Blasphemous 2 proudly wears its influences on its sleeve. Similar to its 2019 predecessor, this 2D platformer combines Soulslike mechanics with Metroidvania level design, while creating a story based heavily on religious iconography and themes. Developer The Game Kitchen has largely improved on the original game by allowing you to select between three different weapons and by leaning into gameplay that more closely resembles platforming classics, like Castlevania: Symphony of the Night. While the combat still needs some refinement and the amount of backtracking should have been scaled down, Blasphemous 2 still delivers a properly challenging 25-hour action-adventure worthy of penance and praise.
The age of Miracles is past
Following the true ending of the original Blasphemous, this sequel features a standalone story where our hero, the Penitent One, rises from his coffin to prevent the rebirth of the Miracle. While you don’t necessarily need to know what happened in the first game, understanding the context will make for a better experience. In a nutshell, the Miracle is a supernatural entity that both blesses and curses its believers, turning many of its supplicants who seek divine punishment into the monsters roaming the land as a manifestation of their sins. The Penitent One manages to stop the cycle of the Miracle and is subsequently entombed. However, a post-credits cutscene reveals a giant, severed heart manifesting in the sky that seems to mark the Miracle’s divine return.
This sequel begins immediately after that scene, and it takes less than ten minutes before the Penitent One is provided with a lengthy list of unenviable tasks that he must accomplish. A holy woman named Anunciada descends from the heavenly mountains and reveals that reaching the heart above the City of the Blessed Name will take considerable effort. The hero will need to defeat three “Regrets” as well as five more powerful guardians to earn passage to the final confrontation.
It should be noted that the writing is more eloquent than I’m making it to be. The game, in its own words, would say that the Penitent One must achieve the humiliation of the sculpted figures that hold the city aloft and vanquish the Archconfraternity that awaits upon the ascending path of penitence. At times, this type of flowery literary language feels heavy-handed and takes itself very seriously. But the nods to scripture suitably fall in line with the story’s religious tone and shouldn’t feel too out of place for anyone familiar with the typical dialogue in Soulsborne games.
On that note, Blasphemous 2 adopts more than a few design elements from the well-trodden genre. Campfires are instead shrines called Prie Dieu, estus flasks are bile flasks, and enemies respawn when you die or activate a shrine. As a point of difference, dying doesn’t deplete any currency, which in this case are Tears of Atonement. It does, however, accumulate guilt, which temporarily lowers maximum fervour (that is effectively a mana bar) until the hero’s soul can be retrieved. If you aren’t able to reach the soul, you can instead remove guilt by spending Tears of Atonement at an NPC in town.
In an upgrade over the original, the Penitent One can choose between three weapons at the start of his journey: the sword Ruego Al Alba, a dagger and blade combo called Sarmiento & Centella, and the heavy war censer named Veredicto. Whichever weapons you don't choose here can be found in other regions of the map, as you'll need all three to reach areas that are inaccessible without them. I chose Veredicto, despite its lack of speed, due to its range and power for the majority of my runthrough. Its ability to strike most enemies safely within its reach while punishing them for missed attacks suited my playstyle the most, but the other two weapons are no slouches by any means. Compared to the war censer, their swiftness makes it much easier to dodge and perform quicker combos.
Where the combat shines most is in open spaces that afford you the room to evade and fight at a comfortable distance. Since most enemies cannot be interrupted during their attacks, battles rely on goading them into whiffing so that you can counterattack as they recover. Defeating bosses works more or less the same way, though they have more attack patterns that usually become more intricate when their health runs low. Casting a chant or quick verse has the potential to inflict a significant amount of damage as well, notably a midgame spell that summons a spectral knight who can repeatedly strike enemies without missing. Once the Penitent One has the ability to double jump and air-dash, he becomes a whirling assassin of steel and magic alike.
Thou hast erred
Unfortunately, fighting in close corridors reveals several issues. There are numerous rooms in the game that will lock the hero inside, forcing him to kill waves of enemies to pass. But apart from a low dash, the Penitent One doesn't have strong defensive abilities and lacks recovery techniques for movement. Getting smacked sends him hurling through the air and toward the ground without being able to realign himself in the air or roll out of the way upon impact with the floor. At the same time, enemies are usually strong and can easily take a third of his health, if not more, with a single hit.
Taken all together, there will be times when the hero is pinned against a wall or gets struck several times upon wake-up without any recourse. Trying to drink a bile flask when surrounded will usually result in getting hit too, so it can be difficult finding a spot to recover. As a result, about a quarter of all my deaths came from these challenge rooms due to these compounding issues, as opposed to my other deaths in the game where I was clearly at fault. In fact, I found a few of these rooms to be more difficult than the bosses themselves.
Exploration in Blasphemous 2 is best when you enter a new area for the first time, accompanied by an impactful art style and a vibrant soundtrack that is reminiscent of flamenco. The level design for every region is thematic and innovative, be it a dark forest with hags, a tower with creatures made out of hot wax, or a gloomy city street haunted by floating coffins that throw spears at you. If you’re diligent, you can find plenty of extra items hiding in nooks and crannies, particularly in places that require tricky platforming or time-based challenges where you have to slip through a door within seconds of activating a switch.
There are numerous characters in the City of the Blessed Name and other areas of the game as well that will ask you to gather a vast array of collectibles. These include chisels, oils, altarpieces, bedridden daughters, religious sisters, fervent cloths, rosary beads, chalices, bile receptacles, chants, quick verses, wax seeds, lullabies, and much more. A part of the puzzle is figuring out which NPCs are looking for the items you’ve got on hand. All