two cans per day. If you ask the right people the right questions, you learn that saltuna isn’t even tuna. Its literally animal parts mixed with garbage, in a can. No wonder most of the settlement is sick!

The magic of this is that sure, you can choose to try to help everyone, or, if you’re feeling rather murderous, kill them all. I mostly played the good guy and helped everyone to the best of my ability. However, that didn’t stop me from saving, shooting an NPC because of their rude behavior, and then reloading again. While being murder crazy is an opportunity you’re more than welcome to take, you get much more experience by actually helping and doing their missions. (Although I suppose you could kill them after helping too, if you’re into that sort of thing.)

There are six different factions that people generally belong to, and depending on how you play, you gain either negative, neutral, or positive reputations with them. I gained a negative reputation with factions that represent the government or the controlling businesses, and took favor to those trying to break away from the corrupt system. This game makes it plain as day that the politicians are working with (or own) big-name companies to keep their workers and citizens under tight control.

The company titled Space’s Choice is particularly nasty, handing out fines for the most ridiculous things, like throwing a rock into a river. That’s unlicensed terraforming, how dare you! Basically, the overlord companies pay their employees, but have so many rules and fines that its impossible to hold onto any income. More or less, everyone is working for free and doesn’t realize it.

Along your journey you’ll run into six NPCs that you can turn into your traveling companions. As soon as my companions started talking to me about their personal problems, I had a feeling that each one would have a special mission. While I was correct in that assumption, it wasn’t exactly what I expected.

Photo from Fandom Outer Worlds Wiki page

Some companions, like Parvati and Nyoka, had personal quests that required completing various tasks on different planets. Their quests contained an important story for us to be able to understand them better by the end. Vicar, Felix, and Ellie, on the other hand, had quests not even a quarter of the length of the other two. They required maybe two or three quick actions on your part and that was it. Lastly, there was the cleaning robot SAM, who did not have a personal quest at all. Ironically, he was my favorite.

It was strange that certain companions and their problems were made to seem more important than the others. Parvati, in particular, seemed to be the shining star of them all. While I did enjoy her character, I found myself wishing they had put the same amount of effort into the others. I don’t know if they ran out of time while working on them or were playing favorites, but it wasn’t balanced. Also, as a warning for those of you out there who love games with companion romances, you will not find anything like that here. They’re your friends, and they work with you, that’s all.

Aside from my thoughts on the companions, I did vastly enjoy all of the other elements of the game. The combat was easy yet fun, the plot was well planned, and the lore is interesting. The planets themselves were beautiful and I enjoyed fighting a variety of enemies from each.

The game actually wasn’t that long (by an RPG player’s expectations) but it felt right for the kind of story it wanted to tell. My first playthrough took about 40 hours, and my second was only 20. It’s a nice experience for those who may not want to invest their time into a 100-200 hour game. Overall, I’ll give the Outer Worlds an 8.5/10.

Xbox Jacks Live Prices and Immediately Takes It Back, What’s Going On?

The last 24 hours have been a series of dramatic events for Xbox gamers. Several Xbox Live subscribers received an email notifying them that Xbox Live Gold’s price was jumping from $60 for 12 months to $120.

Players were immediately outraged at the $60 increase, the price doubling what they had been paying before. Xbox did not explain the sudden and drastic change and did not add any Gold services to justify it. This also affects family console owners because their children could not play free multiplayer games without paying up to $120. This completely defeats the purpose of free games.

Soon many articles were released, and the rest of the Xbox gaming community received the news. Naturally, they flocked to Twitter and demanded an explanation, flooding the Xbox page with questions and outrage.

The comments were filled with messages of disappointment and statements regarding their decision to cancel with Xbox entirely and moving to a different platform. It was bad enough when certain internet providers, such as Spectrum, decided to jack their prices in the middle of the pandemic. Those gamers with Spectrum and Xbox accounts were less than pleased to suddenly feel too poor to enjoy their hobby at home. Games are one of the few things that have made staying at home easier during this time.

Last night at midnight, Xbox released a statement regarding the matter on Twitter.

Not only did they apologize and revert their pricing to normal, but they also stated that they would make online access free for free-to-play games. While this was a huge relief to hear, there seems to be a mixed reaction.

Some players thanked Xbox for seeing reason and were glad to know that they listened to their customers. However, a significant number of users think this was a sketchy marketing play. The news circulated, and the second people began complaining, they released this statement almost too quickly, as if it were planned.

People on Twitter are still demanding an explanation for what happened and why they thought a price jump that large would ever be a good idea, especially during a pandemic where people are short on cash. So far, Xbox has skipped around the answer, hoping that the action of taking it back will be enough.

This morning Xbox users feel confused and are left questioning the platform’s integrity. What do you think? Was this a marketing play, or did Xbox genuinely mistake the size of their customer’s wallets?

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