Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II Review – Conquering Old Demons


    Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice didn’t need a sequel. He had a clear story to tell, and he told it well, with artful (and tactful) execution of his mental health themes and a strong conclusion. But Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II makes a great case for itself by using the warrior’s development to help not only herself but, for the first time, others around her, shining her in an interesting new light. Refined gameplay and jaw-dropping presentation make for a thoroughly satisfying sophomore outing.

    Since the end of the first game, Senua is a little older, a little wiser, and more confident. Although the psychosis-induced voices in his head still punctuate his every thought (headphones are highly recommended due to the fantastic and effective 3D audio), he has largely embraced them. And accepted. This time around, the voices have less of a direct impact on the gameplay and are mostly used as an effective storytelling flourish: audible reflections of his innermost thoughts and worries.

    Senwa’s journey takes him to a new land to end the slavers who are destroying his homeland. As this story evolves into something bigger and more fantastic, I enjoyed the new emphasis on companionship. Melina Jurgens delivers another exceptional performance as Senva, and is supported by an equally impressive supporting cast. It’s rewarding to see Senua interact and travel with a small cast of likeable and interesting allies and use the lessons learned from her struggles to help them overcome their own darkness. Not only does this feel like a satisfying development, but her relatable fears of them going astray add a nice dimension to her already compelling character. Seeing Senua fight old demons and re-raise her head is also a realistic and refreshing portrayal of the constant battle that is mental health. His victory in the first game was not, and should not be, a one-off victory.

    The adventure feels more digestible and coherent than the mainstream feel as it deals with an interesting and disturbing pantheon of deadly giants. The first game told a short, intimate story, but this story feels closer to an epic without losing its intellectual element. With a runtime of nearly seven hours, the story wisely doesn’t overstay its welcome and, like the first game, feels focused. You’re here for a good, emotional time, not too long.

    However, now that Senwa has companions to joke with, the voices she hears have the misfortune of discussing important dialogue. From an artistic perspective, and I say this as someone who has never experienced psychosis, trying to tune them to focus on the dialogue made me empathize with Senwa’s everyday experience. I helped. But as a game, the constant chatter of voices proved to be a real hindrance when I wanted to listen to someone else. When the game tries to separate the two, it sometimes creates an awkward conversational state with awkward, inappropriate pauses during dialogue to fit the flow of internal voice dialogue.

    The intimate head-to-head combat encounters remain largely the same but with stunning visuals and cinematic upgrades, mitigating some of the old woes. Enemies will no longer blind you off-screen, meaning the action is right in front of you at all times. Sword duels are a repetitive but amusing dance of satisfying fairies to dodge powerful swings and fill up a time-slowing focus meter that, once unlocked, briefly summons Senwa. Deterrence allows attack. While I enjoyed mowing down equally armed enemies, the game admirably mixes up the enemy types with challenging threats that randomly or, most annoyingly, fire at their hands. Spread. Avoiding the latter’s flame-based offense proved visually difficult, so I minimized them and other nuisances by activating my focus to drop them immediately as they entered the field. Ninja Theory thankfully does away with the first game’s creeping permadeath penalty, so there’s no consequence to dying, and you’re quickly thrown back into the action.

    Eliminating threats allows for smooth and varied transitions to the next enemy, making battles feel like an interactive cinematic in the most admirable way. It’s just a microcosm of the game’s incredible production values. Hellblade II is probably the most beautiful game I’ve ever played. From the fantastic, subtle facial animation to the stunning lighting of its beautiful scenery and the nightmarish designs of its Norse antagonists, Hellblade II is one of the few titles that truly looks next-gen. Best of all, an expected increase in budget doesn’t just result in increased loyalty. The creative artistic colors of the first game are retained and dialed up to eleven, with mind-bending kaleidoscopic effects and dreamlike lighting and visuals. Hellblade II isn’t just technically impressive. It’s genuinely fascinating to stare at as a piece of art.

    Exploring this wonderful world is also more fun thanks to the increased variety of puzzles. The perspective-based “spot the sigil in the environment” puzzles, which were fun but overused in the previous game, have been dramatically reduced in number and spread evenly throughout the adventure. Other challenges, such as solving illumination puzzles to navigate a dark, terror-filled cave or creating paths using world-altering magic, are suitably fun and well-traveled. . Going beyond the usually linear paths to uncover secret totems or mystical trees that spin scattered yarns is fun, even if the idea clashes conceptually with narrative tracks. It’s hard to focus on a given conversation when I’m anxious to break away and inspect every nearby surface for a hidden passageway.

    Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II ends on another strong note, and despite my initial reservations about continuing Senua’s story, I’m happy to see her conquer new monsters, both literally and metaphorically. Gone. I’m glad Ninja Theory avoided the temptation to blow up this formula into something bigger than necessary – it’s not Xbox’s God of War. This is a better heel blade. The first game is a famous example that doesn’t need to be fun in the traditional sense to be engaging. This sequel sprinkles more broadly appealing thrills while maintaining the thoughtful storytelling and artistic flair few triple-A games possess.


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