Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice is a very warmly received and highly rated action game, released in 2017 on PC and PlayStation 4 by Ninja Theory.

This title is inspired by Norse and Celtic myths and history and shortly after its premiere, it was also released on other eighth and ninth-generation consoles.

The success of the first part led to Ninja Theory releasing another instalment of the titular Senua’s adventures on May 21, 2024 – Senua’s Saga: Hellblade II, which came out on PC and Xbox Series S/X.

Just a few days after its premiere, this game surpassed its predecessor in ratings and is a strong contender to repeat its success.

So how do both games compare in terms of plot, gameplay, changes in mechanics, and graphics? Do you need to play the first part to fully understand the second? We invite you to a short comparison of Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice 1 vs. Hellblade II: Senua’s Saga games!

Quick Comparison
CategoryHellblade: Senua's SacrificeHellblade II: Senua's Saga
Release Date Aug 8, 2017 May 21, 2024
Platforms PC, PS4, Eighth & Ninth-gen Consoles PC, Xbox Series S/X
Setting 9th century, Helheim Iceland, Norse slave hunters
Plot Senua's journey to save her beloved Dillion from Helheim Senua's mission to free her enslaved people in Iceland
Protagonist Senua, a Pict warrior Senua, now considered a seer
Antagonists Mystical creatures, her own psychosis Mystical beings, slave hunters, Jotüns
Engine Unreal Engine 4 Unreal Engine 5
Graphics High detail, photorealistic Advanced photorealism, performance capture, photogrammetry
Reception (Metacritic) 88/100 (XONE), 83/100 (PC), 81/100 (PS4), 80/100 (NS) 81/100 (PC and XSXS)
Reception (IGN) 9/10 8/10
Pros Touching love story, focus on inner world, available on multiple platforms, lower price Better graphics, enthralling atmosphere, performance capture technology
Cons N/A Lower availability, high price
Do you need to play the first part? No, but it helps to understand Senua’s curse/illness No, but understanding the first game enhances the experience
Mental Health Representation Hallucinations, guilt, toxic behaviors, self-acceptance journey Continuation of Senua's struggle with voices and visions
Game Length 5-8 hours, replayable for deeper exploration 5-8 hours, replayable for deeper exploration
Overall Verdict Intimate experience, focus on protagonist's inner world Stunning visuals, neofolk music, immersive experience

Plot and Storyline

The story of the first Hellblade is set in the 9th century. We play as the titular Senua – a Pict warrior from Orkney, who embarks on a journey to the Norse equivalent of hell, Helheim, to save the soul of her beloved Dillion, sacrificed by Norsemen, who has already fallen into the clutches of the goddess Hela.

The girl does not have an easy task – not only does she have to face mystical creatures at every step, but she also constantly battles… herself. Senua believes she is cursed, hearing voices (Furies) and seeing various visions (constantly accompanied by the Darkness).

In reality, the woman suffers from psychosis, severely distorting her perception of the world. Senua inherited the illness from her mother, but it worsened when she, as a small child, witnessed her mother being burned alive by her fanatically religious father, who later also tortured Senua. Another heavy blow was the loss of her beloved.

Hellblade 2, Image credit: Ninja Theory

The plot of the first part is non-linear – what we observe intertwines with various visions and legends, serving as Senua’s guide through Helheim.

In Hellblade II: Senua’s Saga, we again play as the titular heroine known from the first game. This time, Senua voluntarily surrenders to Norse slave hunters so they can take her across the sea to Iceland. The woman hopes that this way she will be able to find and free her people, previously also enslaved.

However, a powerful storm thwarts the kidnapping of new slaves – the ships are destroyed, and the survivors, including Senua, wake up on the shore of Iceland.

Determined, the woman decides to continue her rescue mission, encountering mystical beings, slave hunters, and local inhabitants along the way. She is still accompanied by visions and dark memories, leading her to be regarded as a seer at one point.

Senua learns that a powerful volcanic eruption has torn the boundaries between the human world and Jotünheim – the realm of giants. The Jotüns have started troubling humans, who, in an attempt to appease them, began sacrificing slaves.

This instalment again features a non-linear storyline, where Senua’s visions and terrifying memories intertwine with reality.

Gameplay and Mechanics

Both games are third-person action-adventure games with elements of psychological horror. Importantly, they feature a permadeath mechanic.

Both Hellblade Senua’s Sacrifice and Hellblade II Senua’s Saga offer an interesting mechanic, divided into several sections, and the game itself also contains elements from other genres besides action. Senua can freely travel through a partially open world, explore and interact with objects.

Hellblade 1, Image credit: Ninja Theory

Along the way, she encounters various puzzles and real-time combat, where she must use individual strategies and tactics. When she falls, the attempt to rise resembles a real-time event mechanic, where we must quickly press a specific button to avoid fatal damage and death.

Some locations have their own mechanics, e.g., the heroine must reach a safe zone within a certain time or manipulate the environment to find an exit or solution.

Moreover, both games lack a traditional HUD (maps, enemy indicators, health bars) – the narrator’s voice and characters from Senua’s visions serve as a guide (but often also as an obstacle), as well as her behaviour.

The less HP and stamina she has, the harder it is for her to get up and fight. Interestingly, Senua also seems aware of the player’s presence and frequently breaks the fourth wall. This is particularly noticeable at the very end of the first game when (SPOILER) she tells the player that she has another story to tell.

Visuals and Audio

Both games feature excellent graphics, both on consoles (corresponding to the game release dates) and PC. Both games present high detail, well-designed character and location models, and outstanding animation.

All this is thanks to Unreal Engine 4 used in the first Hellblade and Unreal Engine 5, on which Hellblade II: Senua’s Saga was created. The Unreal Engine has always aimed for photorealism – its newer version, UE5, introduces new types of global illumination and systems allowing for the creation of highly detailed worlds.

