Senuas Saga Hellblade 2 Review
Image: Ninja Theory

Senua’s Saga Hellblade 2 review – The anatomy of monsters

A journey so brutal.

Through the first half of Senua’s Saga Hellblade 2, I was unsure of what the point or theme of the sequel was supposed to be. But in the latter half of this Ninja Theory game, it dawned on me that this sequel to Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was an exploration of the minds of monsters. Not just the gargantuan monsters that you read about in folklore, but the ones that are as human as you and I.

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Senua’s journey in Hellblade 2 is a step above the first game. Where Senua was originally climbing into the depths of Hell and battling against the demons in her mind, Hellblade 2 is Senua’s tale of the monsters that lurk on the surface of Midgard and in the depths of her mind that she once pushed away. Yet this time, she’s much stronger than before. Hellblade 2 is a beautiful, yet occasionally off-paced story about healing, survival, and if monsters can change.

Senuas Saga Hellblade 2 Review Face
Screenshot: PC Invasion

A journey unknown

The tale of the first Hellblade game pulled many gamers in, especially me, due to its unique exploration of a broken human mind and how it reacts to a world like Viking Hell. It was brutal and sad, yet eye-opening and, overall, a stellar experience. I was originally a little worried about how different the setting of Midgard would feel compared to Hell, but Ninja Theory did an incredible job of making the environment feel just as brutal as Hell.

Senua’s journey in this sequel continues to be a dark tale of survival, both on the outside and inside of her mind. You can clearly see Senua’s character progression from the first to the second game. She has a much stronger will, and she has become a leader of sorts who found her purpose after already surpassing the purpose she had in the first game.

Just as Senua was, I was initially confused about where this story was going. What was the point of this continuation and were we just throwing Senua into difficult situations with no significant purpose? It’s impressive that I was proven wrong just a couple of chapters into the game at the same time as Senua figures it out for herself.

Senuas Saga Hellblade 2 Review Combat
Screenshot: PC Invasion

I’m not sure if this was intentional, but I felt connected to Senua in the way that I too was lost on what her journey was about until Senua discovered what her new purpose and goal was. As soon as the path ahead was clear, the game felt a lot more exhilarating to play and experience.

What also makes the path ahead more clear are the characters you meet along the way. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was a lonely journey for Senua, but in this title, you meet more likable characters. It gets a lot more interesting when some of the characters you meet aren’t all that they seem on the surface.

As Senua sees herself as a monster who was able to change for the better, there are some characters I met that I had to wonder if I could trust enough to be better. Every character is compelling, and I loved hearing more about their backstories.

The balance of linearity

My first hour or so of Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 felt overbearingly linear at times, and I was worried about the state of the rest of the game. But it doesn’t take long to come face-to-face with puzzles that allow for a little bit of exploration, and for combat encounters to feel more dangerous and spontaneous. I know that it’s meant to be a linear game, but sometimes it would feel like I was walking for a bit too long without something to do in between.

The good thing about this is that it gave me time to listen to the voices in Senua’s mind. Perhaps this was the goal of this sort of loneliness. The quiet moments of just walking and admiring the gorgeous environments were sprinkled with conversations in Senua’s mind. I found it funny how often they would go from cheering Senua on to immediately taunting her about not being able to succeed.

The beauty of Senua’s Sacrifice and Senua’s Saga is that it’s accurate to a human mind. Senua experiences psychosis and Ninja Theory is known for doing its diligent research on mental health and how humans experience psychosis like this. Other than this unique aspect of the Hellblade series, those moments of tricky puzzles and precise combat are also thoroughly enjoyable.

Hellblade 2 Visuals
Screenshot: PC Invasion

Unfortunately, I don’t believe that the combat system was enhanced in any way from the previous game. But perhaps this is a moment of don’t fix something that isn’t broken, since I still enjoy timing my dodges correctly, swinging at the right time, and using Senua’s special mirror to gain the advantage.

