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Awards

Rating

  • Graphics
  • Multiplayer
  • Story (Career Mode)
  • Originality

You Might Like

  • Fluid 2D combat
  • Challenging bosses
  • Lore soaked world

Might Not Like

  • Unclear side-quests
  • Multiple playthroughs required to see everything

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Blasphemous Review

Blasphemous Review

Blasphemous is Metroidvania goodness, set in a beautifully horrific and lore-soaked world.

Metroid-Insania

I can’t remember the last time I felt so drawn in by a game’s world. Compelled to explore every crevice of the map; to discover every collectable and skill; to unearth every piece of lore. Blasphemous’ world of Cvstodia (pronounced Cus-toh-dia) is a beautifully realized and detailed pixel art Metroidvania world. Hence, it contains the usual platforming challenges, varied enemy types, inter-connected corridors, and plentiful (sometimes frustrating) backtracking. If you’re looking for a twisted, despondent world to get lost in, akin to Dark Souls, then look no further.

Blasphemous sees Cvstodia overrun by a blight referred to as ‘The Miracle’, which transforms its residents into grotesque creatures and twisted abominations of flesh, wood, and bone. Expect to tackle Minotaurs, amalgamations of corpses, stone giants, and lightning spirits - and that’s just in the first few areas. As ‘The Penitent One’ you must destroy the source of The Miracle, slaying some seriously tough bosses along the way.

The journey will take you through ravaged villages, perilous chasms, snowy mountains, toxic sewers, and gothic cathedrals. Each area offers unique enemy types and traversal challenges. For example, winds batter the snowy mountains. They change direction and hinder or boost your horizontal jump distance. Likewise, the cathedrals include chiming bells which you must pass through at the apex of their movement to avoid collision.

Blasphemous has beautiful scrolling backgrounds, gorgeous pixel art cutscenes, and fantastic voice acting and music that all support the world-building. The sorrowful trumpet call of the tortured and unsettling character of Jibrael is a particular audio highlight. I could also listen to the epic metal-folk hybrid of one boss theme for hours. By now it should be obvious that I love this game. But if you’re still on the fence, let me give you some more reasons as to why this is one of the best Metroidvania games around.

Cvstody Battle

Players start with a relatively tiny health bar and only two healing flasks. Progression allows you to increase your maximum health and mana, the number and potency of your flasks, and the number of equipable rosary beads (which provide passive stat buffs). This early difficulty may put off new players, but it does ensure you fully grasp the dodge and parry manoeuvres. These are essential for later encounters, with some enemies requiring them in order to be more easily dealt with. They are satisfying to execute, and similar to ‘Metroid II: Return of Samus’, prove that these more traditionally 3D elements can work in a 2D game with more limited combat options.

That is not to say that combat in Blasphemous is restrictive. Dodges, dash attacks, directional inputs, aerial abilities, and spells are all a part of the Penitent One’s arsenal. Some enemies - like the homing, explosive heads and the hit-sponging, fire breathing beasts called Amagura - do feel cheap, and led to one too many unwarranted deaths. But enough foreplanning on the next attempt and you’ll likely succeed.

Unlike in other Metroidvanias, backtracking poses a serious threat. Early game enemies are still capable of taking significant chunks of health from you later on if carelessly dealt with. Save points in the form of shrines are neither generous nor scarce. Enemies respawn each time you use a shrine, meaning in some scenarios you may even wish to pass on their utility. It can be quite demoralizing when failing to find a shrine in a new area, only to die and find yourself booted right back to a previous location, with enemies respawned. Most distinct areas contain a special room offering some fast travel, but it is quite limited given how few of these rooms there are. Thankfully, a further update now allows players to eventually unlock more accessible fast travel. This doesn’t come at the cost of the game's flow, as it takes a lot of currency to unlock this. The map is intuitively designed and it was rare that I found myself lost, with transitions between distinct areas clear.

Repent for Thy Sins

As alluded to earlier, during a ‘vanilla’ playthrough, the game's difficulty acts more like a valley than a curve. It is equally difficult at the start and end, plateauing in the middle with your building momentum. Extra difficulty is certainly there for those who crave it, however.

New Game Plus (NG+) offers modifiers in the form of optional ‘penitence’ which handicap the player drastically. One completely changes the HP system, requiring a more attentive combat playstyle. Another halves the damage of your melee attacks but makes ranged combat more viable. The Miracle did not bless me with the skills to attempt these challenges. However, I did partake in NG+ runs, as they've added multiple free DLCs to the game since its release. These include new areas and optional bosses which are much more challenging than their main game counterparts. Some of these you can only encounter in a NG+ playthrough, giving plenty of incentive to dive back in.

The Devil You Know

In Souls-like tradition, upon death, The Penitent One drops a portion of his fervour (mana). You can reclaim this from the same location, or back at one of the game's few designated locations. In later levels, fervour is crucial for avoiding heavy damage - in the form of projectile absorbing shields or brief invincibility - or dealing it out in the form of lightning strikes and columns of heavenly light.

You'll find many of the more useful (and somewhat unbalanced) skills and buffs locked behind cumbersome side-quests. Several times I discovered that to access an area containing a useful skill required a special traversal ability. But, to acquire said ability, I needed to deliver multiple items to an NPC. However, to access one of these items, I need a different ability from an equally complex side-quest. By now you can see where this is going. This tedium was only mild and did not result in me quitting the game. However, I sometimes felt that the backtracking was there more to pad out the experience than to enrich it. Moreover, this backtracking does feel necessary when the rewarded skills are so overpowered that they make some bosses significantly easier. That is not to say that every boss becomes a walk in the park though; I’m looking at you Isidora, Voice of the Dead!

Bosses are all uniquely grotesque and intimidating and provide a real mountain to climb. Some took me around twenty attempts to succeed but rarely felt unfair or impossible. Those that did were eventually conquered by completing the aforementioned side-quests for more powerful skills. The freezeframe deathblow animation upon inflicting your final strike adds to the sense of elation once you finally best them. One could argue the central premise of a Souls-like is to bash your head against the wall of a boss until you eventually break through.

Final Thoughts

The difficult but tight swordplay in Blasphemous makes it an engaging beast. Heavy backtracking and side-quests do not detract from its lovingly crafted grim and gothic world. If anything, they give you enough time to lose yourself in the lore of The Miracle and its victims. Whilst not perfect, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience, boosted further by the excellent free DLC added later. Do yourself a favour and get as lost in the world of Cvstodia.

Zatu Score

Rating

  • Graphics
  • Multiplayer
  • Story (Career Mode)
  • Originality

You might like

  • Fluid 2D combat
  • Challenging bosses
  • Lore soaked world

Might not like

  • Unclear side-quests
  • Multiple playthroughs required to see everything

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