At The Game Awards tonight, Microsoft showed a trailer for the sequel to 2017’s big hit, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. The trailer showed Senua, the heroine of the first game, with a painted face and a menacing chant.
It’s looks plenty scary, with a lot of fire and nightmare environments. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was my favorite game of 2017. But this tale of a sword-wielding Pict warrior was also a groundbreaking portrayal of mental illness, and its impact is still being measured by the people who created it.
Ninja Theory had a very different kind of heroine in mind with Senua. They enlisted the help of Wellcome Trust, a healthcare company in the United Kingdom that gave Ninja Theory a grant. Their interest was in depicting psychosis, the condition where people see things that aren’t real, accurately through Senua’s adventure.
The 18-month project turned into three years.
The result was an astonishing game. In it, Senua embarks on a journey in the 8th century after Vikings raided her village and killed her love. She hopes to redeem the soul of Dillion by going to the Norse version of hell, Hellheim, to confront the underworld goddess, Hela. She is plagued by her own inner darkness, and in the game it manifests as externally focused visions. She must battle these phantasms to the continue her quest.
Microsoft bought Ninja Theory, maker of the game, and now it is making the first announced game for the next-generation game console coming at the end of next year.