Blasphemous was a brutally tough Metroidvania. The sequel hits just as hard in every way but with a smoother difficulty curve and an outstanding first act.
- Title: Blasphemous 2
- Release Date: August 24th, 2023
- Price: $29.99
- Suggested Audience Age: Rated M for Mature by the ESRB
- Availability: Switch (Reviewed), Xbox, PlayStation, Steam, Epic, GoG
- Recommended for fans of: Brutal Metroidvanias, Religious Imagery, and Tough Gameplay
Geek to Geek Media was provided with a review copy of this title.
I was a Kickstarter backer for the original Blasphemous. I wasn’t really a Metroidvania fan at the time and I didn’t even know what “Souls-like” meant, but the grotesque pixel art inspired by Spanish Catholicism looked insane and the idea of playing a brutally bloody game like that on my shiny new Switch got me on board. When the game finally came out I absolutely ate it up, even if it was absurdly punishing.
With that in mind, I never had any doubt that I’d love playing Blasphemous 2. What I wasn’t expecting was for it to blow me away.
A Pure Sequel
Let me save you some time: If you like melee-focused Metroidvanias you’ll like Blasphemous 2. The game does build on the story and world presented in the first game, but the deep, dark catholic lore is so dense and obtuse that even after watching a recap video and listening to a friend's review (shoutouts to Tales From the Backlog), I still couldn’t tell you exactly how the ending of the first game leads into this one.
You once again play as The Penitent One, a silent protagonist with a vicious-looking helmet. Whether this is the same Penitent One or not is a question I'll leave to lore videos. Once again The Miracle has wrecked some sort of havoc across the land by answering prayers with the accuracy of a Monkey’s Paw. And, of course, it is your job to slaughter grotesque creations as you explore the world and unlock new abilities to bypass obstacles across an expansive and intertwined map.
The First Choice
Like Death’s Gambit, Blasphemous 2 opens with a choice of weapons for the player to wield. The first Blasphemous had your character wielding a specific, story-centric sword that had a heavy swing and a timing-based block and parry mechanic. At the start of the sequel, I decided to recall my character from Dark Souls 2 and picked the biggest, heaviest weapon I could, in this case, a massive spiked ball that The Penitent One swings in an arc in front of him.
With that weapon in hand, I started trudging through the world and found that the right shoulder button ignited my weapon in flames instead of giving me a chance to parry. It turns out that ability is locked to the other two weapons, a heavy two-handed sword and a pair of thin rapiers. Without defense, I learned to really use the game's slide dash to avoid combat, even if it frustratingly let me go through some enemies and not others. Thankfully, while there is an excellent amount of variety in the foes you’ll face, there isn’t so much that you can’t learn each one's patterns and the best ways to counter them.
With an excellent art style, great combat, and massive boss fights, Blasphemous 2 has everything you’d want out of a good Metroidvania. The thing that blew my mind, however, was how progression worked through the first few areas of the game. As you explore, you’ll regularly come across obstacles that you just don’t have a way to interact with yet, and the map will let you mark down one of a few preset markers to keep track of those places. For instance, while exploring I kept finding these mirrored statues that I didn’t know what to do with. They didn’t react at all to my massive weapon, unlike the bells I could ring to cause hidden platforms to appear.
Eventually, in my wondering, I found a room with a statue of my character holding the twin swords I’d skipped by before. I was ecstatic to realize that the game was going to eventually give me all three weapons, because of the variety of combat that would open up.
What I didn’t realize for an embarrassingly long time after was that my new swords allowed me to use those mirrored statues to launch myself across the stage.
It turns out the weapon you choose at the beginning doesn't just determine your combat style, it gives you a specific mechanic for interacting with the environment, which completely changes which of the first three challenges you are likely to head towards. Fantastic.
A Few Issues
I have run into a few issues in Blasphemous 2, but nothing that has ruined the experience. First off, the game is hard. I don’t think it's as challenging as the first game, and it's less punishing in its difficulty. To me, the challenge this game presents is a feature, not a bug. Having said that, I wish that every Soulslike borrowed the accessibility options from Steel Rising to let players adjust the experience to their tastes.
The actual issues I have are a few design choices and a few bugs. You’ll pick up a lot of items in this game, mostly augments you can equip to change up your play style or quest items that you can turn into specific NPCs for rewards. There are also pages and pages of lore that you can peruse by examining an item in your pause menu. Unfortunately, and for reasons I don’t at all understand, your pause menu is disabled for a few seconds after you pick up an item. A pop-up comes up telling you the name of the item, and I always try to pause to read more… but you can’t. Then the pop-up fades, and you still can’t. It feels like a full second after the pop-up fades is when you can pause again, which sounds minor but in practice annoyed me every single time.
Figuring out what to do with quest items can also be murky. I picked up two or three of the items that let me improve my healing ability before I realized I’d already encountered the NPC they matched to. At least that feels intentionally obtuse, though.
On the buggy side of things, I’ve run into three issues, all more annoying than anything else. First up, the game's internal clock is wildly inaccurate (an issue the first game had as well). On my save file, I’ve seen it indicate that I played for a few hours, then something like 25 hours, then back to 1 hour, then up again. Second, at one point I beat a boss, but its health bar stayed on the screen. Saving at a checkpoint, going to the title screen, and reloading fixed this. Third, and potentially most troubling, an NPC asked me if I’d give them an item and the game never loaded an option for me to select. I ended up having to force close the game, but since I had just hit a checkpoint I didn’t lose any progress and the conversation worked fine afterwards. That issue has only happened once in all the conversations I’ve had with NPCs.
All in all, I’m absolutely delighted by Blasphemous 2. The few issues I have run into with design and technical issues are completely overshadowed by the outstanding art and gameplay. The game does a fantastic job of building on the very strong foundation of the first game, but with a structure to its opening act that blew my mind. Thanks to the difficulty also feeling more balanced (thanks in large part to the almost complete removal of instant death pits and traps), it also works wonderfully as an entrance to overtly difficult video games.
Don’t get me wrong, it is still hard, but it feels like the difficulty builds in an extremely organic way. The best example I have of this is that when I got stuck on a combat encounter I did a round of exploration for weapon upgrades or health boosts, and along the way found the double jump ability. When I went back and got past the combat gauntlet, the double jump was required in the very next room. If you want to be punished, though, don't worry. I've explored 99% of the map and have maxed out my health, healing, and fervor, and I'm still stuck on the last boss.
Metroidvania fans rejoice; The Game Kitchen has given us another masterpiece.
Geek to Geek Rating: 5 out of 5