Hellblade: Story and Ending Explained


Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is the latest video game from Ninja Theory, the team that brought players games like Heavenly Sword, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, and DmC: Devil May Cry. While the studio is constantly lauded for their approach to gameplay, especially in the combat department, they also take special care when molding the stories around their experiences. In the case of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, the experience is actually molded around a dark, yet profoundly deep, narrative that centers on a young woman in a world of hurt.

The nature of the story in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice can make things a bit confusing to those who may not be familiar with her affliction, or those who maybe didn’t turn the sound up (sound plays an important role in this game). To help those players who’ve journeyed through Senua’s personal hell (along with those who just want to see what happened), we’re going to do a quick breakdown of the story to hopefully have things make more sense for you.

Naturally, us breaking this down will mean that we must spoil the events that transpire throughout the 8-10 hour journey, so if you’d rather get all the details from the game first, we suggest that you go play, then return for some clarification. If you don’t plan on playing anytime soon and just need to see what happened, continue on.




Senua is the titular protagonist of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, and the only individual you’ll control throughout the entirety of the game. She’s a young woman who suffers from severe psychosis. Her mind is overrun with thoughts and emotions that often paralyze her in fear and doubt. Voices plague her every waking moment and she’s bombarded with visions that are dark and twisted.

Throughout the story, she’s described as having something more than her sickness, though. She’s cursed with a darkness that punishes all those around her so her father keeps her home to keep her safe. Her mother, too, was touched by darkness and Senua is told that she did horrible things and eventually took her own life in order to spare those who came too close. The power that Senua has, the one that springs from the darkness, puts her in tune with the underworld so it’s feared that she will do terrible things just like her mother before her.

However, Senua feels that she can do more, that she can be better, so she goes out from time to time and observes people, and that’s how she meets Dillion. A young warrior who sees beyond the stigma surrounding the protagonist and falls in love. But, of course, with a title like Hellblade, you just know not everything is going to be rainbows and sunshine, and this meeting of two young hearts is set before the actual events of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. It is tragedy that sets the ball in motion and places players into the dark, twisted world of the game.



While meeting Dillion was certainly a bright spot in Senua’s often dark world, a blight would come to wipe away any happiness she held. In time, a plague would fall over her village, slowly wiping away countless members of her tribe, including Dillion’s father. The death sent him into a rage, one where even he, Senua’s only ray of light in a world of isolation and fear, lashed out at her. When he passed, Senua could only think of the love she lost and how his anger would have left his soul tortured.

Believing that she was the cause of the plague, due to her curse, she feels to blame for her love’s passing and seeks to save his soul. With that singular purpose in mind she sets out for Helheim, the underworld known to many of us as hell itself. It is here, in the hottest, darkest recesses, that Senua believes she can find and free Dillion’s soul from the torture it’s been subjected to. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice opens with our protagonist first setting foot upon Helheim’s shores, and this is exactly when everything gets really deep.



Now you may be wondering how in the world did Senua manage to get to what is essentially hell. While the game definitely does hint at supernatural abilities, you can always tell something is a bit off. In moments of power, the images on screen often become distorted, as if Senua herself is forcing this reality and it’s conflicting strongly with what’s going on around it. That’s because that is exactly what’s happening. Nothing you see is real, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t a real threat.

As we mentioned before, Senua suffers from severe psychosis which causes her thoughts and fears to become a reality, at least for her. While to the outside world none of it exists, it is potent enough to kill her because she believes so strongly. The beasts sent to hunt Senua are of her own imagining, as are the obstacles that rise before her. But none of these are random, they serve a purpose and each tie to specific portions of who she is. Fire shows her the pain that has left her fearful and untrusting, illusions show us her self-doubt, and darkness represents the unknown that she knows she must tread. But she feels so strongly about them that each manifests so vividly into the levels we as players explore.

Valravn, one of the first bosses you’ll face, is a master of illusions, forcing Senua to look beyond the tricks that her mind plays on her. A large focus of this section of the game is… well, focus. It’s Senua’s mind working to guide her in the right direction, even though it must fight tooth and nail through living nightmares to do so. Surtr is quite similar, burning everything around Senua, forcing her to face loss on a grand scale and teaching her to overcome the fear of pain.

It’s interesting to see how all of it, the good and the bad, comes from Senua herself. Though she does have Dillion to thank for part of it. He taught her something that his father taught him in the past, the strongest battles are fought in the mind. This is a theme that permeates the entire game, but it really comes to the forefront in a section of the game that has no combat at all: Odin’s Challenges.



