Hellblade is the newest game from Ninja Theory, sponsored by Wellcome Trust, announced last year at Gamescom. Ninja Theory gave several more details about Hellblade for E3 this year, preparing for the games release in 2016. Hellblade is a heavily stylized action game, based in “ninja-style” melee and Celtic lore. The story takes the main character, Senua, to the underworld of her mind. The game is heavily focused on the psychology of Senua, who suffers from anxiety and hallucinations. Beyond typical tropes with mental health, Ninja Theory has worked closely with neuroscientist Dr. Paul Fletcher to ensure a level of realism, in addition to several people who experience real mental health issues. Dr. Fletcher hopes that the game, and perhaps video games in general can better portray mental illness to the general population, to reduce stigma and increase awareness.
The story goes that Senua, a Celtic warrior, was a part of a Viking war (based on a true historical war) which left her with psychotic hallucinations and severe depression and anxiety. Senua travels through her own mental illness to “defeat” it, and free herself from her fear and trauma. Because of the dream-like setting, Hellblade uses a very unique and haunting art style, which is featured prominently in their advertisement. The atmosphere spreads to the enemies also, consisting mostly of demons, many taken directly from Celtic legend. In the game, these demons seem to be the manifestation of Senua’s fears and hallucinations. The focus on the mental extends beyond the story, it would appear, even into design elements, as the blog discusses how artists working on the game were inspired by the neural way we understand color, shapes, and art.
Hellblade does not have a quarter release date yet, but we know it will be released for Playstation 4 and PC sometime in 2016. Ninja Theory said in an interview they’re hoping the PC release would be able to support mods and 4K resolution. Unlike other Ninja Theory games, Hellblade is fully independent, and will be self-published by Ninja Theory. This is with the help of Wellcome Trust, a global charity organization dedicated to improving health by promoting education.