Speaking of combat, the combat movements are incredibly intuitive and don’t feel like a video game, but rather like you’re watching a movie. I was amazed watching Senua finish off one enemy, but then be hit with another in a dramatic way where they may have stumbled into the fight, or they would sneak up and surprise Senua. Combat scenes flowed smoothly from one enemy to the next, never allowing you the pleasure of knowing when you were truly safe.

Outstanding visuals

Without a shadow of a doubt, Senua’s Saga Hellblade 2 is the best-looking game on the market. With this being one of the few big Unreal Engine 5 titles, I could tell just how big of a jump in graphics this engine made. Most environments look photo-realistic and characters move and speak like humans would without any uncanny-valley feeling.

I truly felt like I was looking at real scenery, and it’s wild to think that games can look like this now. Hellblade 2 also likes to play with your mind using mind-bending environmental shifts that made me feel like I was seeing through the eyes of Senua. Some terrifying visuals made my skin crawl, but also some jaw-dropping visuals made me want to sit and stare at the scenery for hours.

Senuas Saga Hellblade 2 Review Giant
Screenshot: PC Invasion

Ninja Theory outdid itself with the graphics, visuals, and overall environments in Senua’s Saga Hellblade 2. Nearly every moment is eye candy. The environments also encouraged me to zoom in with my Focus ability and look for secrets that can lead me to find hidden lore. It’s always a nice treat to discover a Lorestangir to hear a folktale, giving me a moment to rest and ease the pacing.

Technical obstacles

Unfortunately, I ran into a lot of technical issues while playing Senua’s Saga Hellblade 2 on my PC. I’m not sure if these problems arise on the console version, but I’ll point out many annoying obstacles that forced me to quit and re-enter the game. My first issue was random frame-rate drops which led to the game freezing randomly. When this triggered, it would typically be every other second that the game would freeze on me, which forced me to quit and re-enter. At one point, I had to restart my PC to see if that would help.

Another strange issue arose when I would interact with a particular puzzle. Occasionally, if Senua would interact with one type of puzzle object that would light up the nearby area, my game would suddenly drop to a staggeringly low frame rate and the graphics turned incredibly fuzzy. This forced me to exit and re-enter the game, and this issue came around a few times. Luckily, I could fix it by leaving and re-entering the game, but it was annoying having to resort to this.

Perhaps I had to fiddle with some of my settings to prevent these issues from happening, but the stuttering happened much more often near the end of my playthrough than at the beginning. This made me think that it had nothing to do with my settings since I hadn’t changed them at all since the start of the game. It didn’t make Hellblade 2 unplayable, but it’s something to think about if you’re wondering whether to play it on PC or Xbox Series X|S.

A worthy sequel

Senuas Saga Hellblade 2 Review Water
Screenshot: PC Invasion

Overall, I enjoyed my time with Senua’s Saga Hellblade 2 and believe it to be a step up in many ways from its predecessor. Although I ran into some moments that slowed down the pacing, Hellblade 2 quickly picked back up with its stunning visuals, mind-bending puzzles, and intuitive combat. The more I played this game, the more I began to understand and appreciate its purpose and themes.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2
Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 is a brutal and mind-bending journey through Senua's eyes and ears once again, but this time through Viking Iceland. With new puzzles, tense combat scenarios, and evocative visuals, Hellblade 2's only downfall is it's occasional slow pacing and its technical problems.

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Image of Anyka Pettigrew
Anyka Pettigrew
Anyka Pettigrew has been a Staff Writer for PC Invasion since November 2023 and a Contributing Writer since February 2023. She is a Canadian graduate of a Bachelor of Arts degree who has been writing in games journalism for four years. Anyka is an avid guides writer but also enjoys writing anything from news pieces, to reviews, and even opinion pieces. Having a never-ending passion for video games for as long as she can remember got her into a plethora of genres like action adventure, RPGs, horror, survival etc. Some of her favorite franchises are God of War, Persona, The Last of Us, Zelda, and Resident Evil. She also enjoys reading fantasy and sci-fi books, as well as drawing digital art. Anyka also regularly listens to podcasts on gaming news from 'Kinda Funny Games', and 'Play, Watch, Listen'.