Hellblade May Erase Your Save If You Die Too Many Times

Hellblade May Erase Your Save If You Die Too Many Times

When you first start Hellblade, a new game from Ninja Theory (Enslaved, DmC) released yesterday on PC and PS4, you are greeted with an ominous warning: Die too much and you’ll lose your save file.

As captured by critic Mark Brown, Hellblade opens with the following message: “The dark rot will grow each time you fail. If the rot reaches Senua’s head, her quest is over. And all progress will be lost.”

This is an unusual move that has sparked quite a bit of discussion over the past few hours, since Hellblade‘s review embargo ended and critics began posting their thoughts. Although there are quite a few games with permadeath modes — Diablo 3, XCOM and several others — those modes are usually optional, meant for players who want to challenge themselves. Hellblade‘s developers have chosen to make permadeath a definitive part of the game, adding a level of tension that wouldn’t otherwise exist.

News of this permadeath system has polarised fans since it came out yesterday, most notably through John “Totalbiscuit” Bain, who slammed the system as an “outdated, stupid waste of everyone’s time.” (Bain added that he has not played the game.) Other critics and game developers have pointed out that not all video games are designed for everyone, and that Hellblade, which explores themes of psychosis and mental health, has very specific goals.

Wherever you stand on this particular decision, this is useful to know before you consider playing Hellblade.

However, it appears this mechanic is more complicated than previously believed.

A writer for the website PCGamesN said he tested this out (by dying a bunch of times) and found that his progress was not in fact wiped, calling Hellblade‘s permadeath “a bluff“. Other players on NeoGAF and other forums, however, have reported that it does exist — there are just safeguards in place. You have to die multiple times across multiple checkpoints to trigger the permadeath.

We’ve reached out to Ninja Theory for clarification. In the meantime, it’s clear that many of the reactions have been… histrionic.


  • Well it’s certainly got people talking about the game (which I suspect is it’s true purpose).

  • The idea sounds awesome. Is there an indication of the rot increasing in the player

    • Yes, but no exact counter of any sort. Starting from Senua’s right hand, the rot creeps up along her arm the more that you die, then to her shoulder, neck and once it reaches her brain, you’re cooked.

      Fairly certain it does not update the rot progress until you clear the boss from whichever zone you’re in. Or it didn’t for me in my first, at least.

  • I think you can put this type of decision in the same category of Dark Souls difficulty and Breath of the Wild breaking weapons – on face value its polarising, but these are the design decisions that make the games work.

    • Botw breaking weapons was way over talked about though, It’s a non issue. You find so many weapons that you are constantly dumping things just to get the improved ones.

    • Or make them near-unplayable for some people. The fragility of equipment in Breath of the Wild is the number one reason I can’t stand playing that game, personally.

      • I don’t want to rehash that debate, and I hope no one else that sees this is tempted to.

        Just wanted to say I understand the complaint, but I personally never found it to be an issue because weapons are so plentiful, which is obviously a counterpart to the design decision to make them break. I think if you attempted to solve your complaint it would unravel a significant part of the reward structure in the game and feel very different.

  • From what I’ve read, it sounds so hard to actually trigger this save-deletion that you’d pretty much have to go out of your way to do it.

    Not really an issue for me either way, though. It’s got some great reviews and seems like the kind of game I’d like so I’ll probably give it a shot.

  • If the developers believe it to be an important mechanic, then who are we to shit on it?

    We can like it or not like it, that’s fine, but what’s with the backseat developing? I hope Totalbiscuit’s quote is out of context, because if not he has jumped to a ridiculous conclusion.

  • I think it’s a short game anyway. Good on the devs for changing up game mechanics.

  • Shrug. As long as you know it going into it, then you can decide if you want to buy it or not. I was thinking about picking it up soon, but I might give it a while, now. It’s not like I don’t have a huge catalogue of shit I’ve yet to pick up but want to (Persona, Nier, especially).

    If sales hurt, maybe they’ll include an opt-out, like the indies who had to ‘sacrifice their vision’ of a balls-hard game for the sake of people actually fucking playing it (eg: Hyperlight Drifter, Brigador).

    • As long as you know it going into it, then you can decide if you want to buy it or not.

      Sucks if you preordered it based off the strength of the developer though, since this detail wasn’t mentioned at all pre-release and there was a review embargo right up to when the game came out.

      I probably wouldn’t have bought it if I’d known. I’m not great at games and this sounds like an incredibly player-hostile design choice to me. I likely would not have bought the game if I had known about this – I’m pretty sure that the feeling that playing it with knowledge of that mechanic is going to give me is going to make it unnecessarily stressful. Not at all what I want in a game.

      • Firstly, I do agree with you in the sense that this mechanic should definitely have been spoken about before release. I am in the exact same category as you in that I have loved most Ninja Theory games and Hellblade looked really great so I pre-ordered.
        Surprisingly, I don’t hate my decision. Normally permadeath would turn me right away from a game but I think being unaware of it’s presence at first has made me okay with it somehow.

        On another note though, can I just point out that if you are not okay with stress in video games then this game about paranoia, psychosis and a slew of other mental disabilities probably isn’t for you?

        • A game about paranoia, psychosis etc. is fine unless it’s actually trying to make me feel those things, which AFAICT it’s not.

          I don’t mind stress in games either, but not stress of the “if I fuck up I will lose hours of time invested” stress. That’s not fun game-related stress, that’s an external and artificial pressure being pushed onto me by outside forces. No need to subject myself to that.

          • Fair point. I wasn’t meaning to sound hostile. As I said, I agree with what you said even if I felt differently about it in the end.

            By the way, if it’s an option for you, I strongly suggest full surround sound headphones and dark rooms. You may change your mind about this game trying to make you feel those things. I was surprised just how useful the voices are when they’re not irritating the hell out of you.

      • The bit that concerns me the most is the advice about the testing that’s been undergone. Like, it didn’t delete your save if you died a million times at the beginning, but seemed to save that nastiness for later, when you’re more invested. That part seems quite cruel. On the plus side, it does mean that there’s a possible expectation of proficiency by that point, so… yeah. Think I’ll shelve that one on my wishlist until more details come out.

        (And this is why we don’t pre-order. Even though I totally did for ME:A which I loved, and intend to for anything Bioware ever make.)

    • Play Nier! I loved that game. I paid in full and and even got the DLC knowing it’s only just cosmetics but have no regrets. The absolute standout of the year

  • From the reviews and opinions I’ve seen the combat is the game’s weakest element and isn’t that difficult so I wonder if this plays into the “Sacrifice” part of the name and there are points where death is a plot element rather than a consequence of failing combat too many times.

  • So you have a number of “lives”? It’s no biggie. It’s as old as Space Invaders. Just the words describing it are different.

    • Is it possible to ‘earn’ more ‘lives’ through making progress, though? That might be a key difference if this ‘rot’ can’t be healed…

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