Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 overview: Xbox’s new unique is a fierce sequel

Senua in Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2
Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2
MSRP $50.00

“Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 is a visual stunner for Xbox even if its gameplay isn’t too creative.”

  • Well-written narrative
  • Stunning visuals
  • Industry-leading sound design
  • Excellent performances
  • Intuitive picture mode
  • Derivative gameplay
  • Runs at 30 fps on console

If Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was about accepting trauma, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 is about studying to stay with it.

Senua, Hellblade’s tortured hero, goes by rather a lot in her sequel. She winds up shipwrecked, faces off in opposition to overwhelming giants, consistently experiences the grisly deaths of individuals round her, sees the return of the darkness represented by her father, and extra. But Senua fights by all of it and makes extra connections in the true world than she did within the very isolating narrative of Senua’s Sacrifice.

Though I initially nervous that Hellblade 2‘s dark story about psychosis would trigger my anxiety, it’s a surprisingly inspiring sequel about perseverance within the face of ache. It tells a narrative about overcoming what holds us down, and discovering solace in others. It doesn’t fairly attain instant-classic standing due to uninspired gameplay that’s a lot much less artistic and impressive than its gorgeous presentation, however Ninja Theory’s newest continues to be an absolute must-play for any Xbox Game Pass subscriber and an expertise I definitely gained’t neglect anytime quickly.

A saga, not a tragedy

Hellblade 2 begins with Senua as a captured slave. She’s trying to get revenge on the slavers who destroyed her village within the authentic Hellblade. The slaver ship crashes, and whereas Senua captures the captain, she will get swept up in a hero’s journey as she makes an attempt to rid the island of the giants that torment it. Xbox Game Studios and Ninja Theory have made it no secret that Hellblade 2 prioritizes its narrative firstly, and the single-player expertise triumphantly excels at that.

The 12 months’s most enthralling online game narrative.

It’s a tightly woven journey that doesn’t overstay its welcome and seems like a satisfying growth of the unique Hellblade. This continues to be an intense and private expertise, however Senua’s journey this time round forces her to make extra connections with each the giants and the folks working to take the slavers down.

Senua continues to take care of psychosis all through the entire journey, and Ninja Theory continues to deal with that respectfully. While video games like Indika or movies like Joker have a tendency to make use of psychosis-like signs for abject horror, Senua takes a extra nuanced and empathetic method. While the Furies in Senua’s head will nonetheless sow doubt or faucet into the darkness and trauma Senua will at all times carry together with her, the voices additionally encourage her at occasions or change her perceived worldview into one thing extra optimistic.

Senua carries a torch in Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice.
Tomas Franzese / Xbox Game Studios

Hellblade 2 understands that situations like psychosis are one thing that folks need to stay with in the true world, not simply scary, reality-altering psychological breaks that may be tailored into online game kind for our amusement. Senua’s psychological well being situation isn’t solely there to freak gamers out; it’s a lens for us to evaluate the psychological battles all of us combat and settle for the truth that regardless that what we expect and really feel would possibly make us consider we’re completely different or othered, pondering and feeling is what makes us human and what retains us grounded. Our feelings assist us relate to others, and empathy ensures we gained’t really feel alone. If we consistently stay in worry of ourselves, are we ever really dwelling?

Those are the primary themes that Hellblade 2 will get throughout. Because of Senua’s psychosis and the sport’s presentation, studying the plot actually can typically be a bit disorienting. Immerse your self in Hellblade 2′s plot on a deeper and extra thematic stage, and also you’ll uncover the 12 months’s most enthralling online game narrative.

Industry-leading presentation

Hellblade 2 has been heralded as a sport that may really really feel next-gen, and it does stay as much as that hype. It’s a stunning expertise and the best-looking sport I’ve performed on Xbox Series X. The visuals in cutscenes and through gameplay are equally high-fidelity, and it’s typically powerful to inform the distinction between the 2 till Senua stops shifting since you aren’t urgent any buttons on the controller.

Hellblade 2 is industry-leading, pushing the boundaries of high-fidelity sport presentation.

Midgard, which is based on Iceland, is realized in gorgeous element. The psychosis-induced visible results that Senua experiences create some spectacular, mind-bending sequences that may possible turn out to be standouts of this console era. The movement seize prowess on show is top-notch, and all of the performances are wonderful. Don’t be shocked if Melina Juergens turns into the primary particular person to win Best Performance at The Game Awards twice.

Ninja Theory’s artistry goes past visible constancy, although. Hellblade 2 is framed like a Hollywood movie, and whereas letterboxing the sport is certain to be a divisive transfer, I believe it really works within the sport’s favor. Ninja Theory is aware of its sport is beautiful, too, because it permits gamers to activate a photograph mode at any time by hitting up on the D-pad. If you’re in search of additional proof that Hellblade 2 seems to be that good, the pictures on this overview have been captured utilizing the in-game picture mode and aren’t polished-up PR screenshots.

