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Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II Review

Official Score

Overall - 90%


Senua's Saga: Hellblade II is a classic example of the old mantra: get past the start, and you'll love it. If you have Xbox Game Pass, you have no reason not to try this game.

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Remember the reveal of the Xbox Series X back in late 2019? Remember the game they showed with it? It’s been almost five years since Ninja Theory’s Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II was revealed, and now we finally have it in our hands. Was the wait worth it?

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II Review

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II follows the story of Senua from the original Hellblade. She begins her journey in a slave ship, going to who knows where. She aims to find and kill all the slavers, so step one is complete.

As with most things in Senua’s life, this doesn’t go to plan. The ship encounters a dreadful storm that slams it into the rocks and spreads its inhabitants into the sea. Exhausted and defeated, you are flung onto the shore, looking for rest.

Sadly, there is no rest; the waves crash into you and threaten to drag you back to the sea if you don’t get up and move. You drag yourself out, then make it off the shore and start looking for survivors. 

The beginning section of Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is agony for Senua, and the player feels every part of that. There are no markers, tutorials, or prompts; just fog, rain, and the voices in your head.

It is very frustrating, and I can see a lot of players getting turned around and even outright lost despite the size of the map being pretty small. On top of that, you are thrown into combat with no tutorial or button prompts, just the voices in your head telling you that you need to hit harder or dodge quicker.

The whole section felt like moving through mud, and Senua’s frustrations matched my own as I slowly made my way off the beach. 

It turns out this was all by design.

During the production of The Godfather, director Francis Ford Coppola was adamant that Michael needed to go to Sicily. We needed to see Micheal return to a normal life before having it ripped out from under him. We needed to see, just like Micheal, that there was no going back.

The studio kept saying there was no room in the budget. Luckily for us, Crazy Joe Gallo was gunned down, and the money was suddenly found. Sicily would be the catalyst for Michael to accept his role in the family, from being an outsider to the Don. I don’t know if this island has a name, but the island is Senua’s Sicily. 

Before we go any further, though, let me explain the combat because even after beating the game, I still don’t fully understand it. The combat is intense and hectic, with the voices telling you what will happen if you lose.

“They will eat you,” one of the voices told me. Such close and visceral combat would likely feel like that, the constant threat of what happens if you lose—the manic swinging of a person trying desperately to survive against a creature of darkness.

One word comes to mind: RAGE. Unfilited and pure, you feel the struggle and the anger bubbling inside you as you desperately try to find an opening against your opponent. 

The aura, attitude, and essence of true combat are there, but it doesn’t always make for fun gameplay. Thankfully, there’s an easy mode if you are struggling.

That may be the point. Maybe the developers want you to understand that the battle isn’t easy. Whether it’s combat in the arena or combat in your mind, the fight never truly ends. All you can hope for is a moment of respite from the constant storm bashing you against the rocks. 

Outside of combat, you have exploration and puzzles. There are a couple of side objectives to find, like the totem poles that talk about the land you are in. There are also these special trees that light up and bloom if you find them, but I found three the whole time.

The puzzles start out very frustrating because there are no prompts or indicators. There is one early one where you need to light a torch with your torch. Sounds simple, right? But when you walk up to it, there is no prompt, so you hit the button at the wrong spot, and it doesn’t work.

Well, what do I do now? Obviously, after figuring it out, you know, for the rest of the game, but the first time might leave you confused.

Something unexpected happened to me about halfway through the game. I was going through a cave and had to give up my light at certain sections. A strange sort of calm came over me as I walked through the pitch-black cave towards my goal. I realized that this whole struggle and journey had been about one thing: acceptance.

Not only accepting your fate but embracing it and becoming the person you are meant to be. Everything clicked after that cave, and I fell in love with the journey, even if the combat was still a train wreck. I’ve beaten the game now and am still unsure if I am bad at parrying or if it is only meant to work at certain spots.

The Stoics speak of the lower and higher self, about raising above the lower self to be who you truly are. Watching Senua ascend from her lower self to the higher self, to accept her place in the world—not just accept it but embrace it—was truly a sight to behold.

During one of the earlier sections, I was walking through a broken-down village, and one of the voices said, “Life is just endurance here.” Life is just endurance everywhere, which is what the game is trying to tell you. Yes, things suck for you, but they suck for everyone else also. It’s through the struggle that you become who you are meant to be. 

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II is a classic example of the old mantra: get past the start, and you’ll love it. If you have Xbox Game Pass, you have no reason not to try this game.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II Review

Reviewed On: Xbox Series X|S (A digital code was provided)
Release Date: May 21, 2024
MSRP: $49;99
Platforms: Xbox Series X|S, PC
Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios
Alternative Reviews: Hey Poor Player, Gamespew
Aggregate Scores: Metacritic, OpenCritic

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Johnny Hurricane

Johnny Hurricane is the resident hardcore gamer here at Gamers Heroes. You'll usually find him diving deep into the latest releases as he attempts to conquer each and every game that crosses his path. Mostly known for his ability to create detailed and comprehensive guides on even the most complex of game mechanics, you'll sometimes see the odd review and editorial topic but his true abilities lie in competitive gaming. Johnny Hurricane's Gamer Biography

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