After several years of development, an official release date for Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 has been confirmed at Microsoft’s new Developer Direct livestream. Ninja Theory’s sequel will officially be released on PC and Xbox Series X|S consoles on May 21.
Similar to the original 2017 action-adventure game, Hellblade 2 is a gritty and gory experience set in an ancient Nordic world. For the sequel, Senua has made peace with her past, and finds herself in Iceland seeking the Vikings that enslaved her people. Along the way Senua will face Viking raiders, giants, and zombie-like monsters on her quest, engaging them in brutal fights. Ninja Theory worked on creating “all-new combat” for the sequel, increasing the complexity of the actions that Senua can perform against a wider variety of opponents and creating a more dynamic flow for combat, all the while trying to tell a story with each encounter.
As part of the Developer Direct presentation, Ninja Theory studio head Dom Matthews said Hellblade 2 focuses on delivering a “shorter, narrative-led experience that focuses on the things we really care about.” One of the things the team really cares about and which carries over from the first entry in the series is Hellblade 2’s examination of Senua’s mental state, where she “faces a battle of overcoming the darkness within and without” as part of a “brutal journey of survival through the myth and torment of Viking Iceland,” according to the game’s synopsis. Senua battles with psychosis, seeing and hearing things that aren’t there. It’s something Ninja Theory put a lot of effort into portraying accurately, with special attention to the game’s audio and the voices players will hear as they embody Senua over the course of her journey.
Hellblade 2 was first revealed at The Game Awards 2019, and in the years since, Ninja Theory has slowly released a trickle of information on its sequel. The studio’s use of Unreal Engine 5 has resulted in some uncannily realistic facial animations, and it has been fascinating to see the developer employ some novel DIY solutions for design challenges, like playing with their food. For an extra touch of Icelandic authenticity, Ninja Theory even teamed up with Scandinavian folk music band Heilung to produce the game’s soundtrack.
Beyond Hellblade 2, Microsoft also revealed a new look at other upcoming Xbox games, including the new Obsidian RPG Avowed, Oxide Games’ upcoming 4X title Ara: History Untold, and MachineGames’ Indiana Jones project.