‘Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II’ review: Dark atmosphere, but lacks punchiness from Mashable

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Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is the direct follow up to 2017’s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice.

This sequel doubles down on what made the first one so enjoyable, with its incredibly dark atmosphere and concise storytelling. However, like its predecessor, Hellblade II’s gameplay and combat didn’t improve much.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II plot

Hellblade II takes place after the events of the first game, and sees Senua trekking through 10th century Iceland in order to enact revenge against the Vikings who’ve ravaged her homeland. However, she gets shipwrecked and ends up on a completely different journey to kill mythical giants.


Credit: George Yang / Ninja Theory

While I won’t divulge any spoilers, the story is intentionally disorienting in order to reflect Senua’s mental state and how she has to live with trauma. What makes the storytelling engaging is the various voices inside Senau’s head that either reassures or doubts her. The constant whispers really adds to the creepy and dark atmosphere throughout the entire game.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II characters

While Senua herself is a compelling character, what makes Hellblade II feel more lively than its predecessor are its three new characters: Thórgestr, Fargrímr, and Ástríðr.


Credit: George Yang / Ninja Theory

They’re companions that join Senua will meet throughout her journey and act like party members in an RPG. While they don’t provide any direct gameplay benefits, the three characters interact with each other during the story. This reinforces one of the game’s themes which is forging genuine connections, something that Senua struggles with.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II combat and mechanics

Combat and gameplay is where Hellblade II falters the most. It feels bland and uninspired. Enemies will throw attacks at you and Senua is able to dodge, block, and parry them. Occasionally, Senua can slow down time and get in a few extra sword strikes.


Credit: George Yang / Ninja Theory

While this foundation is fine, the game doesn’t evolve past these basic mechanics. I understand that Hellblade II‘s priority isn’t its combat, but it feels very repetitive. There aren’t aspects like skill points or other RPG mechanics, so that may turn off some players.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II Graphics

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is incredibly gorgeous with its photorealistic graphics.


Credit: George Yang / Ninja Theory

The characters are lifelike and environments are both varied and gorgeous. All of the game’s locations are based on real-world Iceland, including Freyslaug and Reykjanesta — and Senua’s adventures will have her trekking across beautiful forests, mountains, and caves. The photorealism really adds to the overall immersion of the game.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II soundtrack and audio

The game’s soundtrack and audio design also adds to the game’s sinister atmosphere. As such, many of the tracks are subdued, even in combat. Don’t go in expecting electric guitars or epic melodies. However, the soundtrack serves its purpose. And as mentioned before, Senua’s inner thoughts being played in the background really helps with immersion.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II challenge and difficulty

Hellblade II features some puzzle solving, such as lining up shapes to open new areas, which thematically fits well into Senua’s psychosis and seeing patterns where there aren’t. They aren’t particularly challenging, but they’re not insultingly easy either.


Credit: George Yang / Ninja Theory

The game also has four different difficulty settings for its combat to fit your experience. Are you in it just for the story? Easy mode is for you. If you want more of a challenge, “hard mode” is available, too. There’s also a great suite of accessibility options, such as  being able to switch action buttons to either hold or toggle — and the ability to automatically succeed in button-mash sequences.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II performance

Also, Hellblade II has flawless performance. Load times are reasonable; I experienced no issues whatsoever. There weren’t any stutters, low framerates, or crashing of any sort on the Xbox version.

Is Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II worth getting?

There isn’t much replay value after experiencing the story, aside from picking up collectibles you may have missed your first time around. Hellblade II has a generous chapter select system that even tracks how many collectibles you still have to find.

Hellblade II is also a digital-only title, so the savings are passed down to the consumer. As a result, it costs $49.99 instead of $59.99 or $69.99 like most AAA games nowadays. Some might think that the price is still too high for a 10-12 hour game with low replayability. However, the game will be available through Xbox Game Pass.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is a moody narrative adventure game that doesn’t overstay its welcome. With great, yet somewhat bloated, games like Final Fantasy VII Rebirth and Like a Dragon: Infinite Wealth that demand dozens of hours to finish, Hellblade II is a breath of fresh air. Although the gameplay and combat stumble, the graphics and atmosphere are unmatched.

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