Hellblade 2, Image credit: Ninja Theory

Additionally, the second instalment makes excellent use of performance capture technology (for detailed character animation) and photogrammetry (for reconstructing real places), making this title look simply stunning.

As for the audio, the creators also gave it everything they got. In both games, we can listen to very atmospheric, sometimes terrifying music inspired by Norse folklore, which intertwines with the auditory hallucinations of the main character.

The music for the first part was created by composers David García Díaz and Andy LaPlegua, while for the second part, García Díaz worked with the Danish-Norwegian-German neofolk band, Heilung.

Reception and Impact

The first Hellblade is highly regarded by both players and critics, with fairly high ratings. On the gaming site Metacritic, the game received scores of 88/100 (XONE), 83/100 (PC), 81/100 (PS4), and 80/100 (NS).

Hellblade 1, Image credit: Ninja Theory

On IGN, the game received a score of 9/10, as well as on VideoGamer.com and the Steam platform (90% positive reviews). It’s also worth mentioning that although the game was released 7 years ago, new reviews continue to appear.

As for the second instalment, its scores are as follows: 81/100 (both PC and XSXS) on Metacritic, 8/10 on IGN, 9/10 on VideoGamer.com, and 9/10 (90%) on Steam. As you can see, the ratings for both parts are quite similar and fairly high.

User Reviews

The above ratings translate into player reviews as well. Here are a few from the Steam platform:

Hellblade 1

  • “I do not enjoy playing single-player games.. But this game took me away from me.. Voices, Story, Characters, Graphics, Musics.. Amazing game! The conversations are still echoing in my head and I think I’m starting to go crazy… Thank you so much Ninja Theory!– Lucifer, October 11, 2017
  • “This game is an all-round sensory experience like no other! The devs have gone above and beyond creating visuals that really try to immerse the player and put them tightly into Senua’s shoes. This game is definitely a must-have experience for everyone.” – oneshottt, May 23, 2024
  • “Just completed the game and played with sound-canceling headphones the entire way. The most intense, surreal, deep, and rewarding game I have ever played in my life. If you haven’t got it, get it.” – ⛧ M†ropele ⛧, November 6, 2018

Hellblade 2

  • “Most probably the best graphics you’ve ever seen in a video game. The design, atmosphere, setting, and details are incredible and overwhelming and would be sufficient to recommend this game. The soundtrack is also excellent, just like in the first part. I appreciated the references to common magic topics like glamour or the hidden folk. (…)” – Kunstniete, May 23, 2024
  • “Hellblade II is an audiovisual masterpiece. An enthralling atmospheric experience that delivers from start to finish. It’s glorious, runs wonderfully, and is sublime in super ultra-wide resolution too. This is a brilliant follow-up to the original and an absolute delight to play. (…)” The Provoked Prawn, May 23, 2024
  • “One of the best games I have ever played. Finished in 7.3 hours so somewhat short, but the quality is unbelievable.”Specialk057, May 23, 2024

Our Verdict Pros/Cons

In our opinion, both games are undoubtedly worth playing. However, it should be mentioned that they are not titles for everyone, and they may not appeal to everyone without exception.

Graphically, both certainly impress, but the mechanics, gameplay, and plot… Well, they were created for players with strong nerves. And, as the creators themselves emphasize – primarily for an adult player.

Senua’s story is extremely engaging and deep, but also terrifying. Hallucinations, mythical monsters, being lost in a rather dark, shrouded world without navigation other than the voice in the heroine’s head, and almost photorealistic graphics… All of this evokes a lot of emotions: from admiration to fear.

If we had to choose between Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice 1 vs. Hellblade II: Senua’s Saga, we would not give a definitive answer.

Some of our team preferred the journey through hell, while others appreciated the realistic (though somewhat embellished) depiction of Iceland more. However, we unanimously agree – the Hellblade series is simply fantastic!


  • Do I need to play Hellblade 1 before Hellblade 2?

Not necessarily. Both titles are standalone stories, and the initial cutscene of the second game introduces the main character. However, deeply acknowledging Senua’s past in the first game significantly helps in understanding her curse/illness and her perception of the world.

  • How does Hellblade address mental health issues?

Hellblade excellently portrays what people with various mental health conditions face daily. This includes not only hallucinations but also the constant feeling of guilt, attempts to justify toxic behaviours, and the journey towards self-acceptance.

  • Are there any significant changes in the main character, Senua?

The simplest answer would be a quote from Melina Juergens, the actress who modelled for the titular character: “[Senua] is less afraid of the voices and visions. She hasn’t overcome and cured them, she’s just more in control”.

  • What should I expect in terms of game length and replayability?

In terms of gameplay length, both Hellblade 1 and 2 are not long games. They are rather condensed stories, taking about 5 to 8 hours to complete. However, it’s definitely worth playing the games a second time. The lack of markers, maps, etc., with only narrative navigation, and the level of difficulty and emotional engagement, make it unlikely to discover all the secrets of the games on the first play through.


In summary, the Hellblade saga consists of two excellent, visually stunning, engaging, and emotionally rich titles worth playing. Both transport us to a mythical, fantastic, but also dark world of Norse myths and excellently address deeper issues (as was the case in the Amnesia series).

In terms of comparison, the second instalment undoubtedly presents better graphics and, if someone is a fan of neofolk music, they will appreciate the tracks from one of their favourite bands. However, a downside is the much lower availability on various platforms and the still high price (we’re just after the release).

The first instalment, on the other hand, contains a somewhat touching love story and focuses more on the protagonist’s inner world, making it a slightly more intimate experience. The game’s price is accordingly lower, and its greater availability might encourage players using PS or Switch.