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Por t f ol i o Samuel Li 2020

CONTENT Resume Proj ect

Cri t i calRevi ew

l i _ bangguo129@163. com



GRI D( 99pi xel peruni t )


ByK o k oCh a n

ByK o k oCh a n

The Blood Village Overview This storyline was inspired by Japanese comic artist Junji Ito’s work - < Blood Sickness of the White Sands Village>. This story happens in a nearly-deserted village in Japan, which have no modern electronic equipment. Our main character detective Samuel Reeves is invited by his closest friend in college Dr.Kyo Furuhata to pay a visit. Strange things begin to occur alongside with his arrival. All villagers look extremely pale in their face. Their body is skinny and their skin seems wrinkled. Out of his detective instinct, Samuel decides to find out the facts behind this together with his doctor friend. Player Characters Character #1 Detective Samuel Reeves He was known as a sassy smart guy in medical school. Samuel focused on not only medical knowledge but also dating with other girls. Soon all of those didn’t attract him anymore. While searching for the next direction of interest, he met Dr.Furuhata on a special occasion. They were trapped in a mysterious event, which happened in one of the classrooms. Rumour had it that there was a human model that turned alive and wish to occupy a living body. But the rumour was broken by them in their efforts which helped them form a strong friendship. Samuel then was attracted by investigating mysterious things. As he fell deeper, he dropped out of medical school. Although he had to make a living by being a part-time private detective, he was so keen on those strange stories. “Bachelor of Supernaturalism”, he often called himself. Before he received that letter from Dr.Furuhata, he lost contact him for several months.

The Blood Village

The Blood Village Non-Player Characters Character #1 Doctor Kyo Furuhata Not like his best friend Mr.Reeves, he was a simple and stubborn man. He enjoyed the feeling of healing others. This was from a childhood memory of curing his dog. When he attended medical school, he found that he’s really good at it. He soon became the top students in his school and this was the time when that mysterious event happened. Dr.Furuhata was not intended to involve, but Samuel’s recklessness enforced him to raise that helping hand. They corporate perfectly and solve this case together. On the contrast of his personality, Samuel was active and interesting. They had been best pals even after Samuel’s dropout. After graduation, he decided to sharpen his skills by being a resident doctor of those suburban villages. And the first village he went to was the Blood Village. He was soon shocked by the villagers’ poor health conditions. But what disturbed him the most is the unusual things happened in this town. As he finally gave up doing both diagnosing and investigating, Dr.Furuhata chose to call his friend for help. What he didn’t know was that this village also affected him greatly.

The Blood Village

The Blood Village Basic Story Outline Choose Difficulty Blood type AB -Easy Blood type A or B – Normal Blood type O – Hard {Scene 1 Arrival on the Blood Village} When Samuel Reeves drove his old car into the edge of this creepy mountainous village, all he wanted was finish this meeting with his pal Kyo Furuhata and enjoy a draft beer back in Nagoya. The wasted road and creepy forest bring nothing but discomfort to outsiders. When he finally arrived at the end of the path, his best friend in medical school Kyo came out of nowhere. “Damn! you scared me, where did you come out?”. Instead of giving Samuel a warm hug like old times, Kyo just nodded and showed him the way into this village. Dr.Furuhata came here for 6 months as a resident doctor, but he seemed like he had spent his life here. Also, Samuel noticed that Kyo was skinnier and paler than the last time they met. Without any hesitation, Kyo led the way into their destination through the rugged mountain road. This was a nearly-deserted village near a great mountain. It seemed like no one has ever come here since the 19th century. The wood structure of every house seemed rotten in some degree and there was no modern building at all, even for an electric pole. Very few electric wires hanged in some old crooked trees. As for our detective, he was led through this view towards the village chief’s office by Kyo. On the way there, a strange tremor from underground echoed around the village. After a brief greeting by the village chief, he noticed that the chief had the same wrinkled skin and pale face like a skeleton as his friend. Then these old friends went to where Kyo worked – a small clinic. “Villagers here looks kind of sickly somewhat, so your hospital must have a great patient group. ha-ha.” Our detective teased on his friend, but Kyo seemed like not hearing at all. After a long journey and some cold meal with terrible water, Samuel finally can have a good rest. Samuel had woken up in many strange places as a private detective but awakened by howling wind still brought discomfort to him. “You are my most trusted friend and detective. I called you here for a reason, Sam” Kyo said

