Review – Blasphemous 2
Blasphemous was the surprise hit of 2019, impressing both critics and players in equal measure. By combining the exploration style of metroidvanias with the brutal combat of soulslikes, it answered the prayers of many gamers the world over. Its visceral, gothic setting and rich lore left many fans clamoring for more. Fans rejoiced when The Game Kitchen announced Blasphemous 2, allowing us to once again explore the twisted world of Cvstodia. After such a successful first outing, the question on everyone’s minds is: will the sequel do enough to keep our faith in the franchise?
Blasphemous 2 picks up right after the events of where the first game and its DLC, Wounds of Eventide, left off. It appears The Penitent One might not have ended The Miracle after all. The Heart in the Sky signals of the return of The Miracle through the forewarned birth of a new Miracle Child. The Penitent One awakens once more to prevent The Miracle Child from being born and inflicting The Miracle upon the world once more.
For anyone who hasn’t played the first game, I will say that’s it’s not necessarily critical to do so before diving into Blasphemous 2. That said, there are aspects of the world of Cvstodia, its citizens, and The Penitent One that might go over your head if you haven’t played Blasphemous. It’d definitely not a deal-breaker, as Blasphemous 2 sets up its own deep story that’s fully enjoyable on its own, but I do think players will get more out of the experience if they have more context of what’s happening, as well as the background on this world before getting invested. Take that how you will.
Regardless of whether or not you’ve played the first game, or this is your first time visiting Cvstodia, chances are you’re going to be hooked immediately. Blasphemous 2 is a dark and perverted game that centers around life, death, and resurrection. The sins of Cvstodia’s inhabitants (caused by their lack of faith due to The Miracle’s influence), leaves them tortured, usually trapped in a perpetual loop of torment, unless they can find some way to atone. Although, this doesn’t really apply to the regular enemies you’ll come across, so dispatching them with your holy weapons is more of a temporary mercy (for both you and them) than anything else. This is especially true when you consider that praying at a Prie Dieus (prayer altar) will make them all respawn, much like the bonfires in Dark Souls.
Where The Penitent One really holds sway and can truly help is with the NPCs. Many of the NPCs you’ll encounter have a heartbreaking tale and will need your help in some form. Most of them will require you to find a certain amount of special items to end their torment and bring them peace, typically rewarding you with a rare boon or favor for helping them. Others will simply sell you rare items once you’ve located them, and there are some that will have you perform trials of combat before granting you your prize. Encounters with the NPCs are wonderfully varied, and provide some of the best lore in the game. Depending on whether or not you help them, as well as how you help them, can alter the events of the game as well.
Alright, so the story and setting are great, but how about Blasphemous 2‘s gameplay? The controls are tight and responsive, making the platforming sections much more enjoyable to navigate. Also, the combat is even better this time around, in pretty much every way. It’s challenging, but not unfair. The Penitent One starts off by being able to choose from one of three weapons. Although, each weapon will become available at later points in the game, so there’s no need to stress too much on which one you choose.
Ruego al Alba is a sword, and is the most well-balanced out of all the weapons. Sarmiento & Centella are dual blades, and they deal less damage than the other weapons, but are much faster. Then there’s Veridicto, which is a massive mace and is the slowest, yet strongest of all the weapons. They all present their own strategies to combat, and some work better than others for certain enemies or situations.
They also each come with unique abilities that will allow The Penitent One to get past certain obstacles, so specific paths will be inaccessible until you acquire each weapon. This means that right from the start, player’s experiences will vary, depending on which weapon they choose. Because you won’t have access to every weapon from the get-go, the path you’re able to take initially will be dictated by which starting weapon you select. Eventually, you’ll acquire them all, but the first bosses you encounter will differ depending on this choice.
Speaking of which, one aspect of Blasphemous 2 that was a bit disappointing were the bosses. In the first game, nearly every boss was a grandiose affair, with horrific, demented souls that felt larger than life. In Blasphemous 2, they’re still interesting as far as their backstories, but their designs felt much tamer this time around. I also felt like many of them were less challenging than in the first game, with only a few notable exceptions.
