Gothic sequel Blasphemous 2 is an even bloodier, more brutal metroidvania primed to test your mettle.
The original Blasphemous stood out amongst a sea of other indie metroidvanias when it first released in 2019 due to the eye-grabbingly gruesome nature of its pixelated visuals. No other game has delivered such a warped, oppressive fusion of Roman Catholic iconography and historical Spanish culture.
Beneath the battered and bloodied art style, however, lay a pretty good riff on the FromSoft design principles, albeit translated to a 2D plane. Blasphemous 2 wisely chooses to perfect these ideas and mechanics further without changing what made the first game so memorable.
Set some time after the previous title’s Worlds of Eventide DLC, Blasphemous 2 once again sees you shoved into the helmet of The Penitent One, a silent knight who must atone for his sins by engaging in a seemingly endless cycle of fight, die, repeat. This time you do so within a location that’s even more expansive and diverse, complete with a new set of biomes to explore, intimidating bosses to defeat, and – crucially – powerful weapons to wield.
Whereas before The Penitent One was restricted to poking and slashing away at foes using his Mea Culpa longsword, which could be upgraded and improved via its own skill tree, developer The Game Kitchen has seen fit to step up the combat opportunities with the inclusion of three new weapons. The Ruego al Alba, as your starting broadsword, serves as a great all-rounder capable of blocking and parrying enemies when the correct timing is applied. The Veredicto yields heavy hits as your mace-like weapon, while Sarmiento and Centella act as a pair of shorts swords you can dual wield to dish out stabs at pace.
All three weapons have their perks depending on the type of tricky creature you’re facing, and many times while playing Blasphemous 2 I was thankful for the ability to quickly swap between them on the fly. It creates scenarios that are ripe for a type of experimentation that, only now do I realise looking back, was very much absent in the first game. Your suite of magic-based Prayers returns to let you approach combat differently again too, though almost all of these ranged attacks are also new.
This being a metroidvania, two of Blasphemous 2’s weapons aren’t given to you right away, and must be discovered (in an order of your choosing) as you progress further in your quest. Because while the Veredicto mace and Sarmiento and Centella can be regularly upgraded with skill points, they also aid in exploration by offering fresh methods of traversal. Clanging a bell with a Veredicto swing might open up a new doorway or reveal previously hidden platforms, for instance, which goes some way in ensuring there are plenty of “ah-ha” moments.
As with any labyrinthine map of this scale, there were several points where I found myself scratching my head over what I should be doing or how to find a route to the next objective. It can be annoying during prolonged periods when this occurs, sure, but more often than not Blasphemous 2 lays down plenty of breadcrumbs to make you aware that you can’t necessarily engage with certain areas as soon as you come across them. Exploration becomes less harsh once all three weapons are acquired, yet even then the game has plenty of secrets and optional areas for you to find, most of which yield rewards in the form of defence-altering Rosary Beads, new Prayers and health upgrades.
Story mostly bleeds into the background but is indeed present, largely in that purposely obscure way Soulslike players have come to adore where random NPCs are prone to spouting gothic gobbledygook. It may work for some, but it never has for me; I found myself far more interested in the general beats of the narrative that occur on the surface-level regarding The Penitent One’s central quest, as opposed to any deep-laden lore elements that seem to only get increasingly obscure.
Far more alluring are the new 2D, hand-drawn cutscenes, which do a much better job at realising the scale of the biomes you’ve been traversing this time around. At first it can be disorientating to go from conventional cartoon animation to pixelated visuals and back again, but it happens little enough that I eventually grew to love the shift during important set piece moments and it helps the game feel more cinematic. In terms of the pixel art, however, The Game Kitchen has somehow found a way to render Blasphemous 2 even more beautiful than the first, with incredibly detailed backgrounds that draw the eye (sometimes to my detriment) and some of the smoothest animations I’ve seen done in this style.
Readable animations are a must in a Soulslike with bosses as tough as this, too. Because yes, as before, Blasphemous 2’s roster of big bads serve as the ultimate test of your mettle between the various platforming challenges, often taking up the entire screen with attacks that can rattle waves across the floor, see scythes climb up walls and so on. Each one challenges you to read patterns at a pace, avoiding colossal manoeuvres that more often than not reduces The Penitent One to the size of an ant. I was constantly impressed by the scale and inventiveness of each one, always recognising that when I (inevitably) failed, there was an opportunity for me to find a better attack opportunity window next time.
Blasphemous 2 easily usurps the 2019 original by presenting a far weirder world to dig into, new weapons that allow for additional combat depth, and drop-dead gorgeous pixelated visuals that kept me invested in the hero’s adventure from beginning to end. It’s not an outright reinvention of the 2D Soulslike metroidvania, but rather a finely-tuned refinement of The Game Kitchen’s previously well-established approach. This is a sequel that’s anything but sinful.
Improving all three of Blasphemous 2’s new weapons isn’t as simple as pouring in skill points. To unlock tiers 2 and 3 for each, you’ll need to seek out a specific upgrade hidden on the map. This forces you to get to grips with a weapon that might not be your most preferred, as you never know which upgrade you’ll come across next.
Blasphemous 2 is a confident continuation of the first game’s ideas, presenting plenty of dark gothic challenge primed to delight Darks Souls fans.
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