Content warning: Depictions of death, violence, and auditory hallucinations.
Hellblade (now Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice) has been on my radar since it was first announced. The upcoming adventure game is gorgeous, it’s made by Ninja Theory, the creators of Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and DMC: Devil May Cry, and it stars a woman who appears to spend as much time coping with her own inner demons as she spends fighting any real monsters.
The Hellblade team has just released a new trailer that looks–and sounds–amazing. If you’re comfortable with binaural audio, make sure to watch with headphones on.
Now, stay with me for a moment here, because yes, it does look a bit like Ninja Theory is using mental illness in a sensational and possibly even harmful way. The voices in Senua’s head, the delusions she seems to be suffering–these are tropes that are usually pulled out as lazy shorthand for real experiences.
I’m willing to give Ninja Theory the benefit of the doubt, though. Last year, the team released a dev diary explaining the creative process that led them to Senua, and the care they’re taking in their portrayal of her mental illness. It doesn’t alleviate all my fears (there’s only so far good intentions and research can get you), but it’s full of reasons to hope that Hellblade will get it right–or at least make an interesting job of getting it wrong.