As part of Ninja Theory‘s plan of being open and transparent about development, in the past few months we’ve learnt quite of things about their upcoming PS4 (and PC) action title Hellblade. We’ve been introduced to leading lady Senua, we’ve been clued in on the triple A independent development process and we’ve seen some impressive concept art too. But with the game pencilled in for a 2015 release, there’s still so much that we don’t know. Luckily, Ninja Theory recently let Official PlayStation Magazine UK into their offices to talk about it for their cover feature. So from that preview, here are six things you didn’t know about Hellblade.
1. Hellblade‘s Story Is Set in The Underworld
Although plenty of people just assumed Ninja Theory had taken Heavenly Sword‘s name and paired it with a thesaurus, the name Hellblade actually holds some weight. No it’s not the blade that gives the game its name but it’s the setting.
Hellblade is indeed set in the underworld of Norse mythology – called Helheim – but Ninja Theory revealed to the mag that the game will specifically focus on Senua and her “personal descent into Helheim”. The CGI trailer that was used to announce Hellblade at Gamescom back in August seemed to suggest that Senua accesses a whole lot of demonic power when a sacrificial ritual goes wrong. That might not be the starting point of the game as Ninja Theory created the trailer in a bit of a hurry in time for it to be broadcast at the Sony press conference, but at least we know where Senua will end up.
2. Hellblade Is Inspired By the Celt/Viking Rivalry
When Ninja Theory’s art developer diary went live, they talked about the inspiration behind the game saying that it takes on the time of Vikings and Celts. The developer further revealed to OPM that it’s the battles between those two historical factions that really gave Hellblade its foundations.
Ninja Theory co-founded Tameem Antoniades explains:
“When Vikings would arrive they would feel like an alien race almost, because they were provably a clear foot taller. The Vikings descried the Celts as pygmies, because they – the Nordics – weren’t much shorter than they are now, whereas the Celts were a lot shorter than we are. So for them they would have just seen this race of vicious giants arrive.”
Interestingly, the feature specifically states that “history itself gave the team the initial ideas for Hebllade‘s clashes” so while concept art has given us an idea of the supernatural beasties we’ll be up against, it’s quite possible that leading badass Senua will be facing off against some more human foes too.
3. Hellblade Will Feature Multiple Weapons
As explained, Hellblade gets its name from Helheim, but more than that our lead character’s blade isn’t actually that important at all. In fact, we may even find ourselves exchanging it further down the line.
OPM writer Matthew Pellett writes:
“[Ninja Theory] insists that the sword from the title isn’t the focus of the story. At one point during the day Matthews [Dominic Matthews – the dev’s Product Development Ninja] does talk about “weapons” so we wouldn’t be surprised if there’s more than just the one blade to play with.”
4. Hellblade Is Not a Heavenly Sword Sequel, At All
Partly because of the name and partly because Hellblade‘s Senua looks similar to Kai (the best friend of Heavenly Sword‘s protagonist), but plenty of people have assumed that the two games are related. Ninja Theory has denied this but now they’ve also confirmed that they aren’t being a tease – there really will be no Heavenly Sword twist in Helblade‘s plot.
Matthews told OPM that:
“The absolute truth on it is that we like what we do, so that leads us into similar kind [sic] of games. Hellblade is not a sequel. It’s not a spiritual successor to Heavenly Sword, not was it ever intended to be. But we know that the fans of our games like what we did in Heavenly Sword, as they liked what we did in Enslaved and DmC, and we wanted to deliver something for them.
There’s no twist in the story, no. You’re not going to get to the end of the game and go, ‘Oh wow! It is Heavenly Sword!'”
5. Hellblade Will Feature Plenty of Puzzles and Optical Illusions
With just 13 people working on Hellblade (though they are hiring a few more), Ninja Theory are obviously limited in terms of the scale of the game. That means there won’t be any traditional collectibles and the game won’t featured a Heads-Up Display either which is nice for distraction free gameplay. Instead, Hellblade will include some ‘interactive puzzles’.
“Remember the Channel 4 indents in which he camera pans around a group of floating haystacks or buildings until the scattered objects magically form a giant ‘4’? The same rules apply here in the world of Hellblade: there may be no obvious way forward until you unlock a particular environmental conundrum.
So, doorways appear in cliff faces when you stand in the right place to line up a sequence of floating black shapes and focus on the resulting ‘hole’, or ramps to higher platforms become fused together by using the same principles. In one instance I see the shadows of twigs forming a skull under the right lighinting.”
Pellett stresses that these puzzles are a work in progress and might not make it into the final version of the game but given that Hellblade won’t feature an open world, should Ninja Theory leave it in it’ll be a good reason to go back and explore at least.
6. Hellblade Will Be The Stuff Of Nightmares
Also on the agenda for Ninja Theory, right next to optical illusions, is something that the developer is calling “Malevolence”. Technical Art Director Stuart Adcock described it to the mag as the “manifestation of your worst nightmares” whilst Pellett wrote that “it’s most easily summed up as dynamic parts of the world that attack Senua to make Helheim feel more threatening”.
We’ve already seen that shown off somewhat in concept art of canyons lined with hands, along with some melting sculptures that look like they could potentially attack you, but it’s nice to hear that they’ve moved from mere concepts to actual works in progress.
Quotes taken from Official PlayStation Magazine UK #104, click here to find out how to subscribe.