Hellblade was a critical hit. It was praised a lot by both the critics and the fans. The combat of the game specially stood out among the other gameplay elements. The game was developed by a small group of talented developers (around 15) at Ninja Theory and since it was a hit, Hellblade 2 is under development.
The combat of the first game was designed by one Juan Fernandez who is also now working on the combat design of the second game. In a detailed interview with Spanish Website Vandal, Juan talks about the combat of the first game and how he wants to improve the things for the second one. He admitted that there were some things he wanted to for Hellblade but couldn’t due to certain restraints. However since, now they have better backing and bigger team of talented people, they can focus and push the boundaries as they desire.
Upon being asked about the impact of Epic’s Unreal Engine 5, he had following to say (rough translation):
Unreal 5 has some very good technical features such as new lighting or geometry systems, but my work as a combat designer has not changed drastically from Unreal 4 to 5. The best thing about Unreal is that it puts in the palm of the hand of people who are not super technical, who do not know how to program, like me, who do not know how to chop code in C + + with Visual Studio, but Unreal gives me all kinds of interconnected systems that allow me to manipulate elements of the game and I can prototype and create game systems in a self-sufficient way without depending on a programmer who changes code and makes me a new build to see the changes, which was how it was worked in the past. Not only designers, but also artists of environments, effects or sound can visually put their ideas on the screen and, although it may not be the most efficient way, many times we prototype things and then the programmer comes and says: “okay, I understand what you want, now we are going to do it more efficiently or we are going to pass it to code” but the first step from the idea to the Screen and from there iterate very quickly, that is the magic of Unreal, its advantage over other engines, although now what Unreal has done is as very established. I think it’s the one with the best set of tools to allow you to do that kind of prototyping.
So while his combat design work hasn’t changed a lot, UE5 has helped developers who aren’t that technical. It has definitely made the task of designers quite easy.
Juan has also talked about his experience working on Playground Games’ Fable and how efficient and talented the team is and how is complete confidence in the IP. If you want to check out the complete interview yourself, you can go read it here.