If you’ve read my previous posts, then you’ll know that I enjoyed playing Heavenly Sword a few months back, so understandably I was excited for a sequel.
But that was back in 2008.
Heavenly Sword was released in 2007 by Ninja Theory, not long after the release of the Playstation 3 console. The story contains Nariko – the daughter of Shen, the head of the clan as well as her master. Nariko was born in the year of a prophecy that told of the birth of the divine warrior. However, Shen’s child was in fact a girl, and after his wife passing away, his troubled relationship with Nariko began. Even their clan viewed her birth as an insult and therefore never treated her as a human being – the only person who did that was Nariko’s younger sister, Kai. Despite this, Shen trained Nariko and appointed her the protector of the Heavenly Sword – a cursed blade that drains the life of the wielder in exchange for great power. When King Bohan and his army attack Shen and their clan for the swords, Nariko becomes the wielder and essentially signed her death certificate. Hoping to use the sword’s power, she goes on a journey to diminish Bohan’s army and end the ongoing war once and for all.
This action-adventure game fulled by hack-and-slash segements, QTEs, puzzle solving (some really harsh ones at that), use of the SIXAXIS for ‘After Touch’ (clever mechanic but also quite frustrating), great characterization and emotional storyline made me wonder why it seemed to be a well-liked game but not as popular. Perhaps timing was an issue due to the PS3 release. Despite this, I felt the game was dragged out in some parts (especially the final boss fight) and difficulty in some parts, the presentation was beautiful and an enjoyable game. Hell, it was even made into a (bad) film and had a short animated series. So, it must have been a fairly successful game, right? Then why did there seem to be such a delay on Heavenly Sword 2?
Rumours circled round that a trilogy was in the works, and even some of the concept art for Heavenly Sword 2 had been leaked.
Well, it did sell well to begin with, it still reached platinum status a year later (I actually own the Essential edition). Granted, Ninja Theory went on to develop Enslaved: Odyssey to the West (2010), DmC: Devil May Cry (reboot, 2013) and Disney Infinity (2014), co-founder Tameem Antoniades stated this:
“We’ve had the story for the sequel for a while now. Hopefully, if this game is successful, then there’s no reason why there shouldn’t be a sequel and we’d very much like to go into that.”
On May 21st the following year, IT Manager ‘Peonic’ announced this:
“We’re not abandoning HS just on a whim because we want to go off and do something different – there’s a great huge raft of reasons behind us taking the direction we are – and it’s also the nature of the business that I’m not allowed to share any of those reasons with you. As for the ‘you’re just not doing HS2 NOW’ comments – well one thing you learn in this industry is that you never say ‘Never’. So I’m not going to say we’ll “never” go back and make HS2 – but it’s something I personally see as extremely unlikely.”
But why? The game seemed successful, and despite the ending of the game (spoiler free!), players wanted a sequel. Co-founder Nina Kristensen said this in defense:
“Well, with Kung-Fu Chaos, we worked exclusively with Microsoft; with Heavenly Sword, we worked exclusively with Sony. And it’s really a time for us to go cross-platform, so we ultimately turned it down. As a studio, we feel it’s the right thing to do. It makes things more commercially viable – and as an indie we have to be very commercially aware. It was great to work with Sony and get really intimate with the PS3 hardware; going forwards, that positions us to execute things properly on both PS3 and 360.”
I understand their reasoning, but surely if fans want another game, they would want to use that to their advantage?
I guess that’s why I was surprised that nearly two weeks ago (August 12th) a trailer revealing the game Hellblade was announced at Gamescon.
Being developed for the PS4 and PC, Hellblade follows a similar, but not completely the same, storyline (even though not much has been written or revealed about it): the follows Seuna – a woman from a Celtic background (it is supposedly based on a Celtic legend) as she travels through a hellish underworld. The story focuses on her mental state, and whether or not her psychosis manifestations are real or imaginary.
But you can see the similarities: both Heavenly Sword and Hellblade have warrior women as their protagonists; both of them wield swords; both of them are curse. And, correct me if I’m wrong but Seuna looks almost like Kai’s twin, but that may just be the make-up. Also, the titles – Hell is the opposite of Heaven; blade is another word for sword. Is it anyway related?
(Kai from Heavenly Sword is on the left; Seuna from Hellblade is on the right)
Well, according to Dominic Matthew’s (a member of the Ninja Theory team) interview with Eurogamer, it’s not:
“It’s a brand new IP. Senua is a new character. It’s not tied to Heavenly Sword at all. I saw someone describe the name as someone just putting Heavenly Sword into Thesaurus.com and going, oh it’s Hellblade. It’s not something where we’ve gone, yeah, let’s make people think it is this. We really like Heavenly Sword. We loved making that game. So it’s actually more just we like making female protagonists that look in a certain style. And we like swords. And we like hell. It’s more that.I know it might appear like we’ve just gone, let’s just stick it in a thesaurus…”
So, it’s not even a spiritual successor?
“No. I wouldn’t say it’s the spiritual successor to Heavenly Sword, because that has certain expectations. I think it’s safer to say if people enjoyed Heavenly Sword, then the aim is they’ll enjoy Hellblade, too. If we said it was the spiritual successor, there would be an expectation there is a story link or a certain type of gameplay or level design. It’s a new IP. It’s a brand new game. It’s brand new characters. It’s a brand new world. It’s not linked at all. But if you like Heavenly Sword, like Enslaved and like what we did, then the aim is you’ll like this, too.”
While I am sad that Heavenly Sword will not be a trilogy (I mean, let’s face it, all good things come in trilogies – Lord of the Rings, the Hobbit movies, Star Wars, etc., etc…), and there are a lot of similarities between Heavenly Sword and Hellblade, I am looking forward to it. In the amount of time between making these two games, I think that Heavenly Sword 2 has been cancelled so Ninja Theory could concentrate on other projects and Hellblade. But Seuna better be as badass as Noriko, otherwise my faith in Ninja Theory will be broken.
- Hellblade is going to be released sometime in 2016 for PS4 and PC.
- Check out the trailer for Heavenly Sword if you haven’t played it here.
- Check out the Gamescon trailer for Hellblade here.
- Check out the Hellblade gameplay trailer here.
Thank-you for reading and I hope you enjoyed! Sadly I am away this week – hence why I’ve written this entry today for this week instead of Sunday- but it’ll be back to normal the following week. Take care.