Well hey there, Crashers!
We’re now slap bang in the middle of Mental Health Awareness Week; a time to take a look at the unexplored illnesses of the every day. Often ignored as illnesses you can neither see nor imagine from the outside, but ones that are there none the less, and staggeringly difficult for those that do suffer to deal with.
Believe me when I say Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice is no shoe string budget gimmick VR app set up to entertain punters for a few minutes at some booth in a mental health convention. Ninja Theory (That’s right, the Ninja Theory that produced the highly successful Devil May Cry Reboot) have been working on this thing since 2014. As expected, this journey of suffering isn’t for the light-hearted – Centered around Norse mythology, the game follows Senua as she embarks on a very personal journey through a hellish underworld made up of Senua’s psychotic manifestations of her own reality and mind, having suffered intense trauma in her life. Check out the beautiful cinematic/gameplay trailer below.
I’ve spent some time checking out the numerous Development Diary videos available from Ninja Theory, and unlike Devil May Cry, I’m unable to certify that this is an action game. There are moments of intense action, and by using Daisy Ridley’s stunt double to capture combat movement, they’ve ensured it appears grounded and realistic, but there are also so many other sensory and hallucinatory puzzles and moments of sheer immersion that make it clear this isn’t a bombardment of action, but an exploration of everything that makes up the heart and mind of this character and what she’s been through, and that in the end this really is a story driven experience.
Ninja Theory have confirmed that they met with a large number of people who experience a variety of psychoses, including auditory and visual hallucinations to ensure that the game is as accurate in its representations of these symptoms as possible. Ninja Theory also consulted with Paul Fletcher, a neuroscience professor in Cambridge’s Clare College to learn more about psychosis from a medical perspective. He had some interesting words to say on the topic below.
“We like to think that we experience the world almost like a high definition photograph as it really is, but actually a lot of the time what we’re doing is using what we already know to shape and govern what we perceive. If we recognise that principle of how the brain functions, it may be that we can begin to understand what happens in the context of psychosis because psychosis can’t really easily just be understood as some malfunction of the mind; it’s actually a very creative process where somebody constructs a world.”
“We like to think that we experience the world almost like a high definition photograph as it really is, but actually a lot of the time what we’re doing is using what we already know to shape and govern what we perceive.”
This may be an Independent release, but it’s clear from the quality of the visuals and performances that this is an AAA game through and through. They’ve just managed to do it with a smaller team, a smaller budget and presumably at lesser cost to the consumer. A significant step into redesigning the format of AAA release.
The game’s looking incredible, and it’s clear that Ninja Theory have taken their time to research and accurately and respectfully represent this very delicate subject. Originally slated for a 2016 release, this has been moved back to sometime this year on both PC and PS4, although no specific date has been announced.