With the rise of soulslike games in recent years, some games started combining this genre with metroidvania elements. It proved to be a killer formulae, as Blasphemous, one of the first in this genre, proved to be a smash indie hit. Now that Blasphemous 2 is out, we’re looking to see what the game is all about and if it’s worth your time. Read on for our Blasphemous 2 review.
One heads up before reading on. I haven’t played the first game in the series and will be reviewing Blasphemous 2 as such. I won’t be able to compare it to its predecessor. However I love metroidvania games and have played loads of them. It’s not good or bad, but does provide some context to the review.
Blasphemous is a game about blasphemy. The developers of the game are based in Spain which has a notable history with catholic Christianity. As such, the setting is heavily inspired by this religion and specifically the topic of blasphemy. It’s an interesting and definitely unique setting. I’ve never experienced it as the focus in a game myself. You’re given a twisted dark fantasy universe introducing you to all sorts of religious elements from Catholicism.
Weapon of Choice
You play as the Penitent One. The lone survivor of a congregation called the Brotherhood of the Silent Sorrow. The world they live in is filled with pain and suffering, leading to its denizens to pray for the power to end this. This gives way to an entity called The Miracle to prey upon the vulnerable denizens. It is up to you to stop him and this blasphemy. Along the way, you’ll meet all sorts of characters, friendly and non-friendly, reflecting themes in Christianity.
As you start the game, you’ll be asked to choose between three weapons. A one handed sword, two daggers or a massive mace. Each of them have different abilities and play styles. The mace does tons of damage but is very slow, leaving you open for counter attacks. The daggers are swift but do little damage. And the sword is balanced between the two. The two latter are able to parry and block. Additionally, each weapon has the ability to open different routes on the map with their abilities.
At first, I figured choosing this starting weapon was mainly for replayability purposes. With starting a new playthrough and a different weapon giving the game a different feel. However, in the first part of the game you’ll get a chance to find the other weapons. Depending on your starting weapon, you’ll be able to enter different areas of the map due it’s metroidvania nature. This means the route you’ll take is different depending on your start weapon, which is pretty cool. Once you get all three, something happens in the story which reveals the rest of the world map.
The coolest part of the above is that after you’ve acquired all three weapons and unlocked the rest of the world map, it will feel as if the game truly starts from that point. The game expertly uses the first part of the game to introduce core mechanics, enemy types and bosses. Once you get all three weapons, you should feel familiar with the game. And at that point, it’s as if you’re now ready to take the plunge in the deep end. It’s great game design, however the only gripe I have with this is that the difficulty spike is a little too steep. From this point on, enemies are truly brutal. Which isn’t uncommon for a soulslike, however in my opinion any difficulty progression should be gradual.
Blasphemous 2 embodies its metroidvania aspects perfectly. There’s a giant map to explore, including secret rooms not visible on the map. You’ll need a keen eye and specific abilities to reach them. Additionally, there’s loads of sidetracking and stuff to collect. There were numerous points in the game where I just couldn’t decide where I wanted to go, because there was so much choice. Which led me to just exploring. This is probably the hallmark of a true metroidvania. There’s tons of collectibles, challenging encounters and a lot of upgrades to collect. One of the greatest touch ups, is that your map doesn’t automatically mark upgrades and such. Most metroidvanias do this but not Blasphemous 2. Instead, you’ll have to manually mark things you come across on your map, which is a great addition in my opinion.
As for it’s soulslike character, many people often think about third person action rpg’s in terms of soulslike. But Blasphemous proves side scrolling games are no joke either. While at the start of the game, there are a few tough encounters and bosses, once you get into the latter part of the game you’ll die. A lot. Enemies hit hard, have a lot of health and are packed in challenging groups. The latter is the biggest challenge. Getting to know an enemies pattern isn’t hard but certain group compositions make for maddening encounters. The difficulty spike in some places was a little steep for my tastes but it is a great soulslike for sure.
Find your playstyle
In combat you have various ways to deal with your opponents. The main way to deal with them is dodging their attacks and parrying if your weapon allows it. This is easy enough with one opponent but with more opponents you’ll be easily overwhelmed. But, you have abilities as well called prayers. They fall in either two categories, prayers and chants. You can equip one of each at a time. Some do massive single damage while others set the floor on fire. There are also utility chants, which allow you to return to the city which acts as a hub for example.
Apart from that, there are relics you can find and equip. This gives you passive bonuses. From hard stats like increased damage or health to circumstantial bonuses such as resistances to specific damage types. If you’re having difficulty getting past some encounters, you can mix and match some of these to make it easier to get past them. In order to use many abilities, you have a bar for your chants and prayers. As you die, your maximum amount gets decreased. You can regain it by going to the place you died and recovering your soul or by paying a price at the main hub.
Aesthetically Blasphemous 2 managed to pleasantly surprise me. First off, by having animated cutscenes. When playing a side scrolling metroidvania, I definitely don’t expect cutscenes. But they’re here and not pixelated, but beautifully hand drawn. They are used to tell the story in between critical story moments. Tied into that, the overall graphic style is very well suited to the theme. Going in, I expected a bleak and gray theme but there’s all sorts of environments throughout the game with various color palettes, while remaining true to Gothic architecture.
In terms of soundtrack, the game also impresses. Cutscenes and dialogue are wonderfully voiced. It feels smooth and natural, in contrast to some games. Voices perfectly fit their characters. And every region in the game is accompanied by its own soundtrack. Spanish influences can definitely be heard all throughout the game. Soundtracks feature a flamenco guitar to give it that true spanish sound.
Blasphemous 2 definitely surprised me in a good way. I knew about the series’ high praise as a metroidvania and soulslike. The second game in the series nailed every aspect of a great metroidvania and soulslike game. It’s almost like a textbook example. It doesn’t innovate in any way, but shows not every game has to. Gameplay is fun, exploring is addicting and combat is challenging. Its difficulty spikes are a little high at times, but push through that and you’ll be rewarded. Aesthetically, it’s unique and beautiful at the same time. Metroidvania and soulslike fans should definitely try this one given the chance.
- Great world map to explore, filled with secrets
- Challenging combat
- Aesthetically very good
- High difficulty spikes