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Ninja Theory, the Cambridge-based studio behind the likes of Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West and DmC: Devil May Cry, has announced the development of a new game that will "be a real-world and grounded representation of mental terror", Project: Mara.
Ninja Theory was acquired by Microsoft in 2018, and revealed in late 2019 that it was to launch The Insight Project, a collaboration with the University of Cambridge that aimed to create experiences to help people identify and control negative emotions.
Project: Mara would seem to be a part of that. In a brief blog post on Xbox Wire, the studio confirmed that Mara is an "experimental title that explores new ways of storytelling", and is being designed to "recreate the horrors of the mind as accurately and realistically as possible".
The studio also included Project: Mara in a development diary video - which you can see on YouTube, and embedded below - that also provides an update on Senua's Saga: Hellblade II. The sequel to Ninja Theory's award-winning release of 2017 is said to be "an experience comparable to the epic myths and sagas of old", and will build on the "madness and suffering" of the first game.
As much as Hellblade was notable for its depiction of psychosis, crafted in partnership with neuroscientists and the Wellcome Trust, and earned plaudits for its efforts, the game wasn't without its critics. Writer Dia Lacina outlined its mental illness shortcomings in a piece for Polygon, and has again been vocal about what she sees as Ninja Theory's continued exploitation of serious conditions for entertainment and, well, awards. And she's far from alone in taking this position on Hellblade and what's being promised of its sequel.
Personally, I have some concerns about a new Ninja Theory project being sold as focusing on "mental terror", if the studio hasn't taken on board the less-fawning feedback to Hellblade. That game did a lot of things right, but players with mental health conditions of their own, such as Sam Greer in writing for Eurogamer, highlighted how it was also compromised in its vision.
Perhaps Project: Mara will be developed addressing this kind of reception. We'll have to wait and see, as details on it are super-thin on the ground (although a peek at Twitter shows us that Hellblade actress Melina Juergens seems to be involved, again). But given Ninja Theory's relationship with Microsoft, we should expect Project: Mara to be exclusive to Xbox consoles and PC, in the same vein as Senua's Saga: Hellblade II.
Before then, Ninja Theory will release its four-on-four multiplayer brawler game Bleeding Edge on March 24th, for PC and Xbox One. That probably won't have much to do with mental terror, TBH.
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