Microsoft showed off a little tidbit at the Xbox Games Showcase about a big new game: Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II. It’s set in Iceland, and it will be based on real-world scenes the Ninja Theory development team collected there.
Hellblade II is supposed to be coming in the holidays of 2020 for the next-gen Xbox Series X game console. But since we didn’t see any gameplay during the showcase event, I’m wondering if that will happen on time. Microsoft confirmed it has no timing on this game yet. Microsoft bought Ninja Theory in 2018.
In a development video, Ninja Theory cofounder and Hellblade creative director Tameem Antoniades said he needed a break after the launch of the original, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, which was my favorite game of 2017. It features the main character Senua in a groundbreaking portrayal of mental illness.
Antoniades took a trip and visited Iceland, and he fell in love with the place as the setting for the sequel. He took the team on a trip there and brought along Melina Juergens, the actress who plays Senua. The team met with Quixel, which captures scenes and turns them into graphics that can be used in a video game. Epic Games acquired Quixel last year as part of an effort to bring photogrammetry into games and make artists far more efficient in creating next-generation game art.
In last year’s teaser video, we saw that Senua in Hellblade II had gone deeper into her persona as violent warrior, as opposed to the quiet and shy person that she started out as in the early part of the game.
Ninja Theory had a very different kind of heroine in mind with Senua. They enlisted the help of Wellcome Trust, a health care company in the United Kingdom that gave the studio 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, as the team tried to get everything right.
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 continue her quest.