Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II has a complicated task ahead. Award winning sequence Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice of 2017, the game was announced even before Microsoft established its current generation of consoles and just a year after Big Tech acquired its developer, Ninja Theory, for US$117 million.

The revelation took place on the stage of The Game Awards in 2019 and returned the spotlight once again to the title character — but now with the responsibility of strengthening the Xbox catalog at its forefront. But a lot has changed since then.

Xbox and its current controversial scenario

This brings us five years later, on the eve of its release on May 21, 2024 on Xbox Series, PC and Game Pass consoles. For context: not long since the multi-billionaire laid off more than 1,900 employees from her studiosin addition to closing others such as Arkane Austin (Prey, Redfall) e Tango Gameworks (The Evil Within, Hi-Fi Rush).

It is in this hostile environment, at a crossroads of expectationsin which Ninja Theory delivers its most ambitious project and focuses, more than ever, on cinematography to tell the continuation of Senua’s mental health journey.

O Voxel received early access to the full version, and after about ten hours of campaigning, the taste is bittersweet. On the one hand, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II brings a gigantic leap in technical quality and script, so that it captures the player’s attention from the first seconds with its choreography and mature themes. For another, it lacks the video game factor of the experience and is as linear as its predecessor.

If you’re curious to know the details, check out the complete analysis in the following lines!

A plot about empathy and self-knowledge

First of all, it is necessary to make it clear that Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II This is an immersive narrative experience, much more in line with the proposal of the first title, and not a traditional action game. There is combat, yes, but it is much more integrated into the script — which, in turn. it gives more value to the development of its characters and their internal dilemmas.

This is in line with Ninja Theory’s efforts to make the experience even more cinematic and photorealistic, representing a gigantic technical leap compared to all of the studio’s previous works. The scenes, which use a sequence shot from the beginning to the end of the game, add much more importance to body and facial expressions, which are the most impressive I’ve ever seen in a video game.

Because of this, it is not uncommon for us to confuse the action on screen with a live-action performance. Melina Juergens’ performance, who reprises her role, is even more convincing and brings the player closer to her experiences on screen, even though she doesn’t need to say anything to convey the intended messages. It’s very clear when Senua is angry, afraid, desperate, anxious and sad.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 improves the characters’ visuals and facial expressionsSource: Reproduction/Bruno Magalhães

This detail already sounds like excellent news for fans, as the title manages, once again, to put the player in the shoes of its protagonist. This demonstrates, in practice, the layers of complexity of your psychosis condition, in addition to guide topics about mental health in a responsible and inspiring way — even in a brutal setting like 10th-century Viking Iceland.

A Saga de Senua

In the story, the Celtic warrior Senua, who had to face hell to accept herself and the loss of her loved one, is now in a new stage of her journey. She allowed herself to be taken by slavers to save the survivors and put an end to the bloodshed that devastated her people.

The most interesting thing is that the shadows of the past still accompany her, symbolized above all by the figure of her abusive father who considered her cursed. She still hears several voices in her head, with which she is now more settled. But this does not mean that she does not face difficulties: while the voices push her and give her courage, they also raise doubts, insecurities and judge her in moments of fragility.

This complexity establishes Senua as the most human and well-developed female protagonist in the gaming industry.. She feels a lot of fear and loneliness, but finds the courage to remain in control of her intrusive thoughts. And now fans have the opportunity to see, first-hand, how she will reconcile her perception of the world with that of the people she meets along the way. After all, her boat sinks in lands that also face a darkness that Senua already knows very well.

SenuaSenua remains a strong and well-developed character.

The story is emotional at several points and is as interesting as the first game, but its atmosphere is heavy and relentless when it comes to conveying negative feelings. This includes triggers for claustrophobia, thalassophobia, nyctophobia, among others. The game is also much more violent than its predecessor and can be considered a psychological horror, as we are always experiencing events from the perspective of Senua herself.

Not that much of a video game

Even if Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II be an excellent narrative experience, it may disappoint those expecting a leap in gameplay mechanics. Most of the time we are just walking forward in corridor-like settings, listening to dialogue and watching cutscenes.

There are a few moments where the game features puzzles, which were a point of criticism of the previous title. There have also been few advances in this regard, as the formula is basically the same: find hidden symbols in the scenarios and use a focus system to unlock paths.

The game manages to vary a little, but it quickly becomes boring because it insists on premises that seem like a toll to get to what matters. Luckily they’re less recurring, but if the upside of puzzles is there are fewer of them, that’s not particularly a compliment.

