The allure of madness: Senua's Saga: Hellblade II review

The voices in the heroine's head, multiplied by cinematic graphics, make this game a highlight of the year

By: Vladyslav Nuzhnov | 21.05.2024, 11:00

It is the story, atmosphere, visuals and audio that evoke the most emotions. The heroine feels more mature. She is ready to fight the demons inside and outside. And the wrapper of 10th-century Iceland with realistic graphics and binaural 3D sound is nothing but admirable. The only thing is that the gameplay has actually remained at the same level as in 2017, but otherwise Hellblade II is a game that I would like to recommend.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II is the long-awaited sequel to Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice by Ninja Theory. Back in the day, we marked the first Hellblade as a game worthy of your attention. So gg editorial team couldn't pass by the sequel and got Senua's Saga: Hellblade II for review.



Senua once again embarks on a harsh journey of survival through the myths and horrors of Viking-era Iceland. This time, she seeks not to return her lover from the world of the dead, but to save the inhabitants of Iceland from slavery by destroying the slave traders. At the same time, Senua enters into a battle with the darkness inside and outside. The heroine's psychosis has not disappeared. She sees things that others do not, hears voices and has unique beliefs about the world around her. All of this creates a story that sticks in your mind for a while and doesn't let go.

4 reasons to buy Senua's Saga: Hellblade II

  • You adore the first Hellblade game
  • Cinematic landscapes created from real locations in Iceland
  • The ability to cut off enemies' limbs with a sword
  • Atmospheric 3D sound that can scare you at night

1 reason not to buy Senua's Saga: Hellblade II

  • You really didn't like the gameplay of the first Hellblade. You shouldn't expect any major changes in the sequel

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II

How we evaluate games

Graphics and sound
Meeting expectations
Willingness to recommend
Stress levels for parents
Xbox Store Steam

Quick transition:

What we learned after completing Senua's Saga: Hellblade II

Ninja Theory decided not to reinvent the wheel, but simply to improve everything that was in the first part several times. The story has become better, because the level of insanity has decreased, which is good for the game. As strange as it may sound when discussing the project in Scandinavian mythology, the game is perceived as more grounded and realistic. I don't know if I should say anything at all about the visual and audio components. I would only shake hands with everyone from the studio for what they have done in these aspects. However, I would like to see more gameplay changes. The battles have become better, but there are very few of them. The puzzles are not worse than the first part, but in 4 years, they could have come up with something more interesting.

Ninja Theory remains a studio that is very good at atmosphere, but gameplay is its Achilles' heel. Nevertheless, I got a lot of positive emotions from the game and want to recommend it to others. Yes, Senua's Saga: Hellblade II is perceived more as a "soft" sequel, but it doesn't make the game worse. And I will definitely go on this journey through Iceland for the second time when the game is released on PlayStation 5. It will be released there, right?

The plot: a beacon of hope fights for freedom

After the events of the first part, Senua has changed a lot. She's no longer the girl who couldn't tame the demons in her head. Now she accepts her psychological state not as a curse, but as an ally in the battle. From now on, she is a warrior who will become a leader in the battle for the liberation of the enslaved people.

This time, players find themselves in 10th-century Iceland. It all starts with the girl and other people being transported by boat by slave owners, but according to all the canons of the genre, there was a strong storm at sea that day, Senua escapes, and we are in for an 8-hour adventure full of surprises.

I don't want to talk much about the plot, because the game is not big and every detail can be a serious spoiler. However, I will note that I liked the plot of the second part more than Hellblade 2017.

The game clearly shows the development of Senua. Over time, the heroine realises that she is capable of more, she can lead the people because they believe in her. Senua gives people the opportunity to look at certain things from a different angle. And when everyone has always thought that there is something impossible in this world, a "beacon of hope" appears on the horizon, proving the opposite.

As a Ukrainian, it was even more interesting for me to watch the story, because who else but us knows what it is to fight for our own freedom. Everyone says it's impossible, but you do it anyway. You constantly reflect on what you see on the screen. Sometimes this unlocks memories that have left deep wounds in your life, but Hellblade II and the struggle of Senua and her team show you that after all that you have been through, you cannot give up. You need to take your sword and go into battle. Into battle with your own demons, into battle with a real enemy that brings only chaos and death. But this is the only way tyranny is destroyed.

