Hellblade 2 (Senua’s Saga) Review – Voices in My Head Get Louder

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 brings us another gripping, yet emotional tale of Senua as she goes through a picturesque journey in 9th century Iceland. While the narrative and sound design are out of this world, the gameplay leaves something to be desired. Fortunately, Hellblade 2 does a fantastic job of taking on its Unreal Engine 5 implementation with the overall experience being smooth.
A gripping tale of accepting while shaping your destiny.
Amazing voice acting with loveable and strong characters.
Extremely beautiful and haunting sound-design.
Improved combat with more heft.
Moment-to-moment gameplay feels dull and tedious.
Puzzles are frustrating and not fun.

When I first stepped into Senua’s world in 2017, I remember being overwhelmed with a mixture of feelings. Playing through the game, I wondered how it would feel to have voices in your head, judging your every move. As an overthinker myself, I strongly related to Senua’s journey and how she slowly learned to control the abyss inside her mind.

As I sit here writing this seven years later, Senua is a warrior and one who has almost conquered the voices in her head. As she continues her path painted with the blood of sacrifice and revenge, I am here alongside her, diving into the world of Hellblade 2. Thanks to a copy provided by Microsoft, I let the voices in my head transport me into Senua’s mystifying Icelandic world.

Well, is her thirst for vengeance finally quenched, or is this the end of Senua’s Saga? Bear with me as I talk about all that and more in my Hellblade 2 review below.

Destiny Is Built By Hope

Senua's first appearance in Hellblade 2

Senua’s Saga once again puts us in the shoes of the titular character, Senua, who suffers from Psychosis. The story occurs sometime after the first game in 9th-century Iceland, where Senua is out for revenge against the Northmen. For context, these were the people who annihilated Orkneyjar and killed her husband, thereby setting in motion the chain of events that would follow for Hellblade 2.

The first thing I noticed about Hellblade 2’s story is how dynamic it becomes. What initially starts off like a classic revenge tale quickly takes the direction of collective help. As Giants ravage their way across Iceland, Senua tasks herself to help the various clans suffering from this havoc.

Doing so not only prevents what happened to her clan but also helps in overcoming the pain, doubt, guilt, and frequent voices in her head.

Senua fighting her inner demons

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 takes the first game’s approach with the narrative, doubling down on the themes of loss and suffering. However, we now also have hope and destiny thrown into the mix. This interjection of themes occurs throughout the game and creates a beautiful combination of mesmerizing spectacles. This effectively pulled my heartstrings while keeping me in a trance all at once.

While I didn’t bawl my eyes out like in the first game, the message conveyed here felt empowering and emotional. In the end, destiny is for you to choose. You don’t have to follow what your forefathers did. If you believe in something and it is just, you can overcome their mistakes and set your path to success. This entire message resonated with me quite a lot.

“While I didn’t bawl my eyes out like the first game, the message conveyed through the game was empowering and emotional”

To that end, the story is beautifully written. My problem with narrative-heavy games is how they sometimes over-stuff themselves. This annoys me, as it tends to ruin the flow of a story. Thankfully, Hellblade 2 steers clear of that altogether. My entire 8-hour journey with Hellblade 2 was a process of falling in love with the game’s lore over and over again. If you enjoyed the first Hellblade, you’ll definitely fall in love with the latest iteration.

Stellar Voice Acting and Haunting Sound Design

Senua and her companions from Hellblade 2

While a good story is important for every game, it needs good voice actors to breathe it to life. Thankfully, Hellbalde 2’s glorious cast does that job, and then some. Melina Juergens returns once again to take on the mantle of Senua.

She brings her stellar acting from the first game, showcasing the same amount of emotion and power through every scene. Newcomers like Gudmundur Thorvaldsson as Fargrimr have so much personality and aura behind them that I particularly looked forward to his appearances in-game.

Other characters like Aldis Amah Hamilton as Astrior and Chis O’Reilly as Thorgestr bring their A-game. While they don’t have much screen time like any supporting character, they compellingly portray their character. Thorgester’s character arc of turning from a cynical daddy’s kid to a hopeful warrior is a wonderful feeling. And I feel that part shines a lot because of O’Reilly’s acting.

Of course, I cannot talk about Hellblade 2 without its main attraction—the voices. Furies are once again back, and they are ever so haunting. The sound design in this game is so beautiful that I’ve looked forward to each of their mumblings with a lot of focus. Steven Hartley also returns as darkness with his demonic low-pitched voice.

The narration and story-telling of Hellblade 2 get its life because of its phenomenal actors. For all its minor faults, Ninja Theory has never missed a mark in choosing the actors for their game. Be it Andy Serkis in Enslaved or Melina Juergens for Hellblade, they’ve barely missed the mark. And Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 is a case in point.


Hellblade 2 cinematic scene

While I’ve fawned over the story, the characters, and the sound design, I cannot say the same for the moment-to-moment gameplay. For the preface, I know this is a narrative-heavy game focusing on storytelling. However, I feel there should be more involvement from the players in a game like this.

I say this because Hellblade 2’s gameplay made me tear up from frustration. You still go from point A to B while the Furies whisper the horror. And you’ll occasionally fight the new enemies named Drugers or solve some puzzles.

