Aug 28, 2007
Four years in the making at Sony’s Cambridge studios, Heavenly Sword is unashamedly the bi-product of Ninja Theory’s obsession/adoration for the chop-socky, swordplay-filled flicks of yesteryear. Part Shaw Brothers flick, part Red Sonja with a peppering of Wushu, the developer even went as far as hiring the same sound masters who provided the battle sound effects on Ang Lee’s Oscar-nabbing Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon to supply the noise of steel clashing with steel in one-to-one brawls and battlefield fisticuffs. Not a single sliver of creativity has been left unexplored here and it shows.
Ninja Theory has put a vast amount of time and work into scriptwriting and rendering the stunning cutscenes that play out with the emotional resonance of a big summer blockbuster. You won’t want to skip through these thanks to the work of Andy Serkis, he of Gollum and King Kong fame. Serkis worked on the dramatics with the game’s stellar cast - including John Rambo’s nemesis from Rambo II, Steven Berkoff - at WETA Digital’s swanky new motion-capture studio in New Zealand.
And frankly, Serkis is ultimately a massive part of why Heavenly Sword works so well as not only a game, but also as a hugely engaging adventure story about love, honour, family and steel. Serkis is King Bohan, a ruthless bastard of a leader who believes that he is some sort of messenger sent from the heavens above with one thing on his mind - capture the Heavenly Sword from Nariko and her clan guard.
Opening on Nariko’s death (which seems to be a gaming zeitgeist these days) you play through the flame-haired fighter’s last days before she’s killed by the titular sword in the midst of a gargantuan battle with Bohan’s army. You must then hack and slash through gorgeous countryside landscapes, vast castles, snow-covered towns and dusty arenas in a bid to keep the sword from Bohan’s possession and protect both your city and people at the same time. Essentially, Bohan must die, his armies must be destroyed and Nariko, we’re led to believe, is dead by the time the closing game credits start to roll. Of course, we’ve finished it and know what happens, but we’re not cold-hearted enough to spoil the game’s ending for our readers.