Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 (2024)

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 (2024)

After finally trying out and finishing Hellblade 1 on stream, I ended up jumping right into Hellblade 2… Oops, I mean “Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2, a title so bafflingly generic and out of line with the original game that it already stumbles out of the gate of trying to be a sequel to something. Along with trying out the VR Mod with it as well for this second game. Sadly the VR mod wasn’t working properly that first time and I didn’t want to troubleshoot it on the Stream. So as I went through the first half of Hellblade 2 I found myself enjoying the time I had with it, but, and this is a big but. It’s not a game. It’s an experience, and we need some new style of genre defining term more than “Walking Simulator”, but while the majority of the game is just walking, it’s not all it is, and those styles of games also don’t have extremely well produced cutscenes.

So like I said, Hellblade 2 is basically a very limited interactive experience. Where the majority of the “gameplay is pushing forward, solving very rudimentary perspective puzzles, and very basic bordering on pointless combat. The focus of the game is on the visuals more than anything else. While Hellblade 1 did look unbelievably good, its main focus was telling a really interesting story with the “mental health” of the character Senua at the forefront. As the game went on the internal struggle of the voices and Senua became extremely apparent. And while I didn’t really feel much for the whole “mental health” aspect of the game, I did appreciate that they tried something different, and the sound design was top notch.

What Ninja Theory has done with Hellblade 2 is shift that focus really all onto the graphical fidelity of the game with it’s use of Unreal Engine 5 and how insanely good it looks. I truly was blown away by how the game looked both on a flat screen presentation (or known as Pancake gaming) and in Virtual Reality. While the graphics were pushing so hard that it brought my VR experience to a pretty rough 30FPS, I still was able to power through and have a good time with it, and it didn’t hinder my perception of the game either.

But like I said earlier, Hellblade 2 is a downgrade in every single aspect of the sense, except for its graphics. And while this might be that showcase moment, graphics have hit a point of diminishing returns. While I am delighted to see games look better and better, it’s not my main focus or care anymore. I want games that do more than just look good, and Hellblade 2 would have been that if anything else was also propped up as good or even decent. If the game had a coherent and interesting story that made me care at all, I could get behind it. But Senua’s continuing story feels like an afterthought in this sequel.

Senua’s first game put a spotlight on this character who was an outcast because she has voices in her head. She finds love and that love is torn away from her. She sets out on a journey to tear that love away from the hands of death itself and restore him to the land of the living, all while battling her own actual personal internal demons and killing mythological beasts and gods. BUT… in Hellblade 2, she’s a slave who someone overpowers her captor and teams up with a bunch of randoms to help them in their own quests to kill giants. It’s a MASSIVE step down in scale and well crafted stories. I learn nothing about the characters she interacts with and since I know nothing about them, I in turn don’t care about anything that happens. Nothing of the story is explained or shown.

Along with that the “interactive game” has been reduced to a barely intractable “experience”. The player has very little to interact with other than a few “off the beaten path” sections preceded by long stretches of hallways that the characters spout exposition dumps, and then goes into cutscene after cutscene. While I loath the term “walking simulator” is a fairly apt description of this game, besides the combat. And yes, the combat also is now completely downgraded to “fight a single enemy at a time, and once you hit them a few times, the control gets taken away from you and you get to view a cutscene of your character performing a cool kill” then repeat until the sequence is over. It’s a two button press game and nothing changes in the few hours that this game goes on.

Honestly I have to say that I'm very disappointed that Hellblade 2 was a downgrade of a game in every sense besides the pretty graphics. It’s an experience that is as shallow as a spilled glass of water on a driveway in the summer. The memory of the game has already completely faded from my mind because it left so little of an impact. I don’t want to be harsh, and if this game was either marketed as more of an experience, or better yet, changed to be an actual video game, I’d be much kinder. But how it took over 6 years in development for what is essentially a 5 hour movie is beyond me. And why did they change out Senua’s character model? These are the things that’ll stick with me more than anything I did in the “game” —er, I’m sorry, art experience.