'Hellblade' Might Delete Your Save, But Being Stressed Out Is the Point


Few games have made me sweat the way 'Hellblade' has the last few days, knowing a mistake may be my ultimate downfall.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://waypoint.vice.com/en_us/article/evvgma/hellblade-might-delete-your-save-but-being-stressed-is-the-point


Ninja Theory’s getting a lot of flak on twitter for the whole permadeath thing, but I think its implementation was a bold, intentional decision that only bolsters the game’s themes; it wasn’t one made lightly. It also gets to a point Ian Bogost has made before about the awkwardness of the role of games in culture, as “appliances” or as art. A decision like this makes for a better piece of art, but a less intuitive “product.” That sense of entitlement that plagues the gaming sphere is really showing itself here – convenience is prioritized over artistic vision, and the same people who whine about “censorship” of problematic content ruining the “artistic freedom” of developers are the ones bemoaning a feature expressly implemented to serve its art. Just comes across a bit hypocritical to me.


Also, Hellblade really excites me, not only for its nuanced take on some difficult themes, but for the type of game it symbolizes. Jim Sterling mentioned in his review that he was really intrigued at the idea of mid-budget, medium-scope AAA (AA?) games like Hellblade becoming more of the norm, and I’m totally behind him on that. Seeing a middle-ground between 100% indie and 100% blockbuster games forming has me intrigued for the kind of stuff that might be coming in the future from that space.


All of this permadeath talk piqued my interest in this game in a big way. The thought of games with AAA production values taking risks with their narratives in a way that usually only smaller indie titles do is extremely exciting. This $30 price point thing is a bold move,and one that I hope pays off for Ninja Theory, and with any luck will pay off for more devs who follow.


All those times I installed mods that add permadeath to Skyrim and such, I was being anti-consumer. :crying_cat_face:

I can understand not liking permadeath, or not wanting to play Hellblade after it warns you there’s a limit to how many times you can die, but it’s clearly not something done to exploit the consumer and is part of the intended experience. I adored the old Fire Emblem games, despite probably having spent 20 or 30 hours of my life playing through levels I had to restart because one of my faves fell to enemy reinforcements. The only inherently ‘anti-consumer’ permadeath is an old arcade machine, or their modern mobile successors, in which running out of lives means putting in another quarter (or microtransaction) to continue.


I’m not usually particularly sensitive to spoilers for games/movies/TV, etc. I even seek them out sometimes. Having said that, a pox on every single person on twitter who has had no problem spoiling the details of this mechanic before most people who will play it are even home from work or school.

I won’t go over the spoilers here. I recommended muting “hellblade” “ninja theory” and “permadeath” on Twitter tout suite if you don’t want it spoiled yourself.

Also a good reminder that if you have 3/4 of a million Twitter followers, you might want to know what you are talking about before going off half-cocked.


All of this weirdly vicious anger has only made me more interested in Hellblade. I guess it’s because it seems like the people yelling the loudest are (or have the same tone as) the same people who’s brand/character is fake outrage. How seriously should I take the headline: Youtuber what gets mad at games is mad at game?


Permadeath is good actually. I for one cannot wait to die permanently.


On a side note, TotalBiscuit’s use of “pro-consumer” as a shield from criticism is absurd. Here’s a few other things that are pro-consumer

  • Sweatshops
  • Child labor
  • Lil’ Lisa’s Patented Animal Slurry

Being “pro-consumer” is not an unassailable stance, nor an excuse to avoid critical thinking.


I pre-ordered Hellblade after forgetting it existed after the initial announcement and then remembering it existed like two months ago and being super interested by what it evolved into. The permadeath mechanic adds just enough spice to the proceedings to make an already harrowing experience even more harrowing - especially the absolutely terrifying first combat encounter where you just lose and lose and scream and die and rot.

Hellblade is a game that is unapoligetically itself and gives you no tutorial and uses no UI at all, apart from visual and sound cues which fit into Senua’s state of mind in a natural way. I’ve been immensely impressed by it in the few hours I’ve put in - and most impressively is just how well the game runs on my PC, which is somewhere around four years old at this point and has no business running a game this gorgeous this well. I give credit to Ninja Theory for using the Unreal 4 engine really well.

If you get the game, I recommend reading the control overview before starting, and then never opening the menus again. Just soak in that good good Hel atmosphere.


I’m not on Twitter and I generally only pay attention to youtubers for guides and similar content so I had NO IDEA people were so pissed about the whole permadeath thing.

I think it’s awesome. The game is only like 35 bucks CDN and I don’t know for sure but I assume it is relatively short. Knowing there is permadeath makes me very careful at every turn and ensures that I savour the experience. I also really dig the lack of tutorial or any HUD prompting. I was IMMEDIATELY sucked in to the atmosphere. Big fan so far, I’d love to see more projects like this.


I respect the right of the creators to like. Make they game they wanted to make. And I think the whole “anti-consumer” bullshit is exactly that but like.

