Senua's Saga: Hellblade II Review | Xbox Series X

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II is intended for fans of narrative-driven, interactive games and those curious about Senua's future.

By Rayan, Posted 25 May 2024

After its 2017 release, Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice received mostly positive reviews. An unusual and unforgettable experience made possible by its immersive audio, despite the game's linear narrative and light puzzle-solving and fighting elements. Allowing the player to go through Senua's mental breakdown and her struggle with her demons. After what seems like an eternity, the highly anticipated sequel has finally arrived in 2024, and we were understandably curious about how it compares to the original and what Ninja Theory has been doing too since then.

When comparing the original Senua's Saga with Hellblade II, there are many noticeable changes—not all of them positive—but there are also many places where the game is quite impressive. Simply stating that Senua's Saga: Hellblade II is an RPG would be a stretch. Hellblade II has certain gameplay mechanics that are typical of games, but overall, it feels more like a visual thriller.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II, Review, Xbox Series X, Gameplay, Screenshot, Female Protagonist, NoobFeed

One of the game's primary concerns is depicting Senua's mental state, as she suffers from acute insanity and hears voices all the time. Developers wanted us to feel that the masterfully recorded voices were coming from all directions, so they suggested always starting the game with stereo headphones. Impressively, this accomplishes its intended goal of providing a thrilling and immersive experience. Equally impressive and, most importantly, convincing is the recreation of Iceland's countryside. Ninja Theory's dedication is also evident, aside from a few birds, the lack of wildlife is the main drawback. The overall plot struggles with pacing, but Senua's story remains captivating and she is an unusual protagonist.

Though it is good to have a recap, Senua's Saga: Hellblade II picks up nearly exactly where the original game left off; yet, it is sparse and could have provided more. As Senua comes to terms with her demons, she sees that nothing she did in the last game prevented the Viking raiders from plundering her kingdom and enslaving those who lived there.

To eliminate the cause of the problem, she decides to be arrested and transported to Iceland by boat in the hopes of locating and eliminating the raiders' leader. The voyage does not go according to plan, and she ends up shipwrecked on the island's chilly, foreboding shores. She confronts and eliminates one of the raiders, and then she makes him show her the way to the stronghold deep in the interior, where the head of the band hides.

The dark narrative of Senua's Saga: Hellblade II dates back to the first part, which takes about six hours to complete across six chapters. In that section, we met a cast of fantastical characters who will follow Senua on her adventure across Iceland. Compared to the events of the previous narrative—which were lacking in people—each of these characters plays a significant role in the story, world events, and our own lives, giving the events greater depth and making them more powerful.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II, Review, Xbox Series X, Gameplay, Screenshot, Female Protagonist, NoobFeed

Unfortunately, getting to this citadel is no picnic. Senua meets two interesting characters, each with their motivations for accompanying her on the difficult voyage.  Even though Senua's psychosis is still interesting to see, it loses its punch and doesn't have much of an impact on the plot or gameplay in this sequel. The game's length of six hours is excessive, with an uninspired first half and a rushed second half leading to a disappointing final act.

While the shadows that overran Senua's homeland may not be here, we discover that the land is plagued by giants—tall, distorted humanoid monsters that viciously assault human communities. Strange cults and shamans like the ones she left behind are not the only ones she encounters. Defeating these demons and controlling her thoughts are both necessary for Senua to reach her destiny. Though it gets off to a slow start, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II hits its stride in the fourth chapter, when the events in Iceland are fully revealed and Senua embarks on her journey to become the primary savior of these people. And due to the outstanding directing, the performances, the special effects, and these fantastic characters all merge seamlessly.

Many aspects of the game are top-notch, but the gameplay is one where I nearly thought it was lacking. While it has been a long time since I played the original Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, I do recall that it placed a heavy focus on exploration, puzzles, and fighting. Although the main focus remained on Senua's internal struggles, I noticed an increase in the frequency of battle, puzzles, and exploration as we explored places in search of solutions.

On the other hand, this game's gameplay was incredibly linear; in fact, there were moments when I felt like I was riding a platform when I pressed the sprint button and moved forward. The combat is heavily restricted to a small portion of the game. As things stand, you'll usually encounter a battle scene when you'll face off against four or five enemies. Once that's over, you'll be immediately back on the path. Combat, and particularly puzzles, keep pulling me out of the story, even if the story and setting are utterly engrossing. Fights are easier for me to forgive. Their fascinating nature ensures that they are over in the blink of an eye. As for the frequency with which they appear, I would not classify Senua's Saga: Hellblade II as an action game.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II, Review, Xbox Series X, Gameplay, Screenshot, Female Protagonist, NoobFeed

It is fairly simple to decipher the enemy's assault patterns, and the space for evasion gap is quite large. Furthermore, enemies launch their attacks sequentially. The setting is very stunning. Because they are often only partially identifiable due to masks or disfigurement, enemies are, on the one hand, incredibly terrifying. However, the sword combat is well-choreographed and packed with intensity. As soon you plunge a sword into an enemy, they push you to the floor; it is only at the last second that you can seize his axe and smash it into his head.