Surprisingly, one of the hardest boss fights in the game for me was the first one (I started with the Ruego al Alba). After having my ass handed to me several times while trying to survive three phases, I thought Blasphemous 2 was going to be on a whole other level of intensity. Then I was somewhat disappointed by how much easier most of the other boss battles were. The final boss is absolutely insane, but the majority of them pale in comparison to that first and last fight.
I also have a couple minor issues with the combat. Don’t get me wrong, it’s fantastic for the most part, but it’s not always clear what enemies or attacks you can dodge through or parry. Honestly, the only way to find out is through lots of trial and error. Also, since there is no invincibility period after taking damage, enemies can, and will, pin you to a wall continuously do damage to you from attacks, or just by being on you since there is contact damage. There were a few times that I found myself pinned in a corner, unable to do anything, because the timing of the enemy attacks and movements kept me in a perpetual state of vulnerability. However, these are small gripes, and were more annoyances than anything.
Despite these issues, the combat as a whole in Blasphemous 2 is engaging and satisfying. I had a blast dispatching countless enemies in my path in savage and flashy ways. In addition to your weapons, The Penitent one will acquire Prayers, which are essentially your magic moves. Quick Verses are your light attacks, and Chants are your heavy attacks. Much like the weapons, they all have their strengths and weaknesses for certain situations and enemies. It’s a lot of fun experimenting with them. However, after a while I found the two I liked the best and rarely changed them afterwards, but everyone’s playstyles will vary. To each their own.
Naturally, there are plenty of ways to upgrade the skills and weapons of The Penitent One throughout the game. Altarpieces grant stat boosts and buffs, as do Rosary Beads. Marks of Martyrdom are what you’ll use to upgrade you weapons and unlock more of their abilities. You can also find more Bile Flasks, which restore your life, and even upgrade the potency of those after finding a specific NPC. The same goes for your Fervor (magic), which another NPC will enhance for you after finding him certain items. If you take your time and explore thoroughly, you should be able to max your stats before the end of the game, and trust me, you’ll need all the help you can get for that final fight.
Exploring the twisted world of Cvstodia is a delight, thanks to Blasphemous 2‘s incredible art design. The pixel art is absolutely stunning. Each area has its own distinct look and feel, steeped in gothic imagery. Despair and corruption are woven into every facet of the game, from its environments to it character designs. Blasphemous 2 has some truly creative and creepy enemy designs, and some of the most insane death animations I’ve ever seen.
The sound design also excellent. All of the vocal performances are strong, selling the feeling of melancholy and strained hope from its characters. Its tense and somber soundtrack fits perfectly with the overall tone of the game, swelling into epic tracks for each boss fight. The combat sounds are visceral, brutal, and satisfying.
Blasphemous 2 is a brilliant follow-up to its iconic predecessor. The combat has been improved from the original, and features new weapons and skills to better customize the gameplay to different playstyles. The world of Cvstodia is visually striking, with its highly detailed, gothic pixel art. With multiple endings and tons of secrets to find, there’s plenty of incentive play it more than once. Regardless of whether or not you’ve played the first one, Blasphemous 2 is worth experiencing.
Absolutely incredible pixel art, with fantastic enemy designs, and insane death animations. The map, however, is extremely rudimentary and the bosses don’t feel quite as epic as the first game.
Different weapons allow you to customize the combat to whatever suits you best. The combat is fast-paced, responsive, and challenging, but not unfair. It’s not always clear which enemies you can dodge through or parry, though.
The tense and often times somber soundtrack fits perfectly with the overall tone of the game. The voice acting and combat sounds are also very well done.
Once you start, you’ll be immediately hooked. It’s tough, but not unfair, and the lore continues to create a truly captivating experience.
Final Verdict: 9.0
Blasphemous 2 is available now on PC, PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.
Reviewed on PS5.
A copy of Blasphemous 2 was provided by the publisher.