I don’t want to play this game now? I don’t want to risk potentially getting right to the end of the game and having to do it all over again. Even if that’s a super rare occurrence, and even if it is a fakeout I just. I don’t want to risk it? And a part of that is money. I only have so many dollars to use for buying games and It’s kinda a waste to spend it on a game that might do that. But also like. A part of it is that I am not always great at games and I don’t really want to support something that feels kinda… Gatekeepy like this does.

It’s shitty to act like the creators should never have done this, or that it’s a completely invalid mechanic but like. It’s also shitty to act like people who aren’t into it are bad wrong fools who just don’t get ART

Also like. To the potential of it being a fakeout I am… Personally super uncomfortable with games who do that stuff. Again, not saying it should never be done (because I know if I don’t reiterate it a thousand times someone’s going to kill me) but like. That’s not an experience I want to have, as someone who has been gaslit for real.

I guess my point is just. People are allowed to not like this.


I’m only a couple hours in, but Hellblade (despite a terrible, generic, videogame-ass name), is one of the most singular games I’ve ever played. To give just a little example: the camera is pretty standard 3rd-person over-the-shoulder, like Mass Effect or Gears. But the way Senua carries herself, she walks slightly turned, leading with her left shoulder. It makes her feel like she is both always on guard but also a little aggressive. It’s a small touch, but it’s a perfect example of how much care Ninja Theory put into every detail.

I hate to ruin this for people, but I would hate more for someone to miss out on a truly unique, special game. If someone is really considering never playing the game because of the permadeath/delete - your - save thing, click here: it’s a bluff designed to add tension. The game does not delete your save. It never says it does, either. It’s an interpretation of the line “Your progress will be lost.” It’s an ambiguous line and I don’t know if it was intentionally misleading, but if I had read that without knowing about the hubbub, it never would have occurred to me that it meant it would delete my save. Besides, there are plenty of ways for players to manually back up saves on PC or PS4.

Having said that, there are content warnings on the game surrounding psychosis and mental illness in general. I would not take them lightly. The game is not shy in depicting the mental and physical anguish Senua is experiencing. If you’re concerned about being gaslit, make no mistake - that is undoubtedly one of the game’s core concepts.


I don’t think there’s really much complexity here. There are aspects of a game that are art, and there are aspects of a game that are a product. People have reasonable expectations about how the product aspects function, and they should not be violated.

If we imagine a simpler case of a film on a DVD, then the divide is the same, but maybe clearer - the film is the art, the DVD is the product. I understand how DVDs work, and I expect them to work that way. It’s perfectly possible to make a disc that self-destructs on being played, and I imagine there may be filmmakers who might feel artistically inclined to want an audience to watch a film once, then never again, and if so they’re welcome to say that. They would not, however, be welcome to sell a self-destructing DVD that violated people’s reasonable expectations of how DVDs work (at least, not without adjusting those expectations by making it very clear to would-be purchasers up front that that’s what they’d be getting).

The same is true of games - a creator can do whatever they want with the game content, but messing with the normal functioning of the platform would not be OK.

We usually see the ‘artistic freedom’ defence from gamergate types trying to defend their misogynistic Japanese imports, and it makes just as little sense here as it does there; ideas like ‘free speech’ and ‘artistic freedom’ mean that you can act badly, but they don’t mean you shouldn’t expect that you’ll upset people in the process, or that they won’t tell you that you’ve upset them.

Simply wibbling on about artistic freedom doesn’t invalidate anyone’s criticism of what they think are bad artistic choices.


I don’t see how a decades-old videogame mechanic - limited lives and a Game Over, admittedly applied to a genre where it usually isn’t - is anything other than a game design decision, even if the most severe rumors about the game’s permadeath are true. If you don’t like it, that’s fine (as usual, lots of people are conflating freedom of expression with freedom from criticism), but the only thing preventing you from starting over would be your own decision not to.

Btw, the self-destructing DVD you describe is basically just DIVX, which thankfully got mercilessly blasted by DVDs in the format wars. Wow. DIVX. Crazy times, man. Crazy times.


It isn’t, which is why there’s no controversy about games that do permadeath. There is a difference between what the likes of Spelunky et al do, however, and “We will erase your save file”.

Of course, it looks like Hellblade doesn’t actually do that in practice, but that doesn’t make the responses to the idea that it would less valid responses to that idea.

Btw, the self-destructing DVD you describe is basically just DIVX

Indeed, which was pitched as a solution for rentals in a pre-streaming era. As a rental solution it would have been OK, but can you imagine people who thought they were buying a proper DVD, actually getting one of those, and then being dismissed as ‘entitled whiners’? I think they’d have cause to be upset.


Oh, definitely. I was just happy to think about DIVX for the first time in 15 years.


seems like a gimmick, my dudes


Well my PC seems to have hit the wall in what it can do, because I got to the fight with the guardian under the mountain and the game shit the bed. That’s a bummer!

So I bought it on PS4 because why the fuck not it is $30 and I want to see how the game ends. Plus maybe I can make it back to where I was with fewer deaths this time.

They aren’t fucking around with those warnings at the start of the game, by the way. There’s some dark and deeply disturbing shit in there which might unsettle some folk. But it’s worth it.