Around the halfway mark of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, the protagonist loses her blade and is left physically defenseless. Rather than just quickly find a new weapon, it’s time for Senua’s mind to test her and to open her eyes to what’s really important. This is done through a vision of Dillion shrouded in light as he guides Senua through puzzles that force her to face none other than herself and her life.

There are four challenges in total, each presenting a new lesson that holds a lot of weight as Senua moves towards the end of the game. Without completing these challenges, she’ll never be prepared for what she must do, and thus a new weapon, the legendary Gramr, is locked behind them. With every completion, Senua gains a shard of that powerful weapon, thus granting herself the ability to face her toughest inner demons.

The Labyrinth Shard – This test is about trust and focus. The trust is in those Senua has faith in as Dillion’s voice guides her through the maze which houses a mysterious threat. It’s a tough one for Senua since she constantly has other voices in her head as well, but the focus is important as it’s one of her largest obstacles throughout the game. She must hone in and make decisions quickly or else she can very well die.

The Tower Shard – The tower is actually an old fortress, however, it’s not the fortress itself that is necessarily important but the fact that the past plays such a huge part in Senua’s thoughts and the manifestations of her fears. A lot of what you face in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is based on a past that she was told but doesn’t necessarily remember. Yet she must unlock the truth, which is somewhere within her, if she’s ever to step forward.

The Swamp Shard – The swamp is the shortest test but focuses on illusion and restoration. A recurring theme you may have noticed in the game is Senua having to see past what her eyes show her which allows her to mend broken things, including herself.

The Blindness Shard – The fear of the abyss is something that is quite real for many people, not just Senua. The fear of the dark, of the unknown, can be paralyzing yet a person must learn to have courage and to trust themselves when navigating said darkness. Fear and doubt often find their way onto the player’s path in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice

Upon completing the tests, Gramr is now in hand and Senua’s eyes are opened to a lot of new truths.



Senua’s family is touched on every now and then throughout the entire game, but it’s not until after the challenges that Hellblade finally begins delving into the truth behind them. Early on we learn that her mother also heard voices and was “cursed” by the darkness. We’re told that she took her own life because she was tired of the pain she was causing to those around her.

Senua’s father, in order to protect her, kept her as a recluse, locked in the house away from others in the village. He often kept her locked in a dungeon of sorts, a closed space covered in runes, no doubt related to his religious inclinations. He seems overly protective, but many probably have thought “can you blame him?” However, progressing further into the story, especially after completing the challenges, it becomes clear that these memories aren’t exactly accurate. Now that the fog is lifting from Senua’s mind we find out the truth about her parents.

Senua’s mother did suffer from voices and a perceived darkness, and she did in fact die. However, it wasn’t by her own hand. The village burned her as a witch and the person who led the crowd was Senua’s own father. He was a religious zealot who used to beat his wife in order to drive out her darkness, and when her illness — because that’s what it is, an illness not some curse or witchcraft — refused to leave he had her cursed because it’s what the “gods” wanted. He then filled Senua’s head with the will of the gods and twisted her to believe that this was all by her mother’s own doing, which probably explains why Senua remembers it as her mother killing herself, although she witnessed the truth when she was a child. Her mothers burning also makes sense of all the fire players see throughout the game, as it was started her torment and also what was done to those stricken with the plague. Fire follows Senua and it has left her paralyzed.

When Senua’s father found out about Dillion, he once again began to fill her mind with doubt, subjugating his daughter to more abuse and leading the village to believe that his daughter was evil. This is why even Dillion lashed out after his own father’s death, convinced that the religious leader of the town, Senua’s father, was telling the truth about his daughter and the pain she brings to all. He refused to let her be happy without him, not letting her find her own path to wellness, something that she finally began to grasp.

Senua’s father, much more so than her mother, held such an influence in her life that he plagued her every thought, and it makes the shape of the world and the voices within make so much sense.



As mentioned before, Helheim is essentially hell. In Norse mythology, Hel is a location in Niflheim (the world of darkness) that serves as the underworld where the dead go to meet Hel (also known as Hela in certain places, including Hellblade’s story) and face their fate. It’s not to be confused with Valhalla, another place for the dead but used exclusively for heroes and those that have died in battle. Hel is instead a place of darkness and woes, and often times considered to be filled with torture and pain depending on who’s telling the story.

