Hellblade 2: everything we know about the Xbox Series X game

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2
(Image credit: Microsoft)
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Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 is the highly-anticipated upcoming sequel to developer Ninja Theory’s Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice. 

Revealed at The Game Awards 2019, this came with a dark and mysterious trailer that didn’t really give much away. It wasn't until The Game Awards 2021 that we finally saw a gameplay trailer, but we're still waiting on a release date for the game. We also need more in-depth details on what we can expect from Senua's next outing.

It’s been over four years since we fought through the depths of Hel with Senua to rescue the soul of her dead lover from the goddess Hela, so we’re ready to jump into a sequel. From what we've seen, the wait will be worth it and the footage shown in 2021 was frankly breath-taking. Senua's character model is unbelievably detailed (opens in new tab), as is the beautifully bleak world itself. 

Therefore, we can likely expect this to be a real showcase of what the Xbox Series X is capable of. Read on for everything we know so far about Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2: cut to the chase

  • What is it? The sequel to 2017's Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice
  • When can I play it? TBC
  • What can I play it on? Xbox Series X|S and PC confirmed

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 release date and platforms

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 - Senua screenshot

(Image credit: Microsoft)

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 currently doesn't have a release date, but we do know it will release for Xbox Series X, Xbox Series S and PC. It'll also be available on Xbox Game Pass on day one.

While we'd love to see developer Ninja Theory announce a 2022 release date for Hellblade 2, it seems highly unlikely. That's based on comments the sequel's chief design director made last year – alongside the fact we're already half way through the year with little in the way of details.

The comments were made in a development update released on Ninja Theory’s YouTube channel (opens in new tab) in June 2021. In it, Tameem Antoniades, Ninja Theory founder and chief design director, said the team is currently building "a good chunky slice of the game before we then move into full production to build out the rest".

While the video did go on to show snippets of what Ninja Theory has been working on (and it's a lot), the idea that - at that point - even a slice of the game hadn’t yet been completed indicates that a full release for the Xbox and PC exclusive is still some time away. It's possible too, that the slice they were working on was the gameplay trailer shown at The Game Awards 2021.

What this means in terms of a release date for Hellblade 2 is yet to be seen, but we wouldn’t expect to get our hands on Senua's next adventure until at least 2023.

That 2023 window is backed up by VentureBeat reporter Jeff Grubb appearing as a guest on the Xbox Expansion Pass podcast. Here, he stated that Microsoft an internal 2021-2022 schedule included nine games in Xbox's 2023 plans. Alongside Hellblade 2, this reportedly included Fable 4, Hellblade 2, Perfect Dark, Contraband, Everwild, Avowed, and three untitled games.

Given that Forza Motorsport, Redfall, and Starfield are all scheduled for 2023, there's every chance a lot of these games have been internally delayed. For example, previous reports suggested that Everwild has been rebooted, now targeting a 2024 release date. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft hasn't commented on this report but we'll keep this updated as we hear more.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 trailers

Gameplay trailer
The first gameplay trailer for Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 was revealed during The Game Awards 2021 and, to be honest, we're still reeling from it. The six-minute cinematic gameplay trailer sees Senua leading an army as they take on a huge, grotesque creature lurking in a cave.

The trailer contains the same binaural audio effects that represent Senua's psychosis as the first game, with impressive facial animations and cinematic effects on display, that suggest Hellblade 2 will truly take advantage of the Xbox Series X's immense power. Check it out below:

Announcement trailer
Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 was officially announced for Xbox Series X at the Game Awards 2019, with a peculiar and gritty reveal trailer. While the trailer didn't give much away in terms of story and gameplay, it did confirm that this sequel looks much darker than its predecessor - which was already pretty dark. Check it out below:

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 news and rumors

No AI voices in the final game

Ninja Theory raised concerns recently when after news broke (via News.com.au (opens in new tab)) that Hellblade 2: Senua's Saga was using AI voices through Altered AI. However, the developers have sought to reassure fans via Twitter (opens in new tab) that this won't be in the final product, confirming:

“For clarity, we use this AI tech for placeholder content only to help us understand things like timing and placement in early phases of development. We then collaborate with real actors whose performances are at the heart of bringing our stories to life.”

‘Raising the bar’ with combat
The Hellblade 2 development team is looking to improve combat over the original game. In an interview with Spanish site, Vandal (via VG247 (opens in new tab)), combat designer Juan Fernández said of the original Hellblade: “We did many things well, but I think there are many things that could be improved that I would change today.”

The original game, Fernández explains, had an “incredibly small” team but this time, with a larger team and more resources, he hopes to improve the variety of combat and enemies.

"What I was least satisfied with in Hellblade 1,” he explains, “was the lack of variety of enemies, long-term combat was suppressed [...], the way the difficulty systems were tuned, the enemies had too much life, they had a lot of durability, we had a lot of variety of attacks and combos but really the enemies do not encourage you to use one or the other, people found two or three movements that they liked and repeated them constantly, there were very generous timings of parries and stories that can still be balanced more intelligently."

For the sequel, Fernández says, "We are raising the bar of doing more with less. We are more people than with the first Hellblade but the quality that we are giving versus the team behind compared to similar ones, I think that It's through the roof."

