This Xbox exclusive had its devs travel 2,500km for photorealistic gameplay

Ninja Theory, the team behind the third-person action-adventure game Senua’s Story: Hellblade 2, is back with another Dev Diary full of interesting information about how they travelled overseas and skies to give fans photo-realistic gameplay and better world-building.

Ninja Theory knew early on that Hellblade 2, which is only for Xbox, would take place in Iceland. When the team started coming up with ideas for this sequel, that was fine, but problems arose because of the distance as time went on. Ultimately, the story is about Senua, a native of Iceland, and her quest to get her lover’s soul back from the goddess Hela.

Dan Attwell, the environment art director at Ninja Theory, said in a Dev Diary, “When we decided that the locations would be based on real places in Iceland, we knew we needed some pretty good references for that” (opens in new tab). “But searching for images on Google will only get you so far.”

After getting elevation data for the whole island of Iceland and using a service called Drone Deploy to map out 3D models of more specific locations, the team knew there was one more thing they needed to do to make sure Hellblade 2 was as realistic as it needed to be. The time had come to go.

Field Trip

Attwell said, “We realized that we had to go bigger.” “So we added 21 places to the trip, which meant we had to drive 2,500 km over 11 days.” That’s a challenging thing to do.

The Ninja Theory team could go to old buildings and see what life was like for people in Iceland in the 10th century. “We don’t want to make what we think it looks like”, Attwell said. “We want to stay as close as possible to how the real thing would have looked.”

In the end, it was all worth it to plan and travel. The developers understood what Senua’s life would be like because they went to some of Iceland’s most northern places. In turn, this should make it possible for Hellblade 2 to have photo-realistic graphics for the Xbox Series X|S and for the stories it wants to tell to take place in real places.

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