Because the fights always go in the same predictable way, fewer of them would have been unnecessary. But they do a good job of showing how cruel the world is. Disappointment washed over me because I recall enjoying the riddles in the original game. Unlike the original game, which had an open world and demanding gameplay, this one follows a linear path. However, there is very little in the way of combat, puzzles, or exploration, and the game is quite linear, so you are just riding on the tracks the whole time. No matter how much I tried to avoid it, there were numerous points when I felt like I was trapped in a walking simulator.

Puzzles, or more specifically shape hunting, are another foundation of Hellblade's gameplay. The scenarios that were criticized in the first game appear to have been chosen because they fit the concept, at least in my opinion. They must be squared with the results of the Rorschach test; Senua's insanity causes her to see shapes where none exist. While the last game took place exclusively in Helheim, this puts place in the real world for a significantly bigger portion, and Ninja Theory doesn't even incorporate the most basic physics challenges. As a result, the gameplay gets uninspiring very soon.

The light-turning mechanism in Alan Wake 2 altered the situation in more intriguing and unexpected ways, but I still despise the game for having puzzles that held the player rooted for minutes and could only be overcome by chance rather than brains. Strangely, the developers have refrained from even slightly engaging the story's reality and expanding its context. It all adds up to the puzzles not having changed much from the original game. We were hoping for more from Ninja Theory after seven years.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II, Review, Xbox Series X, Gameplay, Screenshot, Female Protagonist, NoobFeed

When you approach an object, though, the game doesn't tell you anything about whether it's an interactive part or not. While it's true that you won't spend a ton of time aimlessly pushing buttons and exploring the environment, I can't help but wonder when the focus shifts from the user experience to the game's attempt at realism. That, along with the fact that you're essentially just walking ahead for the most part, made me feel like the game was lacking. On top of that, the gameplay is often detracted from to achieve mainstream acceptance and realism.

Since Senua's Saga: Hellblade II does not use the full screen for user interface elements at any point in the game, what I mean is that there are no visual prompts or anything like that. You can tell you're playing a game, but there are no actual game-like features. Everything you'd expect, like health bars, maps, objects, and configurable key signs, is missing. Everything you see here appears like a wide-screen movie, the kind of obscurity that can make you feel like you're drowning in it, and depictions of people, Senua included. There were moments when the gameplay was so lacking that I felt like I was watching an interactive movie rather than playing a game; all I could do was hold the stick forward.

It would be unfair not to mention how impressive Senua's Saga: Hellblade II's visuals are. With its heavy focus on hyperrealism, this Unreal Engine 5 portrayal might be among the greatest we've seen thus far in the industry. Nowadays, it's common for games to have impressive cinematic teasers that have heavily enhanced graphics, only to have a poor release version owing to performance issues; nevertheless, in this case, the performance was really rather good. There was a lot of hyper-realistic emphasis on detail, and the visual consistency in this game was spot on; the outcome looked considerably good, especially when it came to the lighting on individuals and details like hair, characters' sweating, eye movement, etc.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II, Review, Xbox Series X, Gameplay, Screenshot, Female Protagonist, NoobFeed

On the same note, the sound design of Senua's Saga: Hellblade II is really impressive. Everything about the sound design of the game is top-notch, from the music to the atmospheric noises to the voice acting.  Not many games show off neural acoustics like this one does. Melina Juergens’ performance is undoubtedly praiseworthy. Specifically, you could hear voices speaking to you in a variety of ways, such as whispers in one ear, then another, and so on, as if they were moving from side to side of your brain. It is incredibly well done, yet it gives you the creeps. The music composition for this game is quite outstanding and it's not only the eerie voices that are always whispering to you, resembling Senua's madness.

One of the most disappointing things about the game, in my opinion, is how long it is. I managed to get through the entire game in just around six hours. There's more to discover, but even with that, I don't think players who want to go all in and uncover everything will be able to keep going past the seven or eight-hour mark. That is something to take into account when measuring the cost of a game. There seems to be a lot of consideration for the number of hours per dollar when purchasing this game; at $30 for something like five or six hours, it seems like a lot to ask for considering the quality of what you receive with many similar games these days.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II is intended for fans of narrative-driven, interactive games and those curious about Senua's future. Outstanding sound and graphic design, along with a presentation devoid of any head-up displays, provide for a first-rate story experience. Even if it's based on unsteady, chilly ground, the sequel manages to do just enough correctly to keep the excitement going.


The target audience for Senua's Saga: Hellblade II is certain to be narrow. This game is purely designed for fans of narrative-heavy games where the gameplay takes a back seat, as well as those who want to play the sequel to the original. Some portions are spot on, and other parts fail badly at maintaining the mood while attempting to stay true to the concept. On the other hand, it is highly difficult to recommend this game due to its linear plot-oriented experience, lack of fighting, and difficulty in completing puzzles. The gameplay is unpleasantly repetitive, with essentially the same puzzles appearing again and time again. You can almost tell Senua's Saga: Hellblade II is more of an interactive movie than a game due to how severely weak the gameplay is.

Azfar Rayan (@AzfarRayan)
Senior Editor, NoobFeed

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General Information

Platform(s): PC, XBSX
Publisher(s): Microsoft Game Studios
Developer(s): Ninja Theory
Genres: Action, Adventure
Themes: Dark Fantasy, Puzzle, Fighting
Release Date: 2024-05-21

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