Ninja Theory’s Hellblade: Delicately Hacking Inner Demons

A Celtic warrior fighting monsters with her sword is what I’d expect in the E3 trailer for Ninja Theory’s Hellblade [official site] and yup, it sure has those. A little more surprising is an accompanying video about the character’s struggles with psychosis, depression, anxiety, and hallucinations, with a professor University of Cambridge talking about his work consulting on the game. Huh! So sure, it is about slaying monsters, but it seems they’re trying to sensitively handle a terrible illness. While still getting to slay monsters, obvs.

Hellblade’s an action-adventure dealio starring Senua, a warrior who Ninja Theory say is “left traumatised by a Viking invasion” and descends into psychosis, her mental illness manifesting as a grand quest with fighty bits.

Hacking your inner demons into bloody pieces is a hardly a new idea for video games, but Ninja Theory sound like they’re trying to treat it with more sensitivity than is customary. They’re working with a psychiatrist who’s professor of health and neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, they’re receiving support from the Wellcome Trust, and say they’re “arranging to consult with people who have experience of mental health difficulties”.

Hellblade doesn’t have the full might of the DmC and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West studio behind it, with only a small team of 15 people working on it. Smaller, cheaper games let them be a little more creative while still benefiting from the studio’s AAA background and resources, they say.

Hellblade’s slated to launch in 2016. Here’s that there video game trailer:

And voila, your dev diary:

12 Comments

  1. Tukuturi says:

    Maybe they’re trying to make up for their part in Other M? (And yes, I realize the Other M story was all Yoshio Sakamoto’s doing, but still…)

    • Tukuturi says:

      Ignore me. I had them confused with that OTHER ninja themed triple-A action game studio.

      • Floflo81 says:

        Yup. For those who are confused, Hellblade is from “Ninja Theory”, while Metroid: Other M was from “Team Ninja”.
        And they are not related in anyway afaik.

    • pepperfez says:

      I misread that “Sakamoto’s dong” and thought it was a strange but accurate turn of phrase.

  2. Monggerel says:

    Ninja Theory: might as well just wait for Capcom’s DMC 4 remake!

    Alternatively, 3d brawl-em-ups: PLATINUM HAS SEEN THE END AND THEY WANT EVERYONE TO KNOW THAT SOMEBODY LOVES THEM

  3. Xzi says:

    Ambitious, but ambitious projects can end in failure just as often as success. What little they showed of the gameplay seemed like it could be more than a bit unrefined.

  4. stiffkittin says:

    Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. Yes. More like this please.

    It doesn’t have to be a profound treatise on the subject of mental illness. But a fun game, that happens to also have a thoughtful and ’empathic’ depiction of the subject matter; that adds a deeper context to the classic heavy metal-album-cover concept art environments? Bring it on.

    Game looks fricken great.

  5. RedViv says:

    I did not think it could be any MORE for me.
    Good gods.

  6. toonczyk says:

    Speaking of swords and daemons – Shadow Warrior 2 was teased today.

  7. Rae says:

    Maybe. I’ll follow it as I love the concept but still waiting to see more details before being too excited.

  8. plugav says:

    Going by the heavy metal visuals and the generic title, I was expecting a Sláine-inspired hack’n’slash. And while I don’t necessarily think that would’ve been bad, this looks to be so much more. I’m very interested and cautiously optimistic.

  9. Okami says:

    So it’s basically SpecOps with swords.