Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 is less of a PC hardware killer than it seems

While I’ve always thought that the race towards graphic hyper-realism isn’t as ubiquitous as it’s often thought, Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 is certainly one of the That games. The kind that probably has twelve artists dedicated to reproducing visible pores, that kind of thing. It’s so focused on looking pretty that it didn’t even notice that the title and subtitle got mixed up.

Sure enough, Hellblade 2 is a tough test of older hardware, with a heavy reliance on DLSS or FSR upscaling to keep performance good. That said, it’s not a Dragons Dogma 2 style technical horror show either. A happy balance between visuals and smoothness is achievable on both luxury PCs and low-end laptops, while DLSS 3 frame generation can deliver an effective kick in the framerate pants on RTX 40 series GPUs.

There are some important quality settings you may want to lower during the process, so more below. First, let’s reacquaint ourselves with Hellblade 2’s system requirements, because googly moogly, there are a lot of them.

A horrible fleshy troll in a screenshot from Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2.

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 system requirements and PC performance

This Pictish action adventure lets you skimp a bit on CPU power, only asking for a crispy Core i5 at the very least and definitely mid-range chips for maximum 4K. However, a more powerful graphics card will pay off, especially if you have one with Nvidia DLSS support; FSR 3 is available for upscaling, but it lacks the frame generation component, so RTX card owners might as well stick with the nicer DLSS. I hope you don’t still only have 8 GB of RAM either:

The official PC system requirements for Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2.

Image credit: Xbox Game Studios

These specs apparently assume you’ll stick with the standard upscaler, TSR. With this, plus the low quality preset, I recorded a GTX 1070 at an average speed of 33fps at 1080p – although after switching to FSR 3 in quality mode it jumped to 43fps, with a negligible drop in image sharpness. Sticking with AMD’s upscaler, the Intel Arc A750 also showed that budget GPUs can get by, scoring 47fps at 1080p with a combination of medium settings and FSR 3 on quality.

However, DLSS turned out to be both sharper and faster. My RTX 4060 initially struggled a bit with the high preset even at 1080p, averaging 38fps with the standard TSR. A switch to DLSS on Quality immediately shot up to 56fps, and since the RTX 4060 supports DLSS 3 framegen, that too could jump to a smooth 91fps. This technology also works well on laptop GPUs. My RTX 4050-based laptop, a 1080p MSI Thin GF63, was able to run the Low preset at 51fps with only quality-level DLSS upscaling – and by enabling frame generation, it produced 88fps.

Hellblade 2 remains a good-looking game even at these lower settings, and in the apparent absence of any real issues with stuttering, flickering or other performance issues, it’s more suited to lower-end hardware than the MEGA REAL GRAFFIX presentation would suggest. Granted, with limits – the Steam Deck struggles and can only run full low settings above 30fps with FSR 3 set to Ultra Performance. In a word, that looks like pants. Performance mode is more visually tolerable, but usually puts the framerate in the twenties.

Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 with ultra-wide 3440 x 1440 resolution.

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Xbox Game Studios

Conversely, Hellblade 2 scales impressively with bigger, shinier GPUs. The RTX 4070 Ti went to 78fps at 1440p/High, albeit helped by DLSS on quality, and Framegen got that up to 127fps. The same card and settings (without framegen) also produced 78fps at 3440 x 1440, an ultra-wide resolution with an unusual side benefit: getting rid of the horizontal black bars that appear (and are apparently mandatory) with traditional 16:9. In other words, Hellblade 2 insists when played ultrawide. I’m not a fan of this, no matter how cinematic the game wants to be, though it’s at least a win for ultrawide monitor owners who might otherwise have to deal with the verbose/out-of-place user interfaces of a games industry that generally prefers regular widescreen.

The RTX 4070 Ti also did quite well at 4K, achieving 59 fps on High with DLSS quality (88 fps with frame generation enabled). The best card in my closet, the RTX 4090, delivered an even smoother 75fps with quality-level DLSS, going up to 120fps with framegen.

Senua lurks menacingly in a pool of stagnant water in a Senua's Saga: Hellblade 2 movie.

