Blasphemous’s gruesome opening bluntly sets the tone for the type of game you’re in. After waking up among a sea of deceased worshipers, the silent protagonist, known as The Penitent One, slowly makes his way via long-abandoned citadel. Blocking his exit, however, is a so-called guard who uses a golden chandelier as a club. After dodging and hitting his attacks as his most vulnerable, The Penitent One removes his helmet from the defeated beast, fills it with the blood of the defeated enemy, and immediately pours it over his head. This is our Blasphemous Review.
Blasphemous Review: About
- Platform: PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Mac OS, Linux, Windows
- Developer: The Game Kitchen
- Publisher: Team17
- Genres: Metroidvania
- Release Date: September 10, 2019
Blasphemous Review: Official Trailer Video
Blasphemous Review: Gameplay
It’s undoubtedly an over-the-top intro, but the performance has turned pale compared to the other horrors that await. Blasphemous is an incredibly wild adventure with strong religious undertones everywhere. What drives you as The Penitent One is your goal to search the source of the mysterious Miracle, a supernatural force that has made tangible manifestations of the guilt of people across the country. The structure of Blasphemous’ incredible story and hack-and-slash gameplay pays homage to the Souls series and the Metroidvania subgenre.
While this reverence for established formulas may come as a derivative, the concepts fit the macabre atmosphere perfectly. Despite the grim character, there is still a seductive quality in the dark setting. It can often be oppressive at how brutal it all is, yet I always felt intrigued by it all. Some of the fascinating and exciting moments are unraveling more locations and small storylines that fall back on themselves and reconnect forgotten areas and characters in unexpected ways. Blasphemous has a range of Stoic NPCs with unique motivations and commitment.
Blasphemous’ impeccably detailed sprite artwork gives a more significant presence to the grotesque monsters and locations you will get to know during the journey. Almost every part of the game has a climactic battle, where you take on a richly designed boss who offers a fun and challenging tempo change from the long corridors full of monsters and nail-filled pitfalls. Most of these battles are a real highlight in Blasphemous, where you will be staged against extravagant and grotesque monsters – like the giant baby that will snatch The Penitent One limb if you get too close.
Many of these clashes are where the substantial religious images peak, making for some particularly horrifying battles that stem from more significant themes of repentance and sacrifice. There is an impressive level of world-building in the game, and several essential items and artifacts also contain unique pieces of knowledge that fill in the history of the country. A few of the characters also have small missions that can span an entire playthrough, some of which can be overlooked entirely given how loose the game’s sense of direction is. From opening to the climax, Blasphemous relies heavily on that familiar loop of exploration, discovery, and subsequent traversal and combat trials.
It’s simple enough to get into the rhythm of trading steel with enemies and jumping over dangerous jumps, although at some point you’re bound to suffer inevitable death – often horrifyingly. There is a myriad of spawn points, and without the loss of currency on dying, death is not as burdensome as it seems. However, repeated deaths will lead to debt, weakening your minibar, and currency gains. If you don’t shake off the debt by returning to your death point or spending the money to clear the debt, your character will be significantly disadvantaged.
This system is mild enough that you don’t feel too discouraged about death, but it still arouses fear in life or death situations, such as a leap of faith over a bottomless pit. While From Software’s Souls games undeniably influence these mechanics around the end, Blasphemous isn’t just a 2D Dark Souls experience. It shares more blood with many action games like Castlevania and Ninja Gaiden, paying less attention to RPG mechanics and more to current action and platforming.
The main combat and traversal systems are sleek and highly reflex controlled, and you’ll spend most of your time sharpening your limited but still refined skills. One of the satisfying moments comes from successfully parrying attacks with your sword, opening a bloody execution attack on your opponent. To give you an edge, you can boost your attributes with collectible relics and other upgrades, making it easier to take on the more difficult challenges.
As you gather new skills, access to new areas will open, revealing trails from previous locations that can give you a renewed sense of appreciation for the world itself. While these new skills and tools will bring some change, the core game of running, jumping, and chopping from opening to closing act remains mostly the same. Without significant improvements to your skills, later parts of the game come across as incredibly repetitive and dull at worst.
This feeling is heightened by how tedious research can be after settling in with the lay of the land. While there are quick travel points available, there are few in between, meaning you have to lead it through long stretches of treacherous dungeons that you have come to know inside and out. During these backtracking sessions, you will continue to fight with the same enemies with the same skills. Besides, you can easily fall prey to a lost projectile of an enemy that has disappeared, ending up in nail traps. This can be especially frustrating when performing specific tasks where you have to avoid death to complete them.
The lack of change in the overall flow is noticeable, especially when approaching the mid to late part of the game. As the plot escalates and more and more enchanting visuals are shown, your tactics and the general flow see little change. It is disappointing for a game that works itself on a core loop that’s about revealing details around you and overcoming more challenging enemies. Still, I can’t deny that Blasphemous presents a suggestive setting that gets grimmer as it progresses.
While it can be frustrating that the core of the game never gets beyond the often one-note rhythm of hacking and jumping over different levels, preventing it from reaching greater heights, I was nevertheless impressed by how much Blasphemous review is close to its oppressive, dark storyline lingered. To that end, playing this broadcast to Metroidvania games was a satisfying trial to overcome on its own.
Blasphemous is an incredibly wild adventure with strong religious undertones everywhere.