Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 review: "Nothing short of video game sorcery"

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 review
(Image: © Xbox Game Studios)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

Haunting, confrontational, and deeply cathartic all at once, Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 is a stunning feat of video game art. Ninja Theory doesn't tiptoe around its heavy themes but welcomes them with well-honed empathy, tempered by an even keener creative edge this time around to deliver an unforgettable narrative adventure experience that's hard to watch, yet harder to turn away from.


  • +

    Photorealistic graphics and binaural sound design creates visceral immersion

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    Hints of traditional narrative structure adds more depth between varied puzzles

  • +

    A scarier, tighter, more impressive sequel that elevates both the series and the genre as we know it


  • -

    Pacing can feel inconsistent

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Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 might be the most unique video game I've ever experienced. Where Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice was a grueling character study, its sequel presents that character with a future beyond the trauma of her past.


Release date: May 21, 2024
Platform(s): Xbox Series X, PC
Developer: Ninja Theory
Publisher: Xbox Game Studios

Grappling with that trauma is still integral to Senua's journey into Iceland, although its purpose here has evolved somewhat since Senua's Sacrifice. Harnessed almost like a double-edged power, psychosis becomes a lens through which Senua sees the world in both its infinite sadness and secrecy, allowing her to navigate the darkness and find her way toward the light – both metaphorically and literally this time. 

Mental health, self-acceptance, the sheer effort of survival; developer Ninja Theory doesn't just broach these themes but actively embodies them. Meaningful game mechanics and binaural sound design work in tandem to achieve pitch-perfect symbiosis between form and function, cementing Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 as nothing short of video game sorcery worthy of the highest praise.

Crafting catharsis

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 review

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Perhaps the most striking element of Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 that marks it as a true technological feat is the use of spatial and binaural sound design. The Furies played a central role in the first game, giving voice to the psychosis – inherited from her mother in a refreshing spin on the "sins of the father" literary concept – that causes her to question reality and constantly risk losing herself to harrowing memories. Ninja Theory astounds in Hellblade 2 by taking these threads and running with them, immersing as well as educating the player with unflinching honesty.

From hearing the dying gasps of a ghostly figure as it chokes on its own blood somewhere on your left to the rumbling snarl of an enemy lurking just ahead, Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 has you constantly torn between the world within and without. Ninja Theory does well to make the external world an even harsher place to exist in than the largely metaphorical environs of Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice; photorealistic graphics aid this, with craggy shorelines and snow-capped mountains emerging from the fog as you lock into combat with a slave trader you mean to capture, his eyes glinting with an all too-human menace. 

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 review

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

It's an incredibly realistic encounter that feels a far cry from battling horned beasts in Senua's Sacrifice, further enhanced by how the Furies' voices still chatter at you whilst conversing with said slaver moments later. Painted against the background of real actors, costumes, and on-location set pieces that have all been scanned digitally prior to animation, Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 expertly presents her form of psychosis as an internal stream of consciousness, ever torn between the freedom of telling the truth and the fears of being maligned for it yet again.

At the same time, her mental state and the unique perspective it grants her has become Senua's greatest weapon in Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2. We see this reflected in the range of environmental puzzles, markedly varied from those in Hellblade: Senua's Saga, that turn this dark fantasy adventure into a sophisticated narrative experience. Greater stress is placed on world exploration in this sequel, foregoing the maze-like cyclical pathways of the original game in favor of an interconnected series of villages and locations, each encompassing a chapter in a story that extends far beyond the locus of Senua. She fits into things as a cypher of sorts, but Senua is searching for more than merely sigils in the world around her. 

The darkness before the dawn

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 review

(Image credit: Xbox Game Studios)

Sometimes Senua has to flip the world around entirely, altering the level design of each individual puzzle to gain access to areas beyond her reach. Other instances call on her to step through time and witness a place from an entirely different perspective, giving her a greater grasp of why and how its inhabitants were forced to seek extreme measures to combat dire straits. The creative application of Senua's psychosis as both an internal and external framework reinforces Ninja Theory's commitment to ethical representation, charging Hellblade 2 with meaningful conversations around mental health in a way that feels dynamic, authentic, and structurally fluid in the context of a video game. 

A masterclass in technical and thematic maturity

This firm footing in realism and sincere human experience is juxtaposed by elements of fantasy, broadening the lore of Hellblade 2 by leaning into the mythology of its Icelandic setting. Despite one chapter feeling overly-long in comparison to its five or so others, however, one element never seems to outweigh the other. It excels as both a dark fantasy horror-tinged adventure game and a groundbreaking psychological case study, delivering a masterclass in  technical and thematic maturity that proves why Ninja Theory is the only studio that could have pulled it off in the first place.

At its very core, Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 is as harrowing as it is immensely important. You will find the smiles few and far between, if at all; this is a game that leans into its atmospheric horrors in an overwhelmingly sensory portrayal of struggle and sacrifice. Still, Ninja Theory does not intend to traumatize the player. Moments of respite can be found following its most emotionally turbulent moments, speaking directly to the player to offer hope for new beginnings. "You've earned this," the Furies soothe as Senua steps into a field awash with golden light. Video games so rarely take mental health aftercare this seriously, and Ninja Theory dares to take that important first step in Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2.


Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 was reviewed on Xbox, with a code provided by the publisher. 

Jasmine Gould-Wilson
Staff Writer, GamesRadar+

Jasmine is a staff writer at GamesRadar+. Raised in Hong Kong and having graduated with an English Literature degree from Queen Mary, University of London in 2017, her passion for entertainment writing has taken her from reviewing underground concerts to blogging about the intersection between horror movies and browser games. Having made the career jump from TV broadcast operations to video games journalism during the pandemic, she cut her teeth as a freelance writer with TheGamer, Gamezo, and Tech Radar Gaming before accepting a full-time role here at GamesRadar. Whether Jasmine is researching the latest in gaming litigation for a news piece, writing how-to guides for The Sims 4, or extolling the necessity of a Resident Evil: CODE Veronica remake, you'll probably find her listening to metalcore at the same time.