Image credit: Rock Paper Shotgun/Xbox Game Studios

Senua’s Saga: Hellblade 2 best settings guide

Unfortunately, DLSS 3 outpaces most GPUs, but better performance can be yours with a combination of regular upscaling and a few lowered settings. Don’t be afraid of such cuts to Hellblade 2’s visual merits – as you can see in the comparison below, all three high, medium and low presets look quite similar, and some of the more visible changes (such as blade and texture quality ) don’t actually have much of an impact on performance. Or not at all, in many cases.

Armed with an RTX 4060 – I would have used the min-spec GTX 1070, but I wanted to test DLSS and framegen – I benchmarked each individual graphics setting at both the highest and lowest quality, identifying which were the best at speed up performance. Anything with a significant improvement over 38 fps, the average result on the High preset at 1080p, is worth considering:

Motion blur: You can lower this if you simply don’t like the effect, but this won’t affect performance anyway. I still got 38fps while it was reduced from 10 to 0. (You also have to go to the Accessibility menu to find the slider, as it’s not in the main graphics menu.)

Custom upscaler: Forget the default TSR, even if the resolution scale is on a faster setting; FSR 3 and DLSS are both faster and, especially in the case of the latter, prettier. DLSS in quality mode boosted the RTX 4060 to 56 fps, the best result of the bunch, while FSR 3 proved itself the best alternative to non-RTX GPUs with 54 fps on quality. Intel XeSS is also available and scored 53fps and 53fps in Ultra Quality mode, but is a bit blurrier than FSR 3.

Frame generation: Again, this is exclusive to Nvidia’s RTX 40 series cards, but it’s worth it if your GPU supports it. When enabled, it’s 56fps with Quality DLSS upscaling to 91fps. Just make sure that if you enable framegen, you also set Nvidia Reflex (a little further down the menu) to On+Boost. This will help deal with the extra input delay.

Variable Speed ​​Shade: VRS, which aims to improve performance by varying visual quality around different parts of the screen, is enabled by default. However, I still got exactly 38fps after turning it off, so you might as well turn it off and keep everything consistent.

Anti aliasing: A likely non-issue, as both DLSS and FSR contain their own AA technology, which replaces that of the game. For what it’s worth, I saw no performance difference between High and Low with TSR enabled.

Post-processing quality: Another unchanged 38fps after switching from High to Low.

Effect quality: Low gave me 39fps, only 1fps faster than High. I wouldn’t have a problem with it.

Shadow quality: It’s marginal, but I think the 41 fps granted by dipping this to Low makes it about a worthwhile change. At least if you don’t already achieve 60fps-plus.

Reflection quality: Another result of 39 fps on Low. You can see the difference in quality in water and such, so try to keep this on the highest setting.

Global lighting quality: Another setting for the chopping block. Low quality still looks fine and helped the RTX 4060 to 44 fps, an immediate 16% improvement.

Volumetry: You may also need to tone this down a bit as Low got the RTX 4060 with an average of 43fps.

Texture quality: Keep this at High. Low did absolutely nothing to improve performance, once again landing at 38fps.

Viewing distance: Low only produced an average of 39fps, which may not have been worth it.

Foliage Detail: Likewise, dropping back to Low only increased performance by one frame per second. Stay with High.

It may not be the most refined approach, but setting some of these settings to Low and keeping the rest at High will yield some really big FPS gains. But make no mistake: it’s the third-party upscalers that do a lot of the heavy lifting. This is what I would suggest for Hellblade 2:

  • Motion blur: 0
  • Custom upscaler: DLSS/FSR 3 on quality
  • Variable speed shadow: Out
  • Shadow quality: Low
  • Global lighting quality: Low
  • Volumetry: Low
  • All the rest: High

Still on the RTX 4060 at 1080p, these gave me 75fps with DLSS and 73fps with FSR, with the former able to rise to 117fps with DLSS 3 frame generation. Even without this, that’s painfully close to double what the GPU pulled on the High preset, and without a painful reduction in visual quality. Job is a good boy, as the Picts would probably have said.

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