Warning: This post contains non-story-specific Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice spoilers.
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice caused a bit of a stir when it launched yesterday, as players quickly discovered the game threatens you with permadeath if you're killed too many times. No, really.
I can confirm that early on in the game, Senua's arm is tainted by a black goo, which grows every time you lose. The game warns you that if the dark rot reaches Senua's head, your game will be permanently over, but during my review playthrough I didn't die enough to experience that. Not that I didn't die fairly often, I did, but the game seems to be pretty forgiving.
Well, folks at PCGamesN and Eurogamer have been doing some testing, and it turns out the whole permadeath thing might be an outright lie. PCGamesN intentionally died over 50 times and didn't lose their save file – check out their video, above.
Eurogamer explored the mechanic in more detail, and found the rot will only advance so far up Senua's arm in each of the game's four main sections. Ultimately, if you die consistently die throughout the game, you can get the rot to advance right up to Senua's shoulder, but that's as far as it will go – no matter how many times you die near the end of the game, permadeath isn't triggered. So, either permadeath doesn't actually exist, or it's very hard to make happen.
If the permadeath thing is a lie, as it seems it is, it's a rather strange decision by Hellblade developer Ninja Theory. Make no mistake, the prospect that every death could be your last definitely keeps you on edge, but this seems like another case of Hellblade sacrificing fun for atmosphere. Overall, I found Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice to a convincingly crafted nightmare, but one that's not terribly pleasant to inhabit – check out the full review here.
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice is currently available on PC and PS4.