Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II (PC)

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is the long awaited sequel to Senua’s Sacrifice from Ninja Theory. Announced all the way back at the Xbox Series reveal, its been several years and several trailers later, but the Hellblade sequel has finally hit the shelves. Does it manage to have the same impact after all this time? Lets find out.

Senua is willingly captured by Northmen slavers and taken across the sea to Iceland, hoping to free her enslaved people. A storm destroys the slave ships and Senua washes up on shore. Senua soon experiences vivid hallucinations and is haunted by voices only she can hear, including the Shadow, the memory of her abusive father, and comes to realise the darkness hasn’t been defeated. It’s here, and she must find it’s source while helping to free her people from slavers.

Following on from the events of the first game, with a story video included to act as a refresher for this sequel, its probably not as good as the original with the overall flow of the narrative. For me it only started to get interesting with the introduction of the giants about half way through, leading up that was pretty mundane, but managed to hold that interest for the next few hours before what felt like an abrupt end – almost feels as if there was supposed to be more story. With the lack of multiple endings too, there ain’t enough of reason to return once done unfortunately. Sure there’s some collectibles, but with how linear it is, and only lasting 5-6 hours, there’s not actually much to the game.

Visuals is the one area of the game that towers above the original . Graphical fidelity is high, like playing an in-game cutscene, with almost the full feature set of Unreal Engine 5 used to good effect. Lumen handles the lighting for some striking moments, virtual shadow maps give cohesive shadows throughout, and nanite is a perfect fit for the rocky Nordic wastelands, with all manner of technologies used to bring the characters to life too. With how high quality the visuals are it can be hard to spot any downsides, and the game is surprisingly consistent in that regard. If anything maybe the fire is a bit weak, there’s some spotty reflections on the odd occasion, or the water can sometimes look like jelly, but otherwise there’s no complaints unless nitpicking like this.

Audio hasn’t quite had the same jump but its still good. Those pesky voices make a return, backed by a better 3D audio implementation, only now they can be too loud. Previously they were more of a whisper, but here the voices are full on and can even overshadow in-game dialogue to make some sections difficult to follow. Luckily all this audio & visual splendour doesn’t require the very best hardware, tho you will need something relatively good for 60fps. My system (R7 5800X3D/32GB/RTX 3090) was able to hit 4K/60 with the help of TSR dynamic resolution scaling, the games post processing is so thick you can hardly see the changes aside from far detail shimmer.

Now I’m fully aware of what Hellblade is considering I have played the original, but having gone through Senua’s Sacrifice VR recently – the gameplay regression here in comparison is all the more apparent. Combat is now devoid of any tension oddly enough, you never feel in danger as enemies step up one by one. It’s a simple case of dodge & counterattack for the most part as Senua’s mirror builds up its power, or you can learn the timing to parry instead, or just take the hit and slash back as its sometimes quicker. This weak combat is further exacerbated by the lack of memorable boss fights, if there is any?, which the original had a few of. I’m sure the duel with Thórgestr at the end of the opening chapter was supposed to be a boss, for example, but not sure doing an extra telegraphed move or two and soaking up damage makes for anything memorable over the scrubs cut down before.

The regression continues into the Runic puzzles. Previous game had some multi stage puzzles that could take some time & effort, like in the Valravn chapter, but usually with Hellblade II there’s little to do beforehand. Curiously the voices will also tell you what to do if you listen for it, all this time I just thought they were there to mock but I guess not. There was a couple of other times more was hinted at with a puzzle, but everything just quickly falls into place once the first clue is solved. Outside of these areas the rest of the game is just walking, or jogging, which probably makes up most of the game in truth. This wouldn’t be such a bad thing if not for the lack of interactivity, or even exploration, anywhere in the world. Sure you can find some secrets when seeing faces in the rocks to open a little cul-de-sac, but the game is so linear that invisible walls are everywhere else to keep you on the straight & narrow.

Hellblade II is without a doubt a poster child for Unreal Engine 5, making use of all its tricks to deliver a visually impressive title. Aside from that its a step back from its predecessor. The story takes its time to get going (almost half the game) and just wasn’t as interesting to me, the gameplay doesn’t build on the original in any way either, instead stripping it to the essentials for an even simpler playthrough that can be done in 6 hours. This game could go either way if you enjoyed Senua’s Sacrifice. You’ll enjoy the continuation, or like me, its a sequel that ends up feeling like a disappointment.



Lacks much of the magic & impact of Senua’s previous journey, but at least it looks great?

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Geoffrey Wright

Rocking the world of gaming since the Atari 2600, has now settled down to bask in the warmth of moe. Moe is life for a moe connoisseur.

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