Allow me to be a bit glib when I say “oh shit, Psychosis simulator is getting a sequel” with game’s being called walking simulators or whatever simulators I’m going to roll with it.
So in the latter part of 2017 studio Ninja Theory released a little title called “Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice”. They described it as an independent AAA title, and they took some risks that at the time I appreciated the hell out of and still do. First, they eschewed physical media, no discs or collectors editions full of tchotchkes, just a digital download. They priced it at 30 USD which was unheard of for new release triple AAA titles but there was a catch, This was a tight thematic story driven narrative game that should provide around 14 hours of playtime. There was no multiplayer, there were no loot boxes, there wasn’t much replayability either but god it was a hell of a game. At the 2019 Game Awards they announced a sequel.
Hellblade follows Senua, a Pict warrior who travels to the Viking realm of Helheim to attempt to save the soul of her dead lover. Senua is cursed, hearing a chorus of voices known as Furies, and an ominous malicious entity known aptly as “the Darkness”. This is one way in which Hellblade attempts to convey to the player Senua’s psychosis. Along with the auditory effects there are also a number of visual hallucinations, optical illusions, and perspective tricks the game toys with to convey this to the player. Ninja Theory did their research working extensively with professionals and sufferers of psychosis to try to convey this to the player and by all accounts they did really well.
Hellblade had no tutorials, the voices would communicate to you certain things to instruct you or give you clues to progress through puzzles. There was no HUD everything was communicated to the player by sound and visual cues. Enemy about to swing on you, the Furies would warn you, even shouting LOOK OUT or BEHIND YOU, although there were a few fights when there was nothing there and I got smacked by the foe in front of me which I took as a nice touch. Take too much damage and the furies will nervously tell you to run and some will wail in hopelessness. The combat was serviceable but plain as I remember it. Light attacks and heavy attacks could be somewhat combined into combos and you could trigger a power up mode that made you hit harder and take less damage for a time.
Hellblade was a bit disorienting at first. I remember that I played it for about half an hour or so the first time and all of the stimuli and voices coming through made my head hurt where I needed a break, but in subsequent session’s I didn’t feel any discomfort. It was a fairly easy platinum and it was about 14 hours of play time as advertised and I felt I got my money’s worth.
In the trailer for the sequel, Hellblade II: Senua’s Saga. our girl shows up a bit more ominous and dark looking then we left her at the finale of the first game and she does an amazing singing chant that with her look reminds me of this Norse Folk band Heilung performing, a very similar vibe that at first had me wonder if they were simply using it as a trailer soundtrack.
There was no release date with this reveal trailer, and no word on whether they’ll be following the same release format as they did with the original, all digital, half price of a full AAA release, and whether or not it will be of the same scope but I will tell you I am hype.