The Blood Village while having breakfast, “There are some unusual things happened in this town.” He paused for a while, “but I have to look after my patients. Could you do the investigation for me? Blood sickness is very severe here and I cannot do both things. You can pretend to be my assistant as a cover. But be careful, occasion here may be more complicated than you think.” Samuel wondered why Kyo was so stressed, but in exchange for a luxury meal in Nagoya, he accepted this special contract in the end. “just like a vacation into the mountain huh?” Samuel thought. {Scene 2 Curtain Rises} Though dropped out of the medical school, Samuel Reeves can still handle some basic medical conditions as a doctor’s assistant. Next day, the small clinic was filled with villagers. Holding a stethoscope, he resumed his doctor career by listening to a native uncle. He was skinny as a skeleton. “I feel exhausted most times,” the uncle said “can you cure me? Thank you, doctor.” “I am only an assistant; you can get a diagnosis from Dr….”. A strange thing happened that through his headphone, there’s no heartbeat of that uncle. Samuel felt strange and stopped talking. Then he started checking on himself, stethoscope somehow worked perfectly. Before he can check on that uncle again, uncle walked directly into the doctor’s office. The same occasion happened again in the next patient. At break time, our detective went into the office and asked what is happening in those patients. “Anemia, they all have it, that is why you can only hear weak beatings. And their blood types are all AB, which means they can basically accept all blood type’s transfusion. You can ask the village chief if you want to know more.” But it still cannot dispel his concern. One afternoon, Samuel finished his assistant work early. He decided to walk around this whole village. It was small but functional. From primary school to a small meeting room, all were located in the resident area except two – the clinic and the village chief office. A long and steep stair connected these two building to the shrine. The shrine was old but it was maintained well. As Samuel went down from the top. A beautiful sunset caught his attention. He walked upon many branches to see the whole view. Through the trees, the sun went down and disappear in the valley afar, emitting a charming halo in

The Blood Village the sky. The procedure was slow but he just couldn’t move away from it. Before he could realize, the sky was dim already. “It is charming, isn’t it?” a young female’s voice came behind one of those trees. “but I prefer sunrise.” she walked near Samuel with a smile. Even she was as skinny and pale as others, this young lady still looked pretty in the bathing of the sunset. “Oh, I’m sorry. my name is Kanna, you must be Dr Furuhata’s new assistant, right?” “yes, I’m Samuel Reeves. I wonder how do you know about me, Ms Kanna?” Samuel seemed a little surprised. “It’s not that difficult. This village didn’t have any outsider for nearly half a year. So, an unfamiliar face must be the newcomer.” “Fair enough, Ms Kanna.” He smiled for her cleverness, “But as the view is over and nights are still long, I think you should head back to your home.” She seemed a little disappointed, “then farewell Mr.Reeves,” she waved to him and said, “I’m sure we’ll meet again.” Samuel slowly walked back to the clinic and there was already a rough map of the village in his mind. “Ms.Kanna,” he talked to himself in his bed, “why a young girl like her won’t go outside to see the rest of the world?”. Then drowsiness hit and he soon was fast asleep. In the following days, Samuel can finally begin his main mission - investigate around. [Player’s exploring] Samuel went to the village chief’s office, and asked him about the anaemia. “we seldom contact with other villages, so intermarriage is very common here.” Chief answered. “I cannot say for sure, but it may be a hereditary thing.” He added, “Another thing is that we do not have our own water supply, you can use the well near the Shrine. Water might turn red sometimes due to rust within but the quality has no problem……” While hearing from the village chief, Samuel started to observe this office, “I might find some documents here,” he thought “Of course- without the chief’s knowing.”

