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Hellblade 2: When Will We See The Sequel?

"Hellblade" introduced players to the Pictish warrior Senua, one of the most impactful video game characters in the industry's history. Ninja Theory's innovative approach to development, along with its meticulous and research-backed portrayal of Senua's mental illness, touched the minds and hearts of many. The action-adventure title helped players who have experienced psychosis or other mental distress feel less alone, even saving one fan's life in the process. The studio accomplished all of this with a 20-person team and a reduced budget.

These feats caught the attention of Microsoft, which acquired Ninja Theory in 2018, giving it the funding and support it needed to tackle new projects with its signature curiosity and style. Following the Microsoft buy, Ninja Theory unveiled "Hellblade 2: Senua's Saga" at The Game Awards in 2019. Despite announcing the high-profile game years ago, the studio has yet to provide a release date for the sequel. Beyond the occasional update and peeks at the development process, prospective players have learned little about the follow-up. After the long wait, gamers hope to see "Hellblade 2" in the near future. But is this little more than a pipe dream?

Hellblade 2 has a larger scale than the original

It took about three years for Ninja Theory to develop "Senua's Saga." However, thanks to the infusion of capital from Microsoft, players can expect a much grander scope from the sequel. "The goal with 'Hellblade 2' isn't to perfect [the format] but to create an experience that feels more believable and more refined," Ninja Theory co-founder Tameem Antoniades told NME. "Its ambition in terms of scale is bigger. I think 'Hellblade 2' will make 'Hellblade' look like an indie game."

The studio will realize this ambition using the power of Unreal Engine 5. As one of the first Xbox Series X games to utilize the creation tool, "Hellblade 2" no doubt faces additional time demands as the team adapts to the broader requirements and capabilities. Remaining on the cutting edge of technology comes with its own costs as trailblazers often must discover the best path forward through trial and error.

Ninja Theory has provided glimpses of what this expanded approach means for the follow-up's production process (and thus timeline). The team has invested significant resources into recreating Iceland in-engine. Bolstering this dedication to realism, it has also made and scanned actual costumes for the characters, and the animators, along with Senua actor Melina Juergens, have trained to learn the ins and outs of combat in the real world. Add in the fact that "Hellblade 2" uses motion capture to bring its scenes to life, and it's clear that it will require more than three years to complete and polish.

Other Ninja Theory projects may draw out Hellblade 2 production

Rather than just focusing on "Hellblade 2," Ninja Theory has split its attention between the sequel and at least two other endeavors: "Project Mara" and The Insight Project.

Billed as an "experimental title," "Project: Mara" will offer a realistic exploration of "mental terror." Similar to "Hellblade," the game depends on research and real-world perspectives to capture its subject matter in a sensitive way. Beyond this, Ninja Theory has described "Project: Mara" as its "most ambitious and realistic game setting ever," with Antoniades highlighting the fact the company is testing out brand new techniques to accomplish its goals. This includes painstakingly recreating the apartment where "Project: Mara" takes place in-engine.

Before announcing that work on "Project: Mara" had started in 2020, Ninja Theory unveiled The Insight Project in late 2019. A joint effort with Paul Fletcher, a psychiatrist and Professor of Health Neuroscience at the University of Cambridge, The Insight Project combines gaming, technology, and science to research and create new ways to detect and treat mental health issues. Designed to progress over multiple years, the endeavor probably remains in its early stages.

Given the amount of testing and analysis needed to pull off "Project: Mara" and The Insight Project, it's safe to conclude that Ninja Theory has its hands full with all three of its known endeavors. Much like learning the ins and outs of Unreal Engine 5, it will likely take time to figure out what works and what doesn't regarding design approaches and production schedules at this new stage in the studio's evolution.

Will Hellblade 2 release in 2023?

The Xbox Series X has had a fairly scant lineup since hitting the market. Xbox head Phil Spencer acknowledged this while speaking to IGN at the start of the year, and has previously pledged to do "better" when it comes to "delivering quality & consistency" in the wake of the "Starfield" and "Redfall" delays. Parent company Microsoft recently shared plans to lay off thousands of employees and could feel the pressure to deliver multiple major titles over the next few months. Has this pressure altered Ninja Theory's plans for "Hellblade 2"?

While none of the parties involved have commented on the production schedule, industry insider Jeff Grubb offered some potential insight on the matter in September 2022. According to him, "Hellblade 2" appeared on Xbox's "internal schedule" of releases for the 2023 window. Though he emphasized the possibility of a delay, he pinpointed "Senua's Saga" as the most likely to hit that projected target, with "a strong chance of coming out in the second half of [2023]."

Given the scope of the sequel and the fact that it had yet to enter full production by mid-2021, this might be a bit of a stretch. Urging from Microsoft could force Ninja Theory to release "Hellblade 2" before it's ready; however, the studio stated that it had made retaining "full creative independence" one of its acquisition requirements. If this proves the case, players can probably expect to see the sequel launch within the next 1-3 years.