Ninja Theory released a developer diary for Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, this time diving into the game’s take on Viking madness and psychosis.
They explained that they brought on a university professor to help with fleshing out their take on Norse mythology and culture. They wanted to really deep-dive into not just the lore, but how the lore will shape Senua’s view of her own culture and world. I think the only thing they could have done to take it a step further is have her speak in a Germanic tongue because that would have really added to the depth of tackling the cultural roots at the heart of the game.
In talking about psychosis, they also show some more of the gameplay and explain some of the puzzle elements that will be present in Hellblade.
The psychosis isn’t just there for Ninja Theory to tackle ablism and mark it off the checklist of tokenism. They actually wanted to use this story element within the actual gameplay.
So how does psychosis work into puzzle solving? Well, they mention that some of the people they interviewed and talk to discussed seeing mental/visual imagery of objects and symbols that affected them in their everyday life activities. This is translated into Hellblade as a sort of memory game where players will match up symbols in some segments in order to progress.
This also plays into another visual and auditory segment where Senua is stripped of her vision and players are required to use audio cues and light visual cues to try to guide her through what appears to be a swamp area of sorts.
While Social Justice Warriors will likely praise the game to the high heavens because gamers are taking on the role of a mentally troubled female (and that’s two checks off the SJW oppression list), the reality is that Ninja Theory actually seems to be using these elements for actual storytelling purposes and ways to change up the gameplay and user experience.
In fact, one of the things they explicitly mention in the developer diary is that they play-test each segment of the game and attempt to improve the end-user experience to make it engaging and fun.
I have no idea how well this is all going to turn out as a 15-person project, but it has some strikingly gorgeous graphics, and the advanced performance capture techniques they used shine through quite nicely.
It seems like Ninja Theory could be attempting to make a real game here that also happens to tackle mental illness. So long as it’s not one of those games beating people over the head with its themes it could turn a-okay. Hopefully the tech they designed and injected into the Unreal Engine 4 for performance capture becomes more widely used, because this really could have been useful for games like Horizon and the upcoming Mass Effect: Andromeda.
The alpha build is done and complete and the game can be played from start to finish. However, they still have to work on polishing up the game before it goes gold. There’s no release date set for Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice but the game will be coming to Steam and PS4.
Oh, and hopefully they fix up the water wave simulation when it washes ashore. The effect looked like it came from 2001.