The Blood Village {Scene 3 Tremor} After a few day’s working, life in this mountainous village became quite boring for our detective. One night, Samuel was awoken by thirst and strange tremor. He got off the bed and find his water bottle empty. The shrine is on the top of this village while clinic and village chief’s office in the middle. He walked upon old stone stairs to the Shrine to fetch some water. When he reached the top and lifted some water from that old well. Both the barrel and water smelt bad, but the sense of thirst made him not picky as usual. As soon as he held up the barrel, the water turned to a dark red colour, “Damn it’s horribly rusty like blood is mixed inside”, Samuel complained, “taste like hell as ever”. After drinking up all the water, he heard a tremor again, but much nearer this time. On the way down, he decided to walk around to get rid of that rusty feeling in his mouth. He lit up a cigarette and suddenly noticed something. An old thin tree was blown down by the wind. As he walked near, the roots of the tree are dark red. He touched and smelt some, “Feel like blood. Is someone got hurt here?” then he went back and slept with doubt. In the next days’ investigation, an old ritual was mentioned when talking with villagers that believer’s wish can be fulfilled after sacrificing something to the shrine. But no one can tell the exact procedure of the ritual. it was mysterious and long forgotten. Not long that the news of a new nurse came to this village spread around. One day a young lady came to the clinic and It is Ms.Kanna. “Long time no see, Ms.Kanna, is everything alright?” Samuel asked. “I do not feel good lately, can I get a checkup?” she answered. After checking her basic conditions, Dr Furuhata asked Samuel to draw her blood to run a test. “she must be much prettier if she gains some weight.” Samuel thought. “It could hurt a little, but soon it will be alright.” He calmed Ms Kanna and then pierced gently into her vein without noticing that she staring at his face with admiration. The check ended smoothly. Soon she became a regular patient in this clinic, even just for chitchatting with Samuel.

The Blood Village She was absorbed by adventure stories Samuel told. Unsurprisingly, she spent more time with our detective than the doctor in the clinic. At one time Samuel asked his doubt about going outside, her smile slowly vanished and she said, “I really want to, but there are rules in this village. Besides, I think I’m not healthy enough to take the first step.” As time went by, the complexion of hers became smoother and she was beautiful after gaining weight as our detective said. Even Samuel told himself that he was here to investigate, he thought of her more frequently than expected. {Scene 4 Offering Blood} One night, after finishing all the investigation, Samuel lit a cigarette in front of the closed clinic. Kanna showed up when he’s smoking. “Could you please walk with me for a while? I wish to show you something” she asked with a smile. Samuel nodded and they went all the way to the shrine. “Have you heard about an ancient ritual in our village about sacrificing, Mr.Reeves?”, she asked on the way. “Only some gossip, but no one can describe details.” Samuel answered. “okay…”. As soon as they nearly reached the top, she suddenly went ahead and stopped before the shrine. Meanwhile, Samuel heard a deep tremor echo from underground. “What the…? The sound seems like it’s from the bottom of the shrine!” Before Samuel could further react, Kanna took a knife out and whispered, “I wish to spend my lifetime with Mr.Reeves......” Then she cut her wrist gently. Blood started dripping on the ground. Weird and scary thing occurred, from every part of Kanna’s skin, blood exudate out like sweat. Not soon Kanna was covered in her own blood and she fainted within seconds. Samuel ran to her and she was still bleeding. The amount was so huge like someone wants to drain every drop of her blood. Blood covered the ground like a creepy bloody carpet. Just as Samuel was about to launch first aid to Kanna, a more unusual situation happened. The shrine ground started to absorb all the blood that

The Blood Village Ms.Kanna split at a visible speed. Not soon the great amount of blood nearly dried out. “Uhm” Kanna start to wake, “Mr.Reeves….” she whispered. When the detective noticed her face, she became skinny and pale again, just like the first time they met. “How come... Are you okay Ms.Kanna? Let me wrap up your wounds right now……” Kanna’s voice shattered. “There’s no need, I’m heading back Mr.Reeves….” she said with all her power. But still, she left Samuel covering with her blood, crumbling towards stairs down. Leaving a creepy blood trail and astonished detective behind, she faded into darkness. Again, the blood trail vanished quicker than Samuel can realize. He rushed to that fallen tree he saw days ago, no bloodstain as well, only an old tree in pieces. Though terrified like numb, detective instinct drove him to find out the truth. Samuel ran back to the clinic to grab a shovel. Back to that shrine, he started to dig with his shaking hands. As the surface was out of dirt and stone, the truth started to unveil. “veins... Arteries…. oh my god there’s a whole blood vessel system underground!” he touched the main artery, it’s still warm and beating! Surrounded by a puddle of fresh blood, the blood vessels seemed more alive than any villager in this town. Absorbing Ms.Kanna’s fresh blood, it was satisfying and beat stronger. Samuel scared to the ground, so many thoughts run into his brain. “the syndrome, the sacrifice, the tremor from underground, I know it! …… Wait, I have to tell Kyo to flee! We cannot stay here any longer!”

