There’s something about the very concept of ‘a million’ that sticks in the mind. It’s one of those nice, round numbers that still remains hard to visualise due to its sheer enormity. For instance, if you were to print DVD cases for all one million copies sold (across PC, PS4 & Xbox One) of Ninja Theory’s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, you’d have a million DVD cases, and I cannot even begin to parse how much space that’d take up. Still, it’s a hell of a success, considering that the game itself was a gamble, both business-wise (making ‘AAA Indie’ a thing) and thematically.
Despite its ridiculously dark and edgy-sounding title, Hellblade was a far smarter game than anyone could have forseen, especially considering that Ninja Theory’s previous output (Enslaved and DmC: Devil May Cry) had been a little on the crass side. Despite still being a dark and violent hack n’ slash action adventure, it was also a surprisingly human and understanding look at what it might have been like to deal with mental illness in an age where the concept wasn’t understood at all.
Critics across the board sang its praises, including our fella-at-the-time Samuel Horti despite some technical issues during his review run through the game. I must admit that (not being a fan of their previous games despite appreciating their graphical prowess) Hellblade hitting the mark was a very pleasant surprise. When I heard that Ninja Theory were going to be tackling so delicate a subject, I immediately expected the worst, but I am very happy to see that the studio has grown and evolved into an outfit capable of handling so thorny a subject.
Quite whether Ninja Theory will have a chance to do anything as gutsy as Hellblade again is up to Microsoft now, who announced during their big E3 show that they had bought up the studio. With any luck, the corporate megalith will play as hands-off a role as is possible. At least up until Ninja Theory needs PR and marketing stuff handled.