Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is a gem that many gamers overlooked this last generation. The announcement of Senua’s Sage: Hellblade II erupted of out nowhere and it’s been gaining steam ever since. A hearty gameplay trailer was showcased during the Game Awards of 2021 which showed Senua leading a group of warriors into a cave to slay a wounded titan. Many have speculated that whether or not the trailer that was shown was indeed “true gameplay.” Any seasoned gamer would assume that the footage which was shown was an on-rails scripted scene with some hands-on gameplay peppered throughout. With next-gen hardware now becoming the norm, it is getting more difficult to distinguish between cut-scenes and in-engine real-time mechanics. This is especially true since the first Hellblade was a short, linear, yet beautifully produced experience with last-gen consoles.
Hence, it leaves fans of this title no choice but to assume that this next installment will also follow the same path. Well, this may or may not be the case. Senua’s next adventure will be taking place throughout Iceland during the 9th century. The original story of Hellblade followed Senua going into the underworld based on Norse mythology to recover the lost soul of the person she loved. The sequel will somehow pick up after the events of the first and will usher in a new chapter that will be much more epic in scope and will also have new layers of darkness to it. Therefore, the developers over at Ninja Theory will be utilizing new tools to craft this story and hopefully release something that will be the quintessential next-gen title to usher in a new age of gaming.
To put things in perspective, shortly after the reveal gameplay trailer Ninja Theory came out to confirm that “yes” everything that transpired in the trailer was indeed “actual gameplay.” There were no cut-scenes or pre-rendered sections during the unveiling. In fact, the entire thing was being played by one of the developers from top to bottom. Even though this may be hard to believe, we are at the 9th generation of consoles now and perhaps gamers are a bit jaded by the limitations of previous hardware. So, maybe there are some new surprises still out there to make even older gamers get excited again for what’s to come. The developers are going to great lengths to make Hellblade II something truly special.
They actually went to Iceland and took pictures with the use of photogrammetry to capture the raw terrain of Iceland. This game is being forged with the new Unreal Engine 5 software and the developers are pulling no stops to make this something unique. Sound designers, artists, and photographers over at Ninja Theory are treating Hellblade II like a major Hollywood production in terms of capturing the authenticity of the location. They are even Foley recording the natural surroundings of various spots of Iceland to utilize with the 3D surround sound technology that Hellblade is known for. The developers are also recording findings from satellites to acquire the full realization of the landscape.
Even though Hellblade II will obviously have digital characters, the actors wore the actual wardrobe on their person so they could be faithfully scanned into the game. Melina Juergens trained for two years to reprise her role as Senua. The combat this time around will be deeper, richer, and more brutal than its predecessor. Thus, the animators also went through rigorous combat training to get acquainted with the movement of ancient Celtic warriors and how they brandished their weapons. It appears that this game is going for a more “wide-linear” approach and will hopefully introduce options of exploration and multiple angles to combat. Even though the combat was the weakest element in the first game, Ninja Theory took that to heart and is planning to rectify that situation. Based on what was shown in the gameplay footage, it is plausible that Senua might be able to use different weapons. She was restricted with mainly her sword in the first game and perhaps there will be new toys to play with her next outing.
Unreal Engine 5 is remarkable software and it’s good to see developers taking the bull by the horns and trying it out. It was custom-made by Epic Games to make game development more accessible and easier to transfer conceptual art into the in-game engine. It seems rather obvious that Senua won’t be trekking across Iceland alone and her allies will most likely have their own personalities, fighting abilities, and weaknesses. It is not known how they will be integrated into the overall gameplay experience. It is very possible that they will only be around during certain segments. In any case, Ninja Theory made sure that everyone involved got into shape to effectively yield ancient Celtic weaponry just like the warriors of old did. Thus, the artists are also using Ziva Dynamics to create fully realized flesh for the creatures. The giant in the volcanic cave was built by three artists and it took one month to fully render him. This software was also responsible for flapping skin, exposed muscle fibers, charred skin, and fatty tissue which will be showcased with the various characters in this game. Ziva VFX will hopefully be a leading factor for future creature development with other games this generation.
To Helheim and Back
There are still quite a bit of layers to peel away with Hellblade II. There is a lot going on behind the scenes that make this title more than just another video game. It looks like this game is shaping up to be another experience just like its predecessor. Unfortunately, this game won’t be launched until sometime in 2023. It is going to be a hard wait for fans of the original. It is apparent that this game has been under construction for the last few years and it clearly shows. A little more time will only make this potential masterpiece even more memorable. Right now, the official story for this game is under wraps, so let us wait and see what other surprises Ninja Theory will drop on us.