Following Scenes, Endings and other characters’ settings on





Spoilers alert:this passage contains light spoilers, including comments on the ending of Death Stranding. “Death Stranding is a terrible walking simulator and a Monster energy drink advertisement.” “Death Stranding is a masterpiece which is exactly what nowadays game industry needs.” When do we see such a polarizing game last time? Hideo Kojima, known as his Metal Gear Solid series and ‘P.T.’, this famous Japanese game producer hand in the latest work of his newly founded studio. Death Stranding is basically the fanciest walking simulator in history. Collaborating with so many Hollywood actors and directors including Norman Reedus and Mads Mikkelsen, Mr.Kojima’s new game was highly focused from its first announcement in Tokyo Game Show(TGS) 2016. But when its actual gameplay was first released in TGS 2019, some gamers and critics are deeply frustrated. And when it was officially released, reviews towards Death Stranding are harsh and polarized. Players will act as a mailman in a post-apocalypse world. Despite all the fancy Sci-fi settings, it was basically a game that consecutively demands you to deliver cargos from Place A to Place B. A consensus is that Death Stranding’s first 10-hours gameplay is tedious and frustrating. players have to try so hard in keeping balance and they will suffer from punishments when they misstep or fall from high. Not soon IGN gave a 6.8 rating to this game, which is mediocre and fatal to Kojima Production’s first game’s reputation. While so many gamers and critics hate Death Stranding, there are other voices that support it. Gamespot gave it a 9.0/10.0 rating and game reviewer Gamersky which is famous in China rated it 10/10. I also played this game on the first day of its releasement. I never played Hideo Kojima’s previous works which makes me rather objective towards Death Stranding. I will review on its weakness and strong points through sharing 3 moments of my gameplay. Then I will draw a general conclusion and recommendation for those who haven’t played it by now. Overall it is a Sisyphean game to me, and it requires great patience and thinking to fully enjoy it instead of enduring it. When I climb down the hills, the music arises with a fantastic view of the landscape. Before I can further describe this moment, I want to talk about its level design. As I mentioned, the first 10 hours’ gameplay is boring because of its learning curve problem. I encountered enemies and supernatural rivals when I have no weapons or equipment. But 50 hours later, when I was fully armed, I faced the same groups of

enemies. Deaths, in the beginning, is slowing this game’s pace and frustrate players like me. Delivering and inventory management as a core mechanism is also unacceptable to many players. As I checked on data of trophies in PS4, nearly 75% of players abandoned it before they made it to chapter 4 which is about 10 hours from the beginning. Despite the core mechanism, A stunning and fast pace start will surely increase retention rates. And when I finally see the destination of chapter 3, the Port knot city, I just passed a turn and ready to climb down. In walking down the hills, I saw the splendid view of the mountainous area and the music from Icelandic band Low Roar showed up. Through their soft vocal and light pop music, I feel a mind flow like I just finished climbing a real mountain. As a music fan, it felt like a reward to me. To be honest, the landscape and graphic of Death Stranding are the best in years. Deleting small animals and grasses, it provided a moss-covered terrain to save calculating resources to other items and characters. And the final visual look is truly mind-blowing. Maybe it is not a suffer delivering alongside views and music like this. And when I met this occasion the third time, I tried to turn down the main volume to see what happened. It turned out that you cannot change to shut down these music clips. In other words, Mr.Kojima forced you to listen to that music when you’re near your destination. Luckily It healed me a lot and I do enjoy his music taste. And somehow this little victory tastes sweeter after countless frustrations. Designs like this occur frequently in this game which means it may be unacceptable to those who cannot enjoy Hideo Kojima’s taste. And this moment leaves me the “suffering before satisfying” the first impression of Death Stranding. But you have to go through much more suffering to feel slight happiness and then suffer again. Delivering is just like Sisyphus’s endless rocking rolling. Albert Camus’s famous comments about Sisyphus’s punishments is that he must enjoy it when he reaches the peak pushing that rock even though he’s aware that it will fall again. To me, delivering in Death Stranding is just like this and I think others can only enjoy the journey by valuing little victories. And I can imagine why this core mechanism is debated that much. If a real mailman gets home after a long day’s work, he would definitely choose Doom or Gear 5 instead of making another delivery. And it is hard and unreasonable to force players to go through Sisyphus trial to reach the end. Enormous likes and helps from other players. So why we have to suffer that much to finish this game? In halfway of my destination, I have to build a lot of buildings or bridges to help me through. Death Stranding applies an Asynchronous online system, which makes my building show up in other players’ world to help without seeing my face. And they can utilize them and leave likes to me in return. One morning when I launched this game again, the system showed me that

