Ninja Theory released Hellblade yesterday, and almost immediately the internet was buzzing about a newly discovered feature of the game: permadeath.
It came out that if you died too many times in the game, it would delete your save file and you would have to start over. As more information came about, it seemed it wasn’t terribly easy to die, so people were getting less concerned.
However, many people who had pre-ordered the game weren’t pleased to find out there was a permadeath feature at all. The game seems to be clocking in for most folks between four and six hours, but, even so, there was a strong contingent of gamers who didn’t care for the feature, even if it was keeping in tone with the game.
Apparently, at the end of the introductory tutorial, the game states:
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.
Later in the day it was revealed that the warning may have been a bluff on Ninja Theory’s part.
Whether it is, or isn’t, a bluff, I think it’s an interesting concept. I was relieved to hear the permadeath (if it is, in fact, true) wasn’t from a few deaths, but rather a considerable amount. I like that it raises the stakes in a game about the main character’s psychosis and mental health.
However, I do wish it had been made optional. Permadeath isn’t a new concept in games, but it’s one I’m not personally fond of. As someone whose eyes glaze over when I hear the term “roguelike,” it’s just not a game mechanic I enjoy.
So take that, and a game that threatens to wipe your save file if you fail too many times, and I find myself with a weird set of feelings. I am never a fan of a wiped save. Whether it’s a user error or a game bug, having a save wiped feels awful. I will never forget the time my max level 69 (har har, I know) Mordecai save file was corrupted in the original Borderlands. It still reigns as the most upset I’ve ever been while gaming. Prior to its corruption, I had been playing normally when the system locked up and I had to hard reset. When I rebooted the game, my partner’s save file was there and available, but mine was simply an image of a square with a jagged line through it that stated it was a corrupted save. I was incredibly upset. Hundreds of hours of play went into that save and it was gone. All my weapon proficiencies were gone. All my weapons were gone. That was the catalyst for my learning that saves could be backed up to USB (believe it or not, prior to that incident, I didn’t know that could be done), which was an important lesson. Still, I wasn’t a fan of losing a save.
In this case, it would only be a few hours worth of progress lost, but still, I’m not a fan.
So I was wondering, how do you feel about permadeath in games? Is it a feature you like or elect to use when or where available? What do you feel it adds (if anything) to a game?