Hellblade 2 Is An Unrivaled Spectacle, But The Gameplay Neglection Bothers Me

If the first one was criticised for this aspect, why not improve upon it?

Story Highlights

  • Hellblade 2 is now available, and it’s a visual masterpiece you can very much mistake for a live-action. 
  • It pushes the boundaries of audio design and delivers a phenomenal experience (use headphones).
  • However, despite the criticism, Hellblade 2 neglects gameplay depth even more than its predecessor.

If you were excitedly waiting for the mind-boggling Hellblade 2, you weren’t alone. However, when it opted for a last-minute embargo, I became somewhat skeptical. Did Hellblade 2 have anything to hide? Anyway, I discarded these worries, as I had high hopes for the games. And now after enjoying the hell out of it, those hopes were definitely fulfilled, bar one, rather peculiar aspect.

YouTube video

Hellblade 2, A Visual Feast Of Delusions

Hellblade 2 is out now, and I urge you to give it a try so that you can join me in appreciating what has been the most visually stunning game of the year so far. From the moment it begins and throughout its short but tightly packed 6-hour runtime, the game has you in awe, applauding its graphical fidelity and the extreme realism it delivers with its photorealistic brilliance.

Hellblade 2 is so ******* beautiful
byu/alexjosco inxbox

Following its predecessor, Hellblade 2 is a story centered around Senua, our tragic protagonist suffering from psychosis, and the resulting delusions and intrusive thoughts. Voices plaguing her head and phantasmal visions that feel all too real, we join Senua as she battles her inner demons as well as the outside ones, which are very much alive this time.

It's like seeing a live-action footage | Source: Steam
It’s like seeing a live-action footage | Source: Steam

Hellblade 1 had Senua’s delusions run amok, but in Hellblade 2, there’s plenty of real danger mixed in as well. I’ll try my best not to spoil anything about the story, but know this, the representation of everything these games embody couldn’t be more realistic than this latest entry. From the enemies and Senua’s visions to the action-packed cutscenes and landscapes, you can’t help but mistake it all for live-action footage.

Redefining The Meaning Of Audio Design

Hellblade 2 puts more focus on the external situation than Senua’s internal struggle, and some people might find that a flaw. I didn’t have that much of a problem with it. This direction is like the fruits of her struggle in the first one, discarding that development and growth would’ve been counterintuitive anyway. But putting that aside, It’s practically unanimous that Hellblade 2 pushes the boundaries of gaming audio a little too much.

Words can't explain it, the audio design is phenomenal | Source: Ninja Theory
Words can’t explain it, the audio design is phenomenal | Source: Ninja Theory

I implore you to play this game with headphones, the TV speakers can’t hold a candle to this experience. The audio design in this game is beyond sublime.

From the little things like critters in a cave and the water droplets to the inner voices breathing down your neck and the enemies closing in on you during combat, the sound is so mesmerizing that you feel ensnared, mistaking yourself to be in the game itself. You become as jumpy and cautious of everything as someone experiencing it up close and personal.

The Lackluster Gameplay Is A Problem

You must be wondering “This is a masterpiece then, what’s the problem?” I mentioned one aspect before, so let me expand on that. The problem with Hellblade 2 is the barebones gameplay amidst all this. As a cinematic experience, I don’t think there’s anything more impactful than this game. As a game though? the lack of meaningful gameplay really sticks out like a sore thumb.

byu/Bobaaganoosh from discussion

It’s all very peculiar. The overly simplified gameplay in the first game was its most universal and logical criticism. The game is a beautiful experience, but its gameplay leaves a lot to be desired. If that’s the case, why didn’t Ninja Theory learn from this mistake and make an effort to refine the gameplay this time around?

The extra simplification of gameplay is an odd choice | Source: EliCaster (Reddit)
The extra simplification of gameplay is an odd choice | Source: EliCaster (Reddit)

On the contrary, the devs made the gameplay even less of a focus in Hellblade 2. The gameplay in the first was weak, but it’s even weaker in the sequel. Combat variety was already few and far between, but Hellblade 2 removes even that, like the guard break attack from the first, to become a completely cinematic game. It’s like the devs saw the criticism, and doubled down on making it a visual feast first, a proper game later.

2 hours into the game, and the removal of the melee attack is already killing me
byu/MeridiaBlessedMe inhellblade

Don’t get me wrong, I’m in love with Hellblade 2, but the choice of neglecting the gameplay was a very odd move. Hellblade 2 could’ve improved its gameplay engagement while retaining its core formula. More complex puzzles and some core abilities to expand and diversify the standard combat loop would’ve gone a long way.

The Significance Of Gameplay

Hellblade 2 should’ve understood that it’s a game first and foremost. A movie can work as a substitute for a cinematic experience. Granted it’s very short, but a game should have some intractability to retain user engagement. If I boot a game, I expect some mechanic versatility to keep me occupied, not a collection of cutscenes with minimal input from my side.

byu/Bobaaganoosh from discussion

As my friend Muhammad Haris Umar has very precisely summarized, Gameplay is the most important factor in a game, not visuals or even the story. If a game is entertaining enough in terms of its mechanics and gameplay variation, I’ll always appreciate it. Thus, Hellblade 2 is a splendid game no doubt, but it should’ve opted for at least some gameplay refinement, following its predecessor’s criticism regarding the very same flaw. 

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Hanzala is a dedicated writer who expresses his views as opinion pieces at eXputer. He's always been fascinated by gaming and has been an avid consumer of many different genres for over a decade. His passion for games has him eager to encounter the latest RPGs and actively look for new Soulslike to challenge. He puts forth his experience and knowledge of gaming into captivating opinion pieces.

Experience: 8+ months || Education: Bachelors in Chemistry.

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