I just obtained more than 10,000 like from other players due to my bridge and other equipment. It happened just one night, and when I was playing, I can still constantly receive likes from others. Even though I build them just for my convenience, it helped many others regardless. And when my motorcycle died in the snowing mountainous area, I have to use my exoskeleton to finish the rest of the journey. But soon it died out too, I walked a long way till my strength bar went nearly empty. I feel frustrated again and this time it was more like desperate. And then I saw a recharging building in the corner. It was built by others since I never reach this area. And It saved me and my cargo completely and allow me to eventually get to the next knot city. Through that, I can feel Hideo Kojima’s purpose of showing a connection between people in Death Stranding. I do feel connections though those unseen players in extreme hardship, whether from a hauling mountain or strong enemies. This design took my first shed of tears in this game. After searching interviews of this particular design, I know that Mr.Kojima wants to make asynchronous connection’s feedback to be completely positive. No one can sabotage others experiences in this game. This system was not created by him as it has shown in Dark Souls series, but it suits perfectly in Death Stranding and strands unfamiliar players together. To my surprise, friends of mine would stay up late building roads and bridges for others. For likes by other players? I don’t think so. To them or me, knowing that we’ve been helped others, this feeling is much precious than any other actual rewards. Though Death Stranding’s memes are spreading on social media, no one can deny that either helping or getting help is satisfying in this game. Ending of Death Stranding From this part, I have got to criticize Death Stranding harshly. Frankly speaking, I require a rather high quality of storytelling in a game, if there is one in a game. I have to admit that the settings and plots are really elaborate in this game, and the final surprise is well-hidden. but the way Hideo Kojima present it is not that good. In Death Stranding, characters will tell you all details like you are a 7-year-old baby and cannot think anything at all. From settings to suspicions from plots, and they will tell one concept over and over again. Even though the extension of these concepts is profound, like does a 7 months fetus has life or not. But the presentation within the game is too plain. I think Mr.Kojima arrange too many foreshadows and he is too afraid that players would be confused even after they finish the game. Apart from that, when I woke up on the day of its ending, I was excited to see how things evolved. After so many easy and somehow hilarious boss fights, I can finally see the ending cutscenes. Speaking of boss fights, I have to say that overall combat