Photo mode in Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2.
Tomas Franzese / Xbox Game Studios

Its 30-frames-per-second restriction is disappointing, however the lack of any noticeable body price dips or technical issues shortly turned a non-issue as I aligned myself with the velocity at which Hellblade 2 was shifting. And I’d be remiss to not point out Hellblade 2’s industry-leading sound design. To precisely painting psychosis, Hellblade 2 makes use of binaural audio to provide its soundscape a 3D really feel.

It’s unsettling, however enthralling. I used to be at all times wide-eyed as I heard the Furies in Senua’s head transfer from one aspect of my headset to a different. It’s nice to cease, scent the roses, and hearken to the environmental soundscapes the builders had created. Hellblade 2’s soundtrack is superb as nicely. Ninja Theory is begging people to play Hellblade 2 with headphones on, and I’ve to agree with them. This is a sport finest performed alone at night time with headphones on and the amount excessive.

Good sufficient gameplay

Narratively and technically, Hellblade 2 is industry-leading, pushing the boundaries of high-fidelity sport presentation in the identical means video games like God of War: Ragnarok and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 do. It’s simply disappointing that Hellblade 2’s gameplay isn’t practically as artistic or modern. I don’t count on a sport like Hellblade 2 to be enjoyable; gameplay ought to replicate the theme and tone the builders are trying to go for with their interactive expertise. I simply want Hellblade 2’s gameplay was a bit extra partaking.

Hellblade 2‘s gameplay is never that clever, even if it’s well-polished

There are primarily 4 modes of gameplay Hellblade 2 strikes between: slowly strolling round as Senua, notion puzzles, fight, and intense set items the place Senua runs from level to level. None of those play poorly. Combat is improved from the primary sport with extra detailed animations and cinematic framing that made me really feel just like the architect of an intense Hollywood combat scene throughout each fight encounter.

However, gameplay nonetheless feels extra spinoff than modern. The perspective puzzles aren’t powerful to determine and aren’t very advanced in comparison with the unique, even when they arrive with spectacular visible results. The attack-dodge-parry movement of fight is well-trodden in video video games at this level, and instant-fail sections are annoying, even when Hellblade 2 by no means punishes gamers with the lack of a variety of progress.

I can’t assist however really feel just like the sequel might have accomplished extra to replicate its narrative themes by gameplay. Indika, a considerably comparable sport a few Christian nun coping with voices in her head, handles its portrayal of psychological well being much less deftly than Hellblade 2 however is extra artistic on the gameplay entrance. Within Indika’s opening hour, its titular character slowly fills a bucket of water because the devilish voice in her head taunts her, just for that bucket of water to be dumped out. That’s not “fun” gameplay however extra thematically related. Outside of the imprecise ideas of “looking at things from a new perspective” or “fighting through the darkness,” Hellblade 2‘s gameplay is never that clever, even if it’s well-polished.

Senua runs through a storm in Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2.
Tomas Franzese / Xbox Game Studios

Hellblade 2 doesn’t characteristic a lot in the best way of gameplay development, and whereas that’s OK, I hope for extra gameplay creativity from video games that determine to not deal with that. If Ninja Theory will get to make a 3rd Hellblade sport, gameplay is the realm I hope they deal with and enhance essentially the most.

Hellblade 2 is a sport about perseverance, so I’m pleased that Ninja Theory persevered with this sequel and hope the studio will get an opportunity to proceed to take action. Senua’s Sacrifice was a shock from an indie studio punching above its weight in 2017; now Ninja Theory is an 80+ developer workforce with the backing of Microsoft that regarded to prime that sport with its sequel.

Although the gameplay expertise remained stagnant, Hellblade 2 efficiently pushes boundaries on the presentation entrance, topping the primary sport with its gorgeous visuals, charming performances, and immersive sound design. But is that sufficient? Right now, on the heels of the closure of Hi-Fi Rush developer Tango Gameworks, I’m nervous what Ninja Theory achieved with Hellblade 2 will not be sufficient for the bigwigs at Microsoft. Many are involved that Ninja Theory could be the following studio to get shut down.

That shadow looms over the launch of what ought to go down as a trademark Xbox unique. While that’s definitely worrying, and people emotions shouldn’t be ignored, Hellblade 2 taught me that the perfect factor we are able to do will not be let these damaging ideas drag down the accomplishments Ninja Theory made with this sport. If Microsoft doesn’t worth the artistry on show right here, then that’s a mistake that Xbox should eternally stay with. Play Hellblade 2 as a result of it’s a implausible expertise from a studio that deserves to stay on and proceed to make standout video games, not since you worry what is going to occur to Ninja Theory in the event you don’t.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 was examined on Xbox Series X.

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