Review: Hellblade 2: Senua’s Saga – A Next-Gen Masterpiece

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Hellblade 2: Senua’s Saga is nothing short of a masterclass in game design and visual storytelling. Few games have kept me as glued to the screen from beginning to end, and this one did so with an intensity that’s hard to put into words. I played the game on my ASUS ROG Ally, and even with low graphic settings, it looked better than anything I’ve seen on both consoles and PCs to date. The game impressively managed to maintain close to 30 frames per second, which is a testament to its masterful optimization.

From a technical perspective, Hellblade 2 is groundbreaking. There are no loading screens or cutscenes; you can hit the photo mode button at any time and freely move the camera around. Some scene transitions are mind-blowing – one moment you’re in the middle of a battle, and the next, Senua has an episode or traumatic flashback, instantly transporting you to another place without any loading time. Other times, the camera will zoom out, fly across Iceland, and land in a new area where the game seamlessly continues. It’s the most well-optimized game I’ve ever experienced.

Photo mode screenshot taken in Cloud Gaming (via Sausage Roll)
Photo mode screenshot taken in Cloud Gaming (via Sausage Roll)

But that’s just the technical side. As a game, Hellblade 2 delivers everything fans loved about the first title and more. It pushes the envelope to a new dimension with the level of immersion you feel. You will experience moments of feeling lost and helpless, amplified by the dynamic world effects and ambiance that make you truly believe you are there with Senua.

The combat in Hellblade 2 might be the only divisive element. It’s not as fluid as in Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, but it’s much more focused, gritty, realistic, and cinematic. Think of the fight scenes from The Last of Us, but turned up to 1000%. The developers sacrificed some movement to make each fight feel unique and personalized. It’s not repetitive at all, and the intensity is palpable.

Senua's Saga graphics
Review: Hellblade 2: Senua’s Saga – A Next-Gen Masterpiece

As a woman of Nordic heritage, I can proudly say that Ninja Theory has done justice to our culture and lore. The game presents the Viking religion and mythology with respect and glory. Senua’s story, deeply intertwined with these elements, is both powerful and poignant. The narrative explores how suffering shapes myths, gods, and religion, building on the themes of mental health and psychosis from the first game. This exploration is done tastefully, with a natural flow that only occasionally left me wandering, unsure of the path forward. But this disorientation adds to the immersive experience, mirroring Senua’s own struggles and the voices in her head telling her she’s lost.

The music in Hellblade 2 is another triumph. Collaborating with the unique folk band Heilung, the soundtrack perfectly encapsulates the Viking spirit. The music hits the nail on the head for the Viking feel, reminiscent of bands like Wardruna, creating an atmosphere that is both haunting and majestic.

Heiliung
Nordic Viking folk-band Heuling (credit JBTV)

Visually, the game is stunning. The developers are clearly proud of their work, as evidenced by the near-limitless capabilities of the photo mode. You can zoom in to see the pores on characters’ faces, the blood vessels in their eyes, and the scars on their skin. With world effects turned on, you can even see rain, sweat, and blood realistically dripping down their bodies.

I sincerely hope to see more of Senua in the future. I will pray to the Norse gods for this to become a trilogy. Senua is proof that we need more well-written, well-acted female heroines in gaming. We struggle with her, fear with her, and celebrate victories with her.

We don’t generally give scores on Poptopic, but if we did, Hellblade 2: Senua’s Saga would be a masterpiece. It is a significant step forward from the first game, and it nails everything it sets out to accomplish. A perfect score in every sense.

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