The way that Hellblade brings a portrayal of psychosis, hallucination and mental health should be what everyone is talking about today, but what’s actually grabbing headlines is that if you die too many times, the game will delete your save file.
Update: After some methodical and dedicated testing from the guys over at PCGamesN, it would seem that Ninja Theory were actually bluffing! They report that after 50 deaths, the game had yet to actually wipe away their save file, and that the rot that spreads up Senua’s arm ceased quite some time before then.
That doesn’t quite explain what happened to Jim Sterling, but he was stuck in a death loop thanks to a poor checkpoint save in the game, which does explain some of his anger, at least.
The original story continues.
It’s an element of the game that is tied to the story itself and is explained in game as you start playing, with a black mark spreading up Senua’s arm with each death until it reaches her head, signals game over for the final time and deletes your save file. However, it’s rubbed some people up the wrong way, including the always rather vocal Jim Sterling. In fairness to him, he has deleted his review video, and he was caught out by an awkward auto-save location in an area that was highlighted in our review as a difficulty spike.
This was really the only time that Dave was seriously challenged through the game – to be fair, he’s pretty handy at Dark Souls, so he’s good at combat games – and so for many people it won’t factor into their game. However, we do feel that it is something that Ninja Theory should have spoken about openly prior to the game’s release today, or made a more substantial effort to get the message out there. Permadeath in games is fairly common now, but can be jarring if you purchase a game without expecting it to be the case.
Of course, the loophole here is that you can back up your save on a system level, copying the file to USB stick or using PS+ cloud saves on PS4, or simply copying to another folder on PC.