Update: Or maybe not? According to PCGamesN, the permadeath threat is largely a bluff. We're contacting Ninja Theory to get the full story.
We pegged Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice as an intense game when it was revealed in early June, but it turns out we didn't know the half of it. Not only is Ninja Theory's journey into the Norse underworld of Hel filled with demons and madness, but failure to stand against the darkness comes with a hefty price.
See, now that Hellblade is out, we know this: If you die too many times, your save file is erased. Finito-Binito. Back to GO.
(MILD SPOILERS AHEAD!)
However, Hellblade makes it clear from the outset that repeated death carries a serious price tag. According to Eurogamer, the game's protagonist, Senua, gets caught up in an unwinnable fight. When she re-awakens, she spots black tendrils growing on her arm. From that point on, every death she suffers causes the tendrils to grow. If they pierce her brain, it's curtains for your save file.
The threat of permadeath is a reflection of Senua's fear of the dark. It's a way to make the players as scared of failure as she is.— Kirk McKeand (@MckKirk) August 8, 2017
Social media's reaction to the mechanic is a little mixed, but it certainly has its fans. Hellblade is as much a game about facing mental demons as it is about facing physical ones, and the threat of permanent consequences – consequences that are clearly telegraphed – make the experience more urgent. Let's be honest, games do an admirable job attempting to portray and discuss big issues like war, but that discussion inevitably rings a little false if you respawn every time you take a bullet to the head.
That's a fair point, and I appreciate that they go all out thematically. Also means that I have no interest in buying the game, hate perma— Marcel Hatam (@Com_Raven) August 8, 2017
Eurogamer's Johnny Chiodini likes the mechanic, as it "emphasise[s] the fact that Senua's mental state is at stake." He also understands why others might not be keen on Hellblade's perma-death, though he confirms the game's smooth controls make cheap deaths almost non-existent. In all, Chiodini estimates you can die eight times before getting a forever Game Over.
If you'd like to give Senua's journey of high consequences a try, it's available on Steam and PlayStation 4.