Developer Ninja Theory have announced that their upcoming action title Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice will release on August 8th for both PlayStation 4 and PC. The news came along with the opening of pre-orders on both platforms, with PS4 pre-orders receiving a dynamic theme depicting a scene from the game and the PC equivalent receiving a digital comic short entitled Hellblade: Senua's Song. Both versions are currently priced at $29.99. To celebrate the announcement, Ninja Theory also released a new trailer for the game, titled Ragnarok, that you can check out below.
Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice has managed to fly under the radar of most since it was originally announced back at E3 2015 as just 'Hellblade.' For those keeping up with the developer's activities, you'll know there has been a steady stream of developer diaries demonstrating their progress on the title as well as highlighting the game's more unique aspects. For others, this may be the first you've heard of the title for a while, there's no AAA marketing campaign drumming up the hype of major news outlets so the game has perhaps had less attention than it's concept deserves. If you fall into the latter group then you might want to keep reading, as Ninja Theory's latest game aims to set itself apart from the action game crowd with some intriguing mechanics and design ideas.
One of the key themes in the game is the state of the main character's mental health. She witnesses her whole village murdered by Vikings at the beginning of the tale and is understandably traumatized. She begins to hear voices in her mind and the game plays with this for both visual and story purposes. Senua wants revenge for her murdered lover but the voices add a supernatural overtone to her quest, whispering of the end of the world and feeding Senua's paranoia. The player as Senua will never be quite sure if what they're seeing and hearing is real or a product of their character's psyche. It's an interesting approach that has the potential to provide a unique gameplay experience if done right.
If you're particularly observant, you might have noticed that there's no HUD in any of the footage that's been released for Hellblade. That's because the game does away with a traditional HUD, attempting to provide feedback on things like enemy and player health through audio and visual feedback alone. Immersion in the experience is one of the studio's key aims and combining visual feedback with 3D recorded audio in and out of combat is one way Ninja Theory hopes to draw players in. The methodical melee combat of light/heavy attacks, blocks, and dodges, is nothing we haven't seen before but it seems tightly designed, so perhaps the added immersion can turn good to great here.
Speaking of audio, you might want to invest in a decent headset or sound system to play Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. As well as the 3D sound effects, the team also used binaural recording techniques to create the voices that Senua hears in game. This technique, which essentially works by playing a different tone into each of the listener's ears simultaneously, has been used both in music and psychology to create either hypnotic or disorienting effect on listeners and it should be interesting to see how that effects player's experiences in game.
Ninja Theory says they're aiming to bridge the gap between AAA and indie with this title, providing a mid-length game with AAA values but also a unique and creative gameplay experience. They are aiming for about 6-8 hours of gameplay, what they consider about half of a full AAA game's length and thus the price point of $29.99. We'll see if they can achieve this commendable ambition when the game releases for PC and PS4 on August 8th.
Have you been keeping an eye on the progress of Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice? Has the game managed to escape your notice or slipped your mind since 2015? Let us know how you think the title is shaping up in the comments below!