the atmosphere is great. I was terrified when I met with supernatural creatures the first time. But the boss fights are way too easy. Most of the times I just don’t know what happens when I beat those bosses down. “Is that it? Nothing more?” I asked myself so many times. And chapters with Mads Mikkelsen, I was asked to shoot this man down in several battlefields to reach the next chapter. I loved this actor and his performance since Royale Casino of James Bond movies. I am a big fan of him just as Mr.Kojima is. But he is way too easy to defeat. I think Hideo Kojima create those chapters just wish to see his favourite actor fight on the battlefield in uniforms. Furthermore, the final boss fight is completely trashy. A rival who possesses superpower will fight you with his bare hands? It was nonsense. I could only imagine that it is Mr.Kojima’s personal taste to make a final boss fight like this. And there are cutscene problems. From Metal Gear Solid series, Hideo Kojima was known as the producer with extra-long cutscenes. He loves movies and wishes to be a director someday. Thus, his control over the camera is veteran work. But there are weaknesses. In Death Stranding, you will see the main character Sam Bridges takes a shower with four independent cutscenes. You have to skip 4 times to skip all his showing action which is annoying. And another thing is that the ending cutscenes are way too long. I watch it from the morning to the afternoon and it’s still rolling! This biggest turnover is stunning but nothing will surprise you that much when it is extended to 7 hours long. But waiting and watching paid off with my favourite line “You are my bridge to the future.” I can only describe it vaguely to remain that ultimate surprise. It was exhausting but also satisfying. In general, Death Stranding is a game with Hideo Kojima’s personal taste, which is destined to be polarizing. And if you wish to gain a cool experience of shooting bad guys, it may be not for you. But if you have spare time to part from works and responsibilities, it will bring you an unforgettable experience and a good story. I would call it a Sisyphean game which you may obtain happiness from sufferings. And that may be why many critics describe it as the most bizarre and weirdest game they ever played. In addition, before I finish this review, I want to pay my respect to Mr.Kojima. Imagine a 53-year-old man with no job and no office, Hideo Kojima started his second career out of famous company Konami with almost nothing. His studio’s initial sponsors are all his fans. With poor financial conditions, he formed the concept and settings of Death Stranding and bring it into actual gameplay 3 years later. Receiving helps from so many friends and the friends of them, he has every right to explain the theme “connection” to the players. And from his first concept art to the final production, it nearly not changed at all. His project management skills are splendid to a management major student like me.

A good game will give you an unforgettable experience. We always seek new experiences in a game, like being a Master Chief in outer space, or acting a test subject holding a portal gun. What if we want to experience something that is neither cool or thrilling, something that may disturbing? Plain word might not be convincing, so I would use a example of my own. At 2017 my left knee was badly injured in Taiwan. After the posterior cruciate ligament (PCL) surgery and rehabilitation, I had to give up my favorite sport – basketball. Knowing that a simple move can hurt my knee again, I cannot stand the risks. I cannot share the feeling to others through words or motions that I may never run freely like before. This experience made me feel lonely and painful. People may have their health problem that they cannot share like me. Especially the people that suffer from psychosis. Hellblade focus on rebuilding the perspective of a Celtic warrior who suffers severely from her mental illness. This perspective was unique and hard to imagine from a mentally healthy person. Luckily, we have Ninja theory, the talented developer who bring us the experience of being paranoid through 8 hours’ gameplay. Hellblade is definitely a great game created by a relatively small studio. It has so many innovations on game designing and I cannot review all parts of this game. These are the memorable moments of my gameplay. I do enjoy accompanying Senua (Main playable character) through her journey, and the ending completely stunned me. The Celtic and Nordic lore attracts me to search it online after finishing the game. The permadeath system (the mechanic that if player dies too many times, the game progress will be deleted) not only bluffs me to focus more on fighting, but also bring meaning to my failures. Because of Ninja Theory’s accumulation on action games, Hellblade’s combat system is cool. The skillset is well-designed that I can still enjoy fighting in my second gameplay, even though it gets slightly tedious in late game. Every level has its own design which can always surprise me, especially the 4 trials. And its strong points are so many which is beyond my words. For this review, I want to focus on one point - how its visual and audio design brings us the perspective of a mentally ill character. In other word, let the player experience a short period of psychosis. Visual Design When we first play Hellblade, we will notice that it has no HUD, tutorial or minimap which made this game more immersive. But the level design must be good enough to maintain the interest of players, and Hellblade did that. The maps are small but every part has something new to attract players. It varies from Senua’s mother’s face to the stele that tells Nordic lore. It makes the gameplay more attractive and make people