Special attention should be paid to the theme of psychosis, which is shown throughout the Hellblade series. Ninja Theory collaborated with professors and people who have experienced psychosis to show what such people feel through the example of the main character. And this topic, especially after 2022, is extremely important because, unfortunately, the number of people with mental illnesses has increased significantly due to the war, and such people need help and support. So Senua's Saga: Hellblade II seems to be trying to convey the message that such people should never be forgotten.

The story of Senua's Saga: Hellblade II stays in your head for some time. The plot benefited from the fact that there was much less madness. It hasn't completely disappeared, but serves as an element that helps you immerse yourself in these events. After playing the game, you are once again convinced that the world has always been cruel, but it is important to look for rays of light in this darkness and fight. It's a journey that will make you think about certain things in this life, because we are also constantly fighting our doubts, fears, and demons.

Gameplay: no major changes

The first Hellblade is conditionally divided into two stages: solving puzzles and battles with enemies. Do you know what stages Hellblade II is divided into? That's right, solving puzzles and fighting enemies.

Let's start with the puzzles. Some of them are carried over from the 2017 game. For example, we have a drawing that consists of three parts, all three parts must be found in a small location to open a passage. However, there are also more interesting ones that require you, for example, to "play" with space.

However, I can't remember a single puzzle that caused me a stupor. All of them are solved very quickly. If you've played the first part, you won't have any problems with this aspect at all.

And the game tries to add variety from time to time, but I would like to see more of it. The puzzles aren't terrible, but they don't cause a wow effect either (except in rare cases). They are just okay, and I don't know what else to add.

Cinematic battles

The combat system has undergone minimal changes. Each battle is an arena that can be left only after defeating all enemies. There are several types of enemies: a warrior with a sword, a warrior with a shield, a warrior with an axe that he throws at you, and some others, but I don't want to reveal them all. To fight them, Senua has only a sword, which is capable of normal and strong attacks, as well as blocking blows. The heroine also has a "concentration" charge. It allows you to freeze time in order to kill the enemy without hindrance. This is best used against large enemies that need to be hit many times, or against those who are constantly hitting you and you can't even get close. Finally, it's worth mentioning dodging, because some enemy attacks are highlighted in red, and at this point you need to quickly dodge and then attack.

And although there are always several enemies in the arena, they come out only one at a time. So you can concentrate on one enemy and not worry that someone is getting ready to put an axe to your ribs.

The fights themselves have become more cinematic. There is often something going on in the background, so it doesn't feel like an empty room with a bunch of enemies in it. I remember the moment when Senua almost killed an enemy in one arena, and at that moment another enemy was already running towards her, and she took the body of the first one and threw it towards the second one, and by inertia he killed his comrade. And such scenes accompany the player almost constantly, which adds to the dynamics.

The animations of the killings also add to the cinematic feel. At the end, they are repeated, of course, but there is a variety of them. Senua will kill someone by stabbing them in the back, beheading them, or simply stabbing them in the neck, and why not? The authors spent 69 days filming the fight scenes. For comparison, the developers spent only 2 days creating Hellblade 1, and this difference is noticeable in the first battle.

Also, every blow of Senua's sword feels good. You really attack with a sword, not a stick. So you can't just "snap" your enemies. While you're swinging that sword, especially if it's a strong attack, you'll get hit twice.

So the combat has definitely improved, but again, if you've played the first part, you already know the basics. If you expect only minor changes from this aspect, you'll like Ninja Theory's solutions, but if you wanted to spit from Hellblade's battles, you'll have to wait for the next game: Senua's Sacrifice, I have bad news for you.

Personally, I enjoyed the battles, but there is one thing. I wanted more fights. It would be better to remove one or two puzzles, but give you more swinging of the sword. Sometimes you get into the swing of things, you want more and more, and that's it, the fight is over, and the next one can wait for you in 30 minutes.

What else is there?

The game is not just about fighting and solving puzzles. The pillars that we know from the first part of the game, which better reveal the world of the game, have not disappeared. We also added interesting game situations, when, for example, you have to hide from enemies or make decisions very quickly in action scenes. Again, I would like to see more of this, but it's better than nothing.

The gameplay of Senua's Saga: Hellblade II's gameplay is the weakest link in the game. The authors improved the combat system, added a couple of atypical situations, but otherwise it's the same Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice. Although I personally found it interesting to play, because usually the most important thing for me in a game is the story, so I can like "walking simulators", and here they even let you fight and run. I understand that Ninja Theory focuses more on the story, which is why I love this studio, but as soon as it starts paying more attention to the gameplay, its games will instantly grow in quality several times over.

