Review – Blasphemous

Metriodvania and soulslike games have become irreplaceable gaming staples, so it was only a matter of time before the two genres were combined. That’s not to say that this marriage of two different gaming types hasn’t been tried before. I only mean to say that there hasn’t been many truly groundbreaking titles to achieve this thus far, other than Hollow Knight. I’m thrilled to say that Blasphemous from The Game Kitchen and Team17 has breathtakingly blended these two gaming styles into a unique masterpiece of a game.

In this gothic tale, you play as “The Penitent One”, the soul survivor of a massacre referred to as “The Silent Sorrow”. This was a result of a nefarious curse that has befallen the entire land of Cvstodia, also known as “The Miracle”. Everyone has been thrown into a vicious cycle of dying and being reborn into a twisted husk of their former selves (a bit familiar, don’t ya think?). The Penitent One must journey forth to discover the root of the evil, free the inhabitants of the curse, and come face to face with his own demons.

Blasphemous

Let the bodies hit the floor.

Blasphemous combines several different gameplay styles in blessed harmony. It’s a soulslike, hack ‘n’ slash, platforming, and metroidvania styled game all rolled into one glorious experience. It’s a non-linear 2D platformer with tons of enemies to cut through and secrets to discover. In typical soulslike fashion, if you die (and you will, a lot) then you will lose all of the Guilt points that you have collected. Guilt is the Blasphemous equivalent to souls in Dark Souls. They will remain available to retrieve in the place of your demise, as long as you don’t die again before collecting them.

You will use your accumulated Guilt as well as other collectables you’ll find along your adventure like rosary beads, relics, prayers, and Mea Culpa hearts, to upgrade your stats. Upgrading your stats and saving your game can be done at prayer altars, much like the bonfires in Dark Souls. Praying at one of these altars will also respawn all of the previously killed foes. As you might expect, prayer altars are found pretty frequently in the earlier stages and are more spread out the further you progress.

Blasphemous

One of the more extravagant prayer altars where you can level up your blade.

I cannot praise enough the overall world building that Blasphemous has cultivated. It has a deep, evocative narrative that is laid out brilliantly between in-game dialogue, as well as through lore described within the collectables you’ll find along the way. I find that there are many games out there that either lay out the entirety of the lore through exposition and cutscenes, or almost nothing is revealed through dialogue and is instead discovered through reading books or details on found items. Blasphemous provides the full story through both methods, and it works marvelously. I found myself not only wanting to collect everything I could possibly find to level myself up, but also to gain more insight as to what was going on in the world around me.

The gameplay in Blasphemous is a delightful blend of hack ‘n’ slash, strategy, and platforming. You will start off with your introductory set of manuevers, but you will be able to level up and customize your moves to better reflect the play style you prefer. It feels to me like a perfect mix between Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night and Dark Souls. You’ll mercilessly slaughter all of the minor foes around you while trying navigate your way across various platforms, ladders, and pitfalls. Then there are the boss fights that will require and incredible amount of strategy and cunning to overcome.

Blasphemous

He’s trying to get ahead in this world.

The boss fights are where Blasphemous shines the brightest. Each of them are greatly different from one another and have their own buildup and backstory. Every boss is set within its own unique set piece that perfectly plays to its particular sin. Also, each boss fight plays very differently, so you won’t have to worry about getting bored with using the same tactic over and over to defeat them.

Visually, despite it being a pixelated game, Blasphemous is gorgeous. The different areas of Cvstodia are each given their own very distinct look and feel. Entrenched in Christian ideology, the surroundings, enemies, and inhabitants of Cvstodia all showcase a world that has been corrupted by a dark force to reflect the sins that lie within us all. From crumbling cathedrals, to poisoned swamps, to icy wastelands, every area is vastly different. The enemy designs are some of the craziest I’ve ever seen. For example, one type of enemy is a martyr bearing their cross, which they can use to hit you. In turn, once you get their health down low enough, you eliminate them by stomping down on their crosses and crushing them to death. It’s imagery that will make any church-burning black metal band go bananas.

Blasphemous

It doesn’t get much more gothic than this.

The sound design is superb as well. The score is somber and dark, yet wonderfully epic whenever a boss battle is in play. The sound effects are very effective, with satisfying splashes and crunches to accompany the various killing methods. I’m also impressed with how well acted the voices are in this game. It adds a whole new depth to these already intriguing characters and makes you feel for their plight.

Blasphemous is an outstanding game and one that should not be missed. Its smooth gameplay, impressive visuals, and compelling story make it a title that will stand apart from the rest. It is the perfect example of a game that took the best parts from several different styles and melded them together into one beautifully cohesive title. If you’re a fan of metroidvanias, soulslikes, or platformers, then Blasphemous is a game that you simply cannot pass up.

 

Graphics: 9.5

This is an especially gorgeous game, even with it being  pixelated. The environments are rich with detail and every area feels vastly different from one another. The enemy designs are some of the most creative I’ve seen.

Gameplay: 9.0

Blasphemous is a little bit of everything gameplay-wise. It’s a fantastic blending of  hack ‘n’ slash, metroidvania, soulslike, and platforming. The moves start out basic, but are customizable to reflect your own personal playstyle.

Sound: 9.0

The tense and often times somber soundtrack fits perfectly with the overall tone of the game. The boss battles feature more grandiose scores which are even better. The voice acting and sound effects are very well performed.

Fun Factor: 10

From the moment you start this game, you’ll be instantly hooked. Its dark gothic themes and rich lore create a world worth exploring. The gameplay is smooth and incredibly satisfying.

Final Verdict: 9.5

Blasphemous is available now on PC, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One.

Reviewed on Switch.

A copy of Blasphemous was provided by the publisher.

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