Senua’s reality could’ve taken any shape really, but since she’d been so abused and controlled by her very father, a religious zealot who often spoke about Helheim and the threat of darkness, it makes sense that her mind would create her own personal hell out of… well, hell. The darkness that she was taught about creeps through this world, often with no form because its description to her was always so vague. The fact that she faces gods and other beings from Norse religion also supports this, and the runes she sees are similar to the very ones she was surrounded with as a child, with the understanding of them unlocking new truths for her to see.

The voices are also molded by her time with her father. Yet, interestingly enough, many of the voices are her own, even some you probably wouldn’t think. The feminine voices (both reassuring and otherwise) are both Senua’s inner subconscious trying to push and pull her in different directions based on her fears, doubts, and desires. However, there are two more masculine voices you sometimes hear (not counting Dillion’s voice, which is very clearly Dillion – although it’s her imagining him) while playing. One of them, the one that crackles quite often, is Senua’s darker, more bold side. It will often push her to do things she didn’t think she was capable of, such as charging through the dark or killing a massive foe. The smoother, booming voice belongs to her father, at least what she imagines him to say. It’s the voice that tells her there’s no hope, that forces her to look at things and see her blame in them, refusing to acknowledge the full truth.

Each voice is but another fraction of Senua’s shattered mind, but they all work together to mold her. However, in order to reach her goals, Senua must silence them, and listen only to her true self in order to press on. It is then that she’s able to face Hela, goddess of the underworld and the one who is torturing Dillion’s soul.



Hela, the ruler of Helheim, is the last obstacle for Senua to overcome. She’s the daughter of Loki, who many may know as the trickster god or the god of mischief thanks to either a degree in Norse Mythology or Marvel Comics. Throughout the game, she is described as being a bit more sinister than her father, preying on the weaknesses of others and ruling the underworld with an iron fist. None that enter are allowed to leave, and she’ll see to it that everyone meets their deserved fate.

The fight against Hela is more interesting than any of the other battles in the game. It’s not particularly difficult, after all, you have Gramr which severely increases your damage output letting Senua run amok through endless hordes of enemies. What’s interesting is that you don’t actually fight Hela. She sits there, taunting Senua with her father’s voice at times, ridiculing her, telling her to give up. But the Hela you face isn’t a manifestation of just one person, it’s several. She’ll tell you to give up, to accept, you aren’t anything, you’re worthless, you can’t fight, and so on. Not all statements are delivered with ill-intent though.

Hela is the root of Senua’s psychosis. It’s everything she knows and was taught rolled into one nightmarish form. It knows what Senua needs yet also knows how to paralyze her, forcing her to look inward in order to find outwardly success. Senua is forced to fight everything but Hela during this battle. All the enemies she’s come across, all the bosses she’s already triumphed over. And all the while, Hela just watches as she does it all alone. She left her voices behind as she went to confront this final monster before her. Going off of her own will and desire she stepped into this twisted, transforming realm full of shadows and death.

But in the end, Senua comes to a realization. She must make a sacrifice, and that sacrifice is her own life, at least in her mind. She stops fighting as blades are thrust into her and she falls to the ground bloodied and covered in rot. As Hela kneels before her she curses her, shares how she’s not afraid. But then she begins to plead, shares her willingness to give up herself for her beloved Dillion’s soul. A whirlwind of emotions tears through her mind before finally, Hela takes her life, and in that moment we are transported out of Helheim.



In the end, you can see what appears to be Senua’s corpse lying on the ground as Hela picks up the skull of Dillion and walks to the edge of a wooden platform. Tears appear to stream down her face as she gazes into what were once the eyes of a young man who saw beauty in darkness, and without warning, she drops the skull off a cliff to never be seen again. When the camera pans back to Hela, it is instead Senua who stands there. She has finally let go, and with that burden released she is back in the world, beaten down but far from defeated.

The voices have returned, but that’s because they are a part of her. She wasn’t miraculously cured of her mental illness, that wouldn’t be realistic, but she is finding her strength to be better. She states how this used to be her beginning, but she can’t see much further past it now, she’s on a new adventure, hopefully, to find herself after the loss and pain she endured. Armed with truth and acceptance, both of which helped her overcome hell, she’s pushing on just like so many others do on a daily basis.

Senua did not let her psychosis control her, although it seemed like the easy way out so many times. After every urge to give up, all of the ignoring the truth right in front of her, she accepted the pain and in turn accepted herself and focused inward. As the creator of her perceived hell, she took on the role of Hela, her toughest opponent, and that’s the truth for many people out there. We are our toughest obstacles. But we can overcome them, no matter how frightening and insurmountable they may seem.

Before it fades out Senua asks us to keep following her, to witness her journey as she grows and learns and discovers. The future is looking bright for our hero.