Hellblade: Senua's Accent


#1

I’m sure there will be a bunch of posts and write ups on Hellblade in the coming days and weeks about such topics as mental health and perma death but I’m going to side step that now for something smaller.

The basic plot of Hellblade is about a Pictish Warrior from Orkney, Scotland travelling east into the realms of Norse mythology. What I find partly frustrating (only partly because of how well the voice actress does) is that Ninja Theory (a company in the UK) decided to use an English voice for the role of Senua. There are, so far, some other accents in the game, specifically Irish and Norse (although I can’t tell if the former are real or not) but no Scottish.

Full disclosure: I am Scottish. But this isn’t about having a rammy with the Auld Enemy (as fun as that usually is) or even about historical accuracy (a Pict isn’t going to speaking English, let alone with a modern Scottish accent). It’s more to do with giving a nod to the people whose culture and history you are using as inspiration for your game.


#2

I can understand being frustrated by that. I don’t know much about Celtic history, so I was expecting accents along the lines of Secret of Kells, which seems to be basically what they did.

I’ve played a couple hours of Hellblade so far and have been super impressed by the performance of the lead actress.

After Heavenly Sword introduced us to the criminally underused Anna Torv, I wanted to research Senua’s actress. Turns out the person they had lined up dropped out for a Netflix show at the last minute, so they ended up using the person that had been doing stand-in motion capture: Melina Juergens, Ninja Theory’s 25 year old video editor with no acting training in her life. There’s more in this dev diary, but she ended up learning mixed martial arts, working with an Olympic weightlifter, and doing groundbreaking mo-cap work. It’s really pretty amazing.


#3

I’ve not seen Secrets of the Kells but as it’s Irish I’m going to assume it’s Gaelic where as the Pictish were Brythonic Celts. But as I said, that’s neither here nor there. Hell, I would have been totally cool with them letting Melina’s German accent come through because I didn’t realise she did the voice as well, instead of using standard English.


#4

Huh, that’s interesting. I’ve only played 40 minutes or so, but I distinctly heard a German tint to her voice. I figured it was intentional.


#5

Her German accent definitely comes through at some points, you can tell Melina isn’t a trained actress (which makes her performance in the game all that more impressive).


#6

I wonder if it’s partly an accessibility thing? international people I think generally have an easier time with a baseline british english than they as you move further up the island. I do wish they’d gone for it though.


#7

Absolutely. I don’t know if the basic gameplay has me sticking with it, but her performance was fantastic.


#8

Surely if you put an Irish accent in, you could have a Scottish one also? I mean, I’m not even asking for an Orkney, even a posho Edinburgher would do.


#9

As a Dane I’m just happy that it doesn’t seem like there are any thick Danish accents in the game, because those are TERRIBLE.


#10

arguably there’s a difference between what you can do with the main character vs supporting characters, but yeah… these are arguments somebody might have made, not good ones really.

probably what actually happened they just wanted their protagonist to be relatable which meant making her close to whatever they considered the baseline human experience, IE: themselves. not even on purpose probably, it just happens if you don’t try.


#11

Secret of Kells is indeed full of legitimate Irish accents. I haven’t heard the hellblade accents but I’d be curious to verify whether or not the Irish in it is real.

It really does suck when a backstory is written with the choice that a character comes from a very specific real world place, but then they don’t match that accent at all. It feels totally unrepresentative, especially when I imagine Scottish accents are like Irish in that there’s often a fake “Irish” accent used in media that doesn’t match a real dialect but is read as Irish to the audience.