believe that we are in Senua’s adventure rather than a game. I want to talk about Hellblade’s first puzzle in the gameplay. The gate cannot be opened unless Senua find the same pattern like “M” in surrounding area. She later finds it on the shadow casting by tree branches. Some mentally ill patients will see special patterns like letters or creatures from normal view. This was a part of symptoms of delusion. Ninja theory set this puzzle as their main puzzle of this game because that we healthy people also do such speculations like Virginia Woolf’s ‘The Mark on the Wall’ but theirs are much more severe. This will bring us the familiarity and let us begin to understand Senua’s perspective. Then later in the game we know that all those patterns and runes came from what she carved on the wall when she’s imprisoned by her father. The mandatory solitude aggravates Senua’s delusion and hallucination. And this puzzle was just a start. There is another puzzle occurred in midgame. It is more like what we call “broken reality”. In Senua’s eyesight, the bridges and gates are broken in pieces, which can only be “fixed” in special angles. When I explained this quest to my girlfriend that a mentally ill patient may see normal things in pieces like their memory or a real door, I realize how well this game combined their levels and puzzle to psychosis syndrome. And then I played the blind trial which you can only find the way by listening and very dim sight. I began to wonder that can blindness come alongside with psychosis? After googling this, I was stunned by the fact that vision loss is a quite common side effect of so many mental illnesses. Additionally, this level is extremely unfriendly to hearing-impaired people, but still, Ninja Theory chose to design it this way to show the problems a mental patient can encounter. After playing Hellblade twice, I can truly feel their hardness in some way. Audio Design Then I want to talk about the most exciting audio design in Hellblade. Fairly speaking, playing Hellblade with and without headphone are two totally different games. In the gameplay, you will hear all kinds of whispers around your head. By collecting voice clips through a dummy head, the binaural audio system makes those whispers coming everywhere inside and outside yourself. They are annoying and disturbing, consecutively mocking your every move. Though Senua is a female fighter, the whisper inside sometimes comes from a male’s voice which makes players feel disordered. And the most talented design in the binaural system is that the voices are not all negative. It means that sometimes you have to trust hallucination in your head. Typically, when Senua’s foes attack from her blind areas, the voice will warn you in front. Differentiating between which voice you can trust or not is emotionally exhausting. To be frank, Hellblade as a whole is rather emotionally exhausting. But also, there are so many moments you will share with those voices which forms a strong mental bond

with them. In China, some players called this game RapBlade which contributes with the genius audio design. because I never experienced before, I cannot judge how close this system is to a real psychosis, but in a video of Hellblade made by a game reviewer who is also a mental patient, he said that his “voices” may come from not only inside his head but also behind the door. Playing the game with those sound forced you to make decisions in a tensive mind state. Thus, the fights and puzzles are more challenging than ever before. In late game, you will go through Senua’s biggest nightmare and the most complicated puzzle with those whispers. Players may feel lucky that you don’t need to hear them again in real life after finishing the game. And that is a purpose of this design. More Thoughts on Hellblade’s Theme Furthermore, the overall combat design is another surprise when I played this game second time for this review. When I first played Hellblade, the final boss fight was just endless waves of Senua’s foes and bosses she met before. “lack of new boss in late games” was my first impression. But second time I played, I found that alongside the whole combat in gameplay, it just consists of waves after waves of enemies. Though I can try with different skillset to parry their attacks and beat them down. It still gets boring in late games. But when I worked out the conception of this review, I realized why. From the game we know that all the fights and rivals come from the darkness inside, in other word, her psychosis. What if those fights within her head are meant to be boring? What if it was meant to be exhausting? Before, I describe how well Ninja Theory combined level designs with psychosis syndrome. So this design cannot be accidental. They may wish to convey one thoughts that is , the fight with psychosis for a patient is exhausting, boring and almost endless. Like the last fight in gameplay, you either keep fighting endlessly or yield to it. It was desperate. It may be the reason why this theme is so controversial. Luckily, Senua conquered her nightmare and walk on. Before this review is complete, Hellblade 2 : Senua’s Saga is announced. She can continue her legend. I think this is a wish by Ninja Theory that all people with mental issues can conquer the biggest enemy and keep on their life. When I played Hellblade, the first category of credits was Mental Advisor. After knowing that Ninja Theory corporate with the Cambridge University and other institution for psychosis counselling, I was shocked and moved. In China, even though there are free mental doctors and hotlines preventing suicide, A game company is hard to take this kind of social responsibility, let alone an indie game studio. To be a part of a project like Hellblade to help people would be a great honour.

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