Developer Ninja Theory has a lofty goal for Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice [official site]: to make a hack-and-slash game that’s all about mental health. They’re the folk that made DmC: Devil May Cry and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (they like a colon, eh?), so you can expect an inordinate amount of stabbing. But the real focus is main character Senua’s struggle with psychosis, depression, and hallucinations.
That focus is clear from the latest trailer. Senua’s facial expressions are genuinely harrowing and the deep voiceover narrating Senua’s torment is chilling (although I had to jack my speakers right up to figure out what it was saying). The trailer also draws clear parallels between the overarching story of Senua searching for the soul of a dead lover and her inner plight – as in, she’s fighting both inner and external demons.
Have a look:
There’s very little gameplay in the trailer, so if you want to see what the combat will actually be like then there’s a fair few clips in the developer diary video below. It’s from the Dark Souls school of thought, by the looks of it – you’re righting big enemies with powerful attacks. You have to duck, dive, and slash them when the window of opportunity opens. You can slow time, too.
Ninja Theory’s pedigree with melee combat is well known, so I’ve got no worries there. Whether this is a success, therefore, will likely depend on the maturity and depth in which it covers Senua’s mental health problems. From what I’ve seen it’s heading in the right direction, and it’s long been known that Paul Fletcher, a psychiatrist and professor at the University of Cambridge, working on the project to ensure it avoids stereotypes.