First, the good part. The game doesn’t have any tutorial or heads-up display. It truly feels cinematic. Those black bars you see are there for a reason, and you cannot turn them off.

However, Furies will whisper clues and instructions in your ears. This seamless integration of Senua’s fragile mental state into gameplay is something I loved in the first game. And I am glad to see it return in Hellblade 2.

Hellblade 2 combat

The combat in Hellblade 2 is much more cinematic to fit the single-cut shots. However, it has been given more heft and fluidity. I could feel the sword’s weight slashing through the enemy’s skins when in combat. Senua can either use light or heavy attacks, dodge the opponent, charge, and attack, and finally use her focus to slow time and defeat her enemies.

“I love the idea of Ninja Theory tying these puzzles to the narrative, I cannot enjoy them for their tedious nature.”

But outside of combat, you are stuck solving the puzzles. It is similar to the first game, where you search the immediate vicinity to find items in the environment matching a symbol that blocks your way.

This exists to remind players of Senua’s mental health and how she views the world differently. There were only a handful of puzzles in-game for the main storyline, and I hated it. Every time one popped up, I rolled my eyes.

A standard puzzle example

The puzzles, while smart, slow down the game considerably. I never felt one of them fun and wanted to be done with it. This is sad because while I love the idea of Ninja Theory tying these puzzles to the narrative, I cannot enjoy them because of their tedious nature. Outside these two options, you don’t have a lot to do in gameplay except walk to the next portion of the game through beautiful locations.

You can find secrets by focusing on rocks, looking like human faces humans, and searching for the totems with a familiar voice from the first game. I guess part of me enjoyed the game more because of the environment, as gameplay hardly helped with the cause.

While the gameplay can be fun for new gamers, I found it to be more of the same formula and a bit frustrating. If Hellblade 2 has a slight blemish on its clear face, this would be it.

Performance: Breathtaking Next-Gen Visuals

While Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 might’ve caused a rift in my mind with its overall gameplay, its visuals impressed me. This entire game has been built from the ground up in Unreal Engine 5.

While I’m naturally skeptical of Hellblade 2, this game is, by far, the best implementation I’ve seen of it. Not only did the game not crash on me even once, but it looked near photorealistic the entire time.

Before I give you some hard numbers, you should know about our test bench. While Hellblade’s 2 system requirements are quite high, we had the rig to match it up. With that, here is our PC:

Test Bench:

RAM: Corsair Vengeance DDR4 8GBx2, overclocked at @3000 MHZ
Screen Resolution: 1080p

Let’s first talk about the actual performance without any upscaling. The game still runs on Unreal Engine’s Temporal Super Resolution by default. So even even if you don’t run the TSR, it enforces the upscaling.

There are other options for upscaling, like DLSS, FSR, and even Intel XeSS. However, one interesting thing is that I didn’t notice any noticeable frame-rate improvement when upscaling was turned on.

Throughout my time with the game at the highest settings, I got 75-80 FPS with stabilization around the former. The game did drop to 60FPS during intense moments, but that was temporary. While changing to DLSS with frame generation on and switching between settings did make it sharper, I did not notice any noticeable FPS improvements.

  • Hellblade 2 landscape
  • Hellblade 2 landscape shot 2
  • Hellblade 2 graphics
  • Hellblade 2 character shot

Hellblade 2 was heavier than titanium as the GPU cranked a whopping 95-99% for the most part, while the CPU stayed somewhere at 70%. Maybe this indicates the game relies more on your GPU to do the visual magic over the CPU. Which is welcoming, seeing that I don’t want to deal with another Starfield situation.

You will get many graphical options if you play on a PC. Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 comes with the usual lot of settings any Unreal Engine 5 game has. Hellblade 2 looks like a proper next-generation game in all aspects. However, the trade-off is, of course, it might turn your PC into an air fryer.

Ultimately, while Hellblade 2 certainly felt demanding even with upscaling turned on, it ensured the game maintained a consistent frame rate. I can live with losing a few frames, so long as I don’t have to deal with an inconsistent performance.

Verdict: Is Hellblade 2 a Darker Shade in Senua’s Story or a Blemish?

At first glance, Hellblade 2 might look like more of the first game but with a better budget. However, the game comes with improvements that were begging to be made.

This ranges from an outstanding narrative that tops the first one to an amazing sound design that awed and terrified me at once. Eye candy lovers will get lost as Senua travels through scenic Iceland locations and even connects with her perils.

I strongly believe that video games have become an interactive medium that tells compelling stories. While the first Hellblade helped kickstart this saga, Hellblade 2 reaffirms it with a beautiful journey. When all else is said and done, I recommend you grab a pair of the best ANC headphones and get lost in Hellblade 2.

Hellblade 2 is out on Steam, Xbox Series X/S, and Xbox Game Pass.

Beebom Score
Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2
Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 brings us another gripping, yet emotional tale of Senua as she goes through a picturesque journey in 9th century Iceland. While the narrative and sound design are out of this world, the gameplay leaves something to be desired. Fortunately, Hellblade 2 does a fantastic job of taking on its Unreal Engine 5 implementation with the overall experience being smooth.
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