Self-described as an "independentAAA game", Hellblade was created by a team of approximately twenty developers led by writer and director Tameem Antoniades.
Voice acting is an integral part of the game, while its cutscenes combine motion capture by Melina Juergens, and live action performances by other actors.
The game's narrative serves as a metaphor for the character's struggle with psychosis, as Senua, who suffers from the condition but believes it to be a curse, is haunted by an entity known as the "Darkness", voices in her head known as "Furies", and memories from her past.
Hellblade was a commercial success and was well-received by critics, who praised it as a work of art and applauded its uncommon choice of revolving around psychosis, the quality and uniqueness of its approach of the condition, and its story and main character.
The game sold over a million copies across all platforms by June 2018. A sequel, Senua's Saga: Hellblade II, was announced at The Game Awards 2019. Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is divided into two types of gameplay: the first allows Senua to walk freely and interact with her surroundings.
She can use a capacity known as "focus", in reference to her tendency to see things differently from other people due to her condition, to trigger puzzle-related events.
In addition, Hellblade features fights against malformed representations of Norsemen who block her progression, including occasional bosses. Hellblade does not feature any heads-up display or tutorials. Set in the late 8th century, the game starts with Senua (Melina Juergens), a Pict warrior from Orkney arriving at the border of Helheim in a quest to save the soul of her dead lover, Dillion (Oliver Walker), from the goddess Hela. Senua believes she suffers from a curse that causes her to hear the voices of spirits, referred to as "Furies", in her head, the most notable of which is the Narrator (Chipo Chung), who is aware of the player's presence and often breaks the fourth wall by talking to them directly.
She carries Dillion's severed head to use it as a vessel for his soul and is guided by her memories of the stories of Druth (Nicholas Boulton), a former slave of the Norsemen well-versed in their legends, now deceased, who became her friend and mentor during a year-long self-imposed exile.
Barely surviving the encounter, Senua contemplates suicide, but instead scars herself with her broken blade. She then follows visions of Druth and a man-shaped light she believes to be Dillion to a great tree, where she undergoes four trials that test her body, spirit, and mind and is rewarded with the legendary sword Gramr, a weapon powerful enough to kill Hela.
However, Senua's devoutly religious father, Zynbel (also performed by Hartley), thought otherwise and burned Galena alive. Senua witnessed the event when she was just five years old, which caused her psychosis to worsen significantly and caused her to block out the memory.
The two fell in love, and Senua left her father to be with him, as he saw her as different and misunderstood instead of cursed. However, after a plague killed many in Dillion's village, Senua, believing the fault to be hers, left in exile.
Ultimately, Senua fights against the influence of the Darkness, surviving the "Sea of Corpses" and defeating the beast Garm at the gates of Helheim. She realizes that the Darkness is a representation of her father's abuse and temporarily imprisons the Furies in a magic mirror.