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Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 Review (XSX)

I can’t remember a more anticipated title release with less marketing than Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2. Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice from 2017 was an award winning hit. So it can as no surprise we have a sequel, but to have such a low key release is just downright strange. Maybe with it releasing Day 1 onto Game Pass was the reason?

But then dropping an embargo of one hour before release for media to start posting their content… Well that just set the internet alight with talk of a ‘bad’ game. Is Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 a bad game? In a word, no. It sets out on a different path, just like its predecessor. And on this path it succeeds extremely well. Unfortunately this path may not be the path well trodden.

Stark Icelandic Beauty.

The obvious and much talked about side of Senua’s Saga is undoubtedly the visuals. Firstly, the letterboxing… Due to the cinematic nature Ninja Theory are after with the telling of Senua’s Saga there is no option to turn this off. Initially it bugged the hell out of me but after a bit I didn’t even notice it. It probably even enhanced my experience just like Ninja Theory would have wanted.

Yes, Senua’s Saga is gorgeous! With several settings available for graphically options, I recommend Enriched Mode. Having everything dialled up and Ray Tracing on is worth it. The game isn’t fast paced so the 30 FPS is fine. You will find yourself taking in the great visuals on more than the odd occasion so having it look its best is worth it. Even more so if you are a user of Photo Mode, I’m not, but by all accounts it is phenomenal with a lot a exceptional photos being shared. All pictures here are my own, just taken with the Xbox screenshot ability.

It’s All In Your Head.

Just like Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, Senua’s Saga is very much about Senua’s battle with psychosis, a real and genuine Mental Health issue. We still have a long way to go with accepting and treating Mental Illness in our current time. Can you imagine what it would have been like in the 8th Century. Makes you think about all those poor souls imprisoned, drowned, or burned alive as ‘witches’ and ‘devils’.

Senua’s psychosis manifests itself in the game in several ways but the most obvious, and jarring, is the almost constant ‘voices’ in your head. Seemingly every action is questioned, supported, or disagreed with, by these ‘voices. The soundscape used for these audio cues is fantastic. Multiple sound channels are used and the voice acting is eerie and haunting. It is recommended to play with a good set of headphones, if you are brave enough.

Just A Little Bit Further.

The term ‘Walking Simulator’ has been used quite widely to describe Senua’s Saga. Yes, it is accurate. There isn’t a massive amount of action. The vast amount of the game is following a path and solving some simple puzzles to progress. Broken up with fixed location fight sequences which are also a very basic dodge and strike affair. The meat of Senua’s Saga is the story and the environment. It is not open world, and the path you take is very forced. See, my path well trodden comment makes sense now.

Senua’s journey is a very thought provoking one. One taken at a slow, at times tedious, pace. It is a Triple A ‘Arthouse’ game. Those who can appreciate what has gone into the design and development will fall in love with what the developers have done. Those looking for a pretty hack and slash fantasy game, well, they will be sorely disappointed.

Closing Comments.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2. It is a clever game, a perfect follow up to its predecessor. On a technical front it shows how amazing games can look in this day and age. On the writing and artistic front it is just astounding how games are very quickly becoming pieces of thought provoking media. And possibly most importantly, will the Mental Health of Senua raise discussions and conversations about this still overlooked topic in human health? It still amazes me that Health and Safety is so big in day to day life but it is all about ‘Safety’ and very little about ‘Health’.

Please talk to each other. There are many great resources out there to help. The world can seem like a massively overwhelming place at times but with the help of each other we can all enjoy and make the most of what we have around us.

As for Senua? Her Saga is a great game. Not for everyone, but again thanks to Game Pass it is easily accessible for you to try. Give it a go.