After a bit of a dry spell, the gaming goodness begins in earnest this week with Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, a self-styled 'indie AAA' game. That means AAA production values from an indie studio. In this case, it's Ninja Theory, of DmC and Enslaved fame, going solo for the first time. They haven't been skimping on the production values either. Hellblade looks morbidly gorgeous, equally oppressive and enthralling. It's a little slighter than your average AAA game at 6-8 hours, but it's also only £25 / $30.
We've been eager to give it a go to see how Ninja Theory's AAA claims hold up. We'll have some benchmarks with your shortly, but before then we've got some Low v Ultra graphics comparison sliders for Hellblade, providing an insight into the visual quality Ninja Theory is shooting for here.
Hellblade Low v Ultra Graphics Comparison
(slide your cursor over the images to compare)
As you can see, Hellblade can swiftly loses its good looks when played on Low. The first pair of images are perhaps the most prominent example of this. The low resolution texture on the stone monument is an absolute eyesore. Many of the textures are of a similarly low quality, although as you can see in the remaining screenshots, it becomes less of an issue during normal gameplay. Texture Quality is definitely one of the settings I would recommend cranking all the way up though, depending on how much VRAM you have on the graphics card.
The second image helps highlight the difference lighting quality can make to Hellblade. On Ultra we can see realistic beams of light poking through the trees, while on Low this is just a static lightsource. It does also help indicate that the foliage setting isn’t overly important. It’s not particularly impressive on either graphics setting.
This third pair is one of the highlights of the Low screenshots, and for the most part it looks impressive. What you can’t see in still images though are the water ripples. Waves are pushed out by Senua as she wades through the water on Ultra, yet on Low this is just static water with the occasional splashing animation.
Lastly, we have an example of the difference draw distance can make. In truth, Low’s strengths come to the fore when viewing things at distance. Hellblade looks fantastic in both screenshots, despite the marginally better detail and draw distance found on Ultra.
Overall it's hard to disagree that Ninja Theory has followed through on its promise, and then some. In my short time with Hellblade so far, it looks every bit as good as Rise of the Tomb Raider, despite its smaller scale and much smaller budget.
Keep your eyes peeled for Hellblade benchmarks later today.
What do you make of Ninja Theory's AAA indie ambitions? Is there a place for budget-priced, high production quality experiences? Let us know your thoughts!