It’ll make Hellblade look like an ‘indie game’
Ninja Theory co-founder Tameem Antoniades is keen that Hellblade 2 should outshine the original game. In an interview with NME (opens in new tab), Antoniades said that “The goal with Hellblade 2 isn’t to perfect it, but to create an experience that feels more believable and more refined. Its ambition in terms of scale is bigger. I think Hellblade 2 will make Hellblade look like an indie game”.

Between scouting real locations and getting Senua actor, Melina Juergens real combat training, the goal, Antoniades says, is “making things look real or believable”.

Senua's character model is incredibly detailed
Developer Ninja Theory has shared two images showing a close-up of Senua's character model and they're unbelievably detailed. From the snot running out of Senua's nose to the creases of her lips, Ninja Theory is definitely not messing around when it comes to the little details that make Senua look truly realistic. 

The developer cites its development of skin and eye materials using studio references for its ability to make Senua look life-like. It's certainly got us excited to see more of Hellblade 2, and Senua, in action.

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No tricks here
Following the gameplay reveal of Hellblade 2, Ninja Theory Audio Director David García took to Twitter to provide some details about the trailer's audio. According to García, the gameplay trailer was entirely captured in-engine in real-time and "almost all" of the footage's 3D sounds use Project Acoustics and spatial audio.

Project Acoustics is Microsoft's wave acoustics engine for 3D interactive experiences. Essentially, it allows for realistic acoustics to be introduced into 3D environments. Spatial audio, meanwhile, is immersive sound that comes from (or seems to) all angles.

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Another behind the scenes look
Ninja Theory has been giving some more behind-the-scenes looks at the development of Hellblade 2, this time taking a look at some of the practical effects that are being used. 

In a short video shared through the developer’s Twitter account, we can see members of the team setting clothing on fire with the caption “Sometimes to create, you must first destroy. Experimenting with textural effects on clothing.” In a follow-up tweet, the team revealed that they’ll be using high-quality scans of the clothes to “reach an amazing level of detail” in the game.

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Cloud forming technology
The Ninja Theory Twitter account tweeted out a look at how the team is using “flow maps” to both make clouds form and dissolve naturally in Hellblade 2. It’s a very small look at how development on the game is progressing but it shows the attention to detail Ninja Theory is applying to the next Hellblade game.

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Behind the scenes look
Updates on Hellblade 2 have been pretty thin on the ground, so a behind-the-scenes update from the game’s star Melina Juergens was no doubt welcome for fans.

The video diary places a real focus on how Juergens prepared for the role of Senua this time around, with a glimpse at some pretty intense combat training. This does hint at a focus on realistic, authentic combat within the game itself. 

Juergens embarked on a regime of fitness training as well as taking weapons training with C.C. Smiff, the swordmaster and stunt choreographer for the recent Star Wars trilogy and Game of Thrones.  The game’s animators also took combat courses so that they could provide realistic movements for the game’s enemies during motion capture sessions.

Juergens also revealed that she suffers from the chronic pain condition fibromyalgia, explaining it “basically means my joints and bones and things like that are always in pain and I have a lot of fatigue. And also when I’m training I need quite a lot of time to recover after every session.”

You can watch the video diary for yourself below and Juergens has said that more will be coming in another episode in the future. 

Melina Juergens tweets
Melina Juergens, the lead actress who plays Senua in the Hellblade series, has posted a tweet making reference to Hellblade 2. 

The tweet includes a picture of Juergens painted with Senua’s rune-like patterns and scars and is captioned with the phrase “For every battle won, a greater battle takes its place”, alongside Senua’s Saga-related tags. It’s unclear whether the tweet is an indication that Juergens is on set working on the game or whether she’s just showing fans some in-character makeup. 

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Running on Unreal Engine 5
Microsoft has confirmed that Hellblade 2 will use Unreal Engine 5 in an official Xbox Wire (opens in new tab) post. 

According to Xbox, "The team will be building the game on Unreal 5 and leveraging the power of Xbox Series X to bring the Hellblade franchise to levels never before seen." They added that the footage of the game shown during The Game Awards in 2019 "was captured in-engine and reflects the power of Xbox Series X available to developers to deliver new universes, experiences and games in ways you have never imagined."

Icelandic inspiration
Hellblade 2 made an unexpected appearance during the Xbox Games Showcase on July 23, 2021, where it was revealed that the game would be taking place in Iceland. In developer Ninja Theory's 'Dreadnought' developer diary series (opens in new tab), the team spoke of how it has been location scouting across the country much as you would for a Hollywood film, including taking audio recordings for a special immersive, accurate representation of the landscape. Check out the video below for more.

What about the story?
We don't actually know anything about Hellblade 2's story yet but, from the trailer, it seems to be much darker than its predecessor. The trailer shows pagan rituals, breathtaking landscapes, limbs hanging from archways and a few battle sequences. There's also some hints towards Vikings - which would make sense given the time period. But this is speculation and we remain largely in the dark.

Vic Hood
Associate Editor, TechRadar Gaming

Vic is TechRadar Gaming's Associate Editor. An award-winning games journalist, Vic brings experience from IGN, Eurogamer and more to the TechRadar table. You may have even heard her on the radio or speaking on a panel. Not only is Vic passionate about games, but she's also an avid mental health advocate who has appeared on both panels and podcasts to discuss mental health awareness. Make sure to follow her on Twitter for more.

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