Why Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2’s Runtime of 9 Hours is Completely Fine

Hellblade 2 is confirmed to be around 9 hours in length, and there's a strong case as to why that relatively short length will likely be one of its strongest suits.

Posted By | On 18th, Apr. 2024

Why Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2’s Runtime of 9 Hours is Completely Fine

After a long period of waiting in anticipation, we finally have news on Ninja Theory’s upcoming Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2’s release date. The next chapter in Senua’s journey is set to release on May 21 for Xbox Series X/S and PC, and it definitely looks to be one of the most technologically sound and artistically charged games to come out in the near future. Fans are obviously excited about it, but that wave of excitement also brings along some questionable skepticism related to its runtime. 

As per a recent statement from Ninja Theory head Dom Matthews, Hellblade 2 is going to be of a similar length to its predecessor. According to those numbers, Hellblade 2 will take roughly around 9 hours to roll the credits. This obviously raises some concerns about the game being too short in length according to modern standards, but we think that the game’s short length is what precisely makes it so special in the first place. 

You see, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice was one of the earliest flagbearers of the AA market. At a time when the AAA market was bursting with games that traded scope and scale for creativity and originality, Hellblade was Ninja Theory’s passion project that was created under middling budgets and lesser resources. It was bursting at the seams with original ideas and fresh designs, which isn’t something that you could say about many of the biggest AAA games of the time. 

senua's saga hellblade 2

But what made it so special was the deep understanding of what the developer wanted it to be, and how the developer purposefully honed in on those elements without bloating the experience with needless elements that could dilute the intended experience. For instance, there are no progression systems to be found in the first game, and you wouldn’t find much in the name of collectibles or side content either. 

With Hellblade 2: Senua’s Sacrifice, Ninja Theory seems to be building off the same elements that made the first game so special. As such, you can expect a rather straightforward story about Senua strutting across the Scandinavian Isle, fighting her inner demons, and solving the occasional puzzle to progress through an emotionally charged story. There’s no secret to the fact that there wouldn’t be much gameplay variety apart from fighting and exploration – so it makes complete sense to craft a story with a length that is able to support the said mechanics. 

It’s important to understand that Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 simply wouldn’t work if the developers were to craft a 60-hour epic spread across sprawling isles packed with optional nooks and crannies to explore. The combat mechanics would have run their course by the tenth hour, and players would be spending the next fifty hours fighting the same kinds of enemies with increasing levels of frustration. 

senua's saga hellblade 2

We believe that the virtue of a good game comes from the feeling of wanting more out of that experience, and making Hellblade 2 a lot longer than its currently speculated length would just churn those feelings out of the equation since the mechanics on offer aren’t really capable of engaging a player for the long run. It’s extremely appreciable that Ninja Theory knows about this careful balance between the mechanics and the story, so keeping the length on the shorter end is much better for the game itself.

Furthermore, Hellblade 2 is a game that largely follows the principles of design by subtraction. In this design philosophy, the developer pays due attention to what makes the game tick in the first place – and then the team ruthlessly chops down or alters other mechanics that don’t support that central hook. It’s almost impossible to create a consistently varied ride when you are working off a very singular game mechanic, which is why games that are a byproduct of this design philosophy are relatively short in length.

It’s the same reason why Shadow of the Colossus has only 16 bosses to fight as opposed to 60, and a game like Journey doesn’t stretch itself out too thin by being a massive trek that takes 50 hours as opposed to just a couple of hours at max. In fact, some of the best action adventure games are those that don’t stretch their mechanics out too thin just for the sake of artificially inflating their runtimes. Examples include but are not limited to games like Max Payne 2, Halo campaigns among others. 

Conversely, it’s the same reason that many of the biggest open worlds built on the philosophy of maximizing content generally fail to provide that feeling when the credits roll. We’ve often had feelings of frustration and exhaustion as we reach the final act of a boring open world game like Valhalla since most of the content is usually rehashed with little in the name of originality, hence losing the feeling of wanting more out of that said experience. 

Of course, there is also an argument to be made about the economics of the purchase. Understandably, many fans would want to have a game that would last a lot longer for the asking price, and while that is a genuine plea – there are two important points to consider here as well. For starters, Hellblade 2 doesn’t retail at the current standard price of $70 but will launch at a marginally cheaper asking price of $50. But you also have to consider that this is the price for owning the game, so players who just want to experience Senua’s journey and get done with it can also do that through an Xbox Game Pass subscription which costs $10 a month. And the fact that the game releases on the subscription service on launch day makes it all the more sweeter. 

These factors make Hellblade 2’s shorter length a lot easier to digest since you don’t even have to pay much of a price to experience Senua’s journey from start to finish. But even if would have to pay that price, there’s also an argument to be had for the quality of the hours that you get out of that experience as opposed to the sheer quantity of those hours for the same asking price – so there’s that to consider too. 

In conclusion, the length of a game is never indicative of its quality and there’s no such evidence that a shorter game is any lesser compared to a massive game. As we discussed, Hellblade 2’s shorter runtime is what makes it one of the more interesting releases to come out this year, and Ninja Theory’s persistence to stick to its artistic vision and not give into temptations of creating a sequel that loses its brand identity to cater a wider audience is certainly commendable. Of course, we are still some ways from its release and it wouldn’t be wise to continue singing praises for a game that hasn’t even come out yet – so we are keeping fingers crossed for now.

Note: The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of, and should not be attributed to, GamingBolt as an organization.


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