Hellblade 2's scenarios rely on linearity and have a frightening atmosphereHellblade 2’s scenarios rely on linearity and have a frightening atmosphereSource: Reproduction/Bruno Magalhães

The scenarios sometimes have alternative paths where it is possible to find totems, which give more context to the game’s mythology, or even games with facial pareidolia — in this context, the phenomenon of seeing faces in rock formations. There is a reward for finding everyone after beating the campaign, but the exploration is not satisfying enough and Senua’s movement is slow. In other words, it becomes a tiring task.

Cinematic but visceral combat

The fights, which are the public’s biggest curiosity in this pre-launch period, are also nothing new. All the mechanics of the first game are present: a button for light strikes and another for heavy ones; avoidance; race; to trim; and focus, which strengthens the character’s combos for a limited time.

The difference really lies in the presentation of these fights. As I mentioned, they are fully integrated into the script, so there are no random confrontations around the scene. All the action is also more cinematic and visceral, so that we feel every impact of Senua’s movements. There are new animations for finishing enemies and even parrying blows at the right moment, which make confrontations much more intense.

SenuaHellblade 2’s combat is cinematic.

One problem that is not repeated is the lack of variety of enemies. In the first few hours we find more types of opponents than in the entire first game. Fights against groups are also different, as the game now forces one-on-one confrontation. This takes away some of the player’s control over the situation, as it is the game that dictates who the next opponent will be with a transition. In case of death, the order of enemies can even change.

The simplicity of combat Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II It’s not necessarily a demerit. It’s all very intuitive, functional and enjoyable so that the player feels motivated to perform in the best possible way, as if it were a dance. But it’s a little disappointing that the game doesn’t bring new mechanics to enrich the protagonist’s arsenal. It would be interesting if she could use other weapons, for example.

In the final stretch of the game, I was already feeling that the combats were becoming repetitive. This is because sequences can take more than five minutes to reach the end, and it is common to see the same ending animations depending on the enemies that appear on the screen. This made me conclude that the game’s length is ideal, especially for a game so focused on its narrative development.

Hellblade 2's combat is more intense and visceralHellblade 2’s combat is more intense and visceralSource: Reproduction/Bruno Magalhães

The tests took place on the PC, running at the high preset and with NVIDIA DLSS turned on in quality mode. As I used a monitor with a 16:9 aspect ratio, the game had horizontal lines that simulate a cinema screen. This is a native game lock, which is designed specifically for Ultra Wide monitors.

The setup used was an i5-12400F processor, an NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060 graphics card with 12 GB VRAM, 32 GB of DDR4 RAM and an SSD. The performance was quite satisfactory, oscillating between 45 and 60 frames per second depending on what was happening on the screen. I also felt that the game is well optimized. Although there were small animation bugs when finishing some fights, it was nothing that harmed the experience.

It is worth it?

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II nails the technical quality, script and development of its characters, with emphasis on the protagonist and her internal voices. But the obsession with cinematography, so symptomatic of the triple-A market, ends up leaving aside its gameplay mechanics, which are barely new compared to the previous game.

The consequence of this is uninteresting sessions from the point of view of the player experience. After all, more than half of the campaign consists of walking forward, in disguised corridors, while the dialogue and cutscenes unfold. It’s all very beautiful and well-written, but not necessarily fun — which can frustrate a portion of the audience.

Hellblade 2Hellblade 2 has lush settings.

The narrative, which is where the efforts are concentrated, is so good that it can sustain the game without difficulties. Senua’s motivations, as well as her insecurities, speak to all of us on different levels and evoke different types of feelings and reflections about our past experiences and who we really are.

The direction of the scenes, supported by excellent audio design, is capable of providing an immersive experience that goes far beyond what we’ve seen in video games in recent years. This is also visible in the combats, which despite their simplicity, deliver all the impact and fatigue of the movements with an unprecedented level of realism. If this is your profile, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II It will be one of your favorite games of 2024.

Nota do Voxel: 85

Positive points (pros)

  • Quality of writing;
  • Well-built characters;
  • Visuals and choreography;
  • Impeccable audio design;
  • Good optimization on PC.

Negative points (cons)

  • Linear scenes that look like disguised corridors;
  • No new gameplay mechanics;
  • Lack of option for 16:9 monitors;
  • Uninspired puzzles.

The analysis of Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 was carried out with an advance copy provided by Xbox for PC press relations. The game hits the market on May 21st with versions for Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S, Steam and Game Pass.

Game Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, Xbox

Image: Game Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2, Xbox
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Senua is a kind of “savior” of the oppressed in her region. After accepting her curse, the warrior must now deal with the voices in her head, and thus use them to her advantage to protect her people.


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