System requirements for Senua's Saga: Hellblade II

I played Senua's Saga: Hellblade II on a Lenovo IdeaPad Gaming 3 gaming laptop (NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1650 + AMD Ryzen 5 4800H). The minimum system requirements include a GTX 1070 graphics card and a Ryzen 5 2600 processor, but please, if your PC does not meet at least the recommended requirements, it is better not to buy Hellblade II. Anything below the recommended ones won't be able to deliver more than 40 fps, and sometimes the frame counter will show even lower values. Then I was able to play Hellblade II on a PC with RTX 3080 and Ryzen 5 5600X, which meets the recommended requirements, and the difference is like heaven and earth. It was then that I got stable fps and a cool picture.

I should also note that for the entire 8 hours I did not encounter a single bug, not even a visual one, and the game never crashed.

System requirements for Senua's Saga: Hellblade II

Minimum system requirements
Processor. Intel Core i5-8400/AMD Ryzen 5 2600
System RAM 16 GB
Average system requirements
Processor Intel Core i5-9600/AMD Ryzen 5 3600X
System RAM 16 GB
Recommended system requirements
Processor Intel Core i7-10700K/AMD Ryzen 5 5600X
System RAM 16 GB
High system requirements
Processor Intel Core i5-12600K/AMD Ryzen 7 5700X
System RAM 16 GB

The sights and sounds of Viking-era Iceland

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II is the most beautiful game I've seen in 2024. It feels more like a film than a game. This level of detail is hard to find. I'm also impressed by the fact that the game is set in Iceland. We all know how beautiful this region is. And the developers didn't just redraw Iceland into the game. They digitised real locations for Hellblade II. So I'm already waiting for a video like "Hellblade II vs real Iceland".

The attention to small details, various locations, character animation, especially their faces, and cinematic graphics do their job, so it's impossible to describe it. You have to pick it up, run it and see it with your own eyes.

Some of the best sound work in the industry

And while we see realistic graphics more and more often, only a few can compete with the sound quality of Ninja Theory. The authors, just like in the first part, use binaural sound. In simple terms, this is a method of sound recording that uses two microphones arranged in the same way as human ears. This allows you to create a surround sound effect that allows you to hear exactly where the sound is coming from - left, right, front or back. When you listen to a binaural recording with headphones, you feel as if you are inside the scene where the action is happening. So, Hellblade II is a must-have game when you're wearing headphones.

The effect of binaural sound is especially noticeable when the events are voiced by the voices inside Senua's head. It's as if they're already inside your head.

I would also like to praise the acting, they all played very well. And the soundtrack is a special treat. I wish they would release a digital album as soon as possible, because I will listen to it on repeat for a very long time. I liked the songs during the battles the most. They're so driving that you're ready to break into Iceland, take a sword and defeat a group of Vikings to these Scandinavian motifs. Bravo, Ninja Theory!

This is how we will remember Senua's Saga: Hellblade II

Senua's Saga: Hellblade II will be remembered as a short but intense adventure that stays in your head and doesn't fly away after the credits roll. Ninja Theory has managed to recreate the atmosphere of ancient Iceland, and considering that there are not many games in this setting, Hellblade II stands out among other projects. At the same time, the studio has once again raised the important topic of mental illness, which is extremely important these days.

The plot in the sequel is better, and I'm not even talking about the graphics and sound. I just wish I could see more changes in the gameplay, and then Senua's journey would be worth it. But even so, Senua's Saga: Hellblade II is one of the best games of this spring, and it's definitely not to be missed by those who liked the first part.

Five things you need to know about Senua's Saga: Hellblade II

  • Senua's Saga: Hellblade II is an action-adventure game that is a direct sequel to Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice of 2017.
  • The authors show the suffering of people from psychosis, which is not often seen in games
  • The game attracts most of all with its atmosphere, depiction of psychosis, visuals and binaural sound
  • The gameplay of the game remained almost at the same level as in the first part
  • The game will be available on Game Pass (PC+Xbox) from the first day, so you can try the Ninja Theory project for free and you will not lose anything from it
Senua's Saga: Hellblade II
Genre. Action Adventure
Platforms. PC, Xbox Series
Number of players Single player
Developer Ninja Theory
Publisher Xbox Game Studios
Time to complete 8-10 hours
Release date 21 May 2024
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The editorial team would like to thank the communication agency LBS Team for kindly providing the game for review