Senua's Saga: Hellblade II

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II Review

It is difficult to say Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is just a video game. While there are clearly elements that make it a game, the experience throughout Hellblade II tends to lean more towards a visual novel than anything else.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II takes place after the events of Hellblade: Senua’s Saga. Senua finds herself being escorted across the ocean to become a slave for a Viking leader. The boat hits an intense storm and capsizes. Senua, who is now almost crippled, emerges as a lone survivor. What was meant to be her final trip then turns into a journey to seek revenge against the Viking who raided her homeland.

Of course, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II follows the original’s approach in almost every way. Instead of turning Senua into an RPG character who you can grow with throughout the story, Senua doesn’t change much. Instead, the game explores her mental state and touches on Senua’s psychosis.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II

The voices that accompanied Senua in the first game are also back and they forever provide dialogue to the game’s story and cutscenes. If anything, these voices are more predominant than before and can get annoying at times. Often, I would struggle to hear the actual character dialogue in the game due to these at-times-annoying voices screaming over one another.

This matters because Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II relies heavily on its story. There isn’t much of a “game” here. The experience wants your eyes glued to the screen at all times. It wants you to listen to every line of dialogue, witness every flashback and throughout it all, feel the emotions.

Combat in Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is also as watered-down and simple as one would expect from a narrative-driven game like this. Senua has one sword which she can swipe around to attack her opponent. Timing the perfect parry then triggers a counterattack. She can also scurry left and right in a sort of dodge movement. However, this was seldom used.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II

Senua does obtain a mirror in the early parts of the game which somehow grants her the power to stun her opponent and slow down time. This often resulted in her dealing heavy damage while the enemy was stunned.

But that’s about it. Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II’s combat doesn’t go anywhere. Senua doesn’t obtain new skills, there’s no improvement to her gear and her one sword remains the only way to attack opponents. Even though various enemies drop different weapons such as spears, axes and maces, she can’t pick them up and use them. Although, I was often so invested in the game I had to wonder why Senua didn’t think about doing this herself. It would have added a bit of combat variety to the game.

Ninja Theory Greenlit Game Xbox Hellblade 2

Keep in mind that the combat in Hellblade II isn’t meant to be the game’s focus. This is a narrative-driven experience, of course. So I didn’t mind it not going anywhere. The same way I fought enemies at the start of the game was the same way I did it at the end. It still delivered some intense moments. This is thanks to its great camera work and the idea that Senua is just a human and can be killed in only a few hits.

The combat plays a small role in delivering the Hellblade II package and most of the game is spent walking through the world. These long walks act as opportunities for the game’s narrative tidbits to play out. Those “voices” chime in every now and then and Senua would have some deep and meaningful discussions with the people travelling alongside her.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II

Much of my time spent in Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II was spent walking around. Literally walking for hours across linear pathways which span across some gorgeous locations in 10th century Iceland. The odd puzzle popped up here and there where I had to scan floating objects to register symbols in Senua’s mind and essentially unlock the next linear walkway.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 is a perfect example of using games as an art form, to say the least. These long walks let me take in the beauty of the game. Every environment has been intricately crafted to the utmost detail. The rolling hills are littered with rocks and puddles of water that look and feel almost too real. Even the most boring cave sections are wonderfully delivered thanks to their high-detailed assets and finely crafted rocks.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II

I know I am going on about rocks a lot here but Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is an absolute gem when it comes to its visuals. I have never seen anything like it. Unreal Engine 5 powers this game and the sheer beauty on offer here makes this worth the playthrough. Even if you’re looking for a more adventure-based game.

From a technical point of view, the experience is top-tier. There’s one specific moment in the game where Senua drains a lake of water. The water flows down into a cave below which she then needs to explore. However, the whole scene of the water draining down into the cave is in real-time. To stand there and witness this large body of water disappear and flow down in a drain-like motion was beautiful and unlike anything I have seen in gaming.

Hellblade 2

I don’t think the world in Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is as well-designed as the original, however. The first game featured a bit more eye candy to take in. Hellblade II, on the other hand, is set among empty hills and caverns. Beyond the odd town here and there, the game doesn’t have much to stand around and gawk over which is a shame. These environments do start to blend together and feel the same.

Beyond the odd optional pathway, which often led to a collectable, there’s absolutely no sense of discovery at all either. You just walk from point A to point B. You then rinse and repeat the same process for all the game’s chapters. Some chapters do toss in a puzzle but these aren’t remotely difficult and are often just as linear to solve as the world is to walk through.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II

Again, I wasn’t playing Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II for the gameplay. I kind of knew what I was in for. This so-called “game” is a technical showcase and you have to want to appreciate that to enjoy this experience. From the sound design to the cinematic showpieces. Hellblade II proves what is possible if you spend years crafting a technically advanced game.

Of course, there are also the emotional and mental aspects at play here too. Senua is crippled by her past and the darkness which follows her around. The story pushes this a lot and there are many moments where I was forced to play witness to her anguish. Some may relate to her struggles while others may not. But it doesn’t take away from the game. The facial capture tech at play also delivers every emotion Senua feels throughout her journey. It is magical.

I then need to mention the game length because Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is a short experience. I finished the game in just over six hours. I know this might sound short but I felt like it was a decent length given how little the game grows over time. From a gameplay perspective, Hellblade II goes absolutely nowhere. Making this a 10+ hour game would turn it into a slog.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II

I think the 6-hour mark delivered the perfect time to take in all the game’s technical beauty and connect with Senua. It also suits Game Pass if you think about it. This isn’t a game you’re likely purchasing so spending R1000+ on a 6-hour game is not right.

However, you can play it on Game Pass means you’ll finish it in a day or two and move on with your life. In a way, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II feels like it was made for Game Pass.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is a technical masterpiece and a decent narrative-driven experience. Sure, some characters and story arcs feel underdeveloped but hopefully, there’s more to come. I don’t think Hellblade II will change the industry and I don’t think we’ll be talking about it in five years, but right now, it is likely the most relevant game you can play.

This Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II review is based on a PC code sent to us by Microsoft. 

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II Review


While the gameplay doesn’t go anywhere and the story often feels underdeveloped, as a technical showcase, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is a masterpiece and likely the most relevant game you can play right now.

Marco is the owner and founder of GLITCHED. South Africa’s largest gaming and pop culture website. GLITCHED quickly established itself with tech and gaming enthusiasts with on-point opinions, quick coverage of breaking events and unbiased reviews across its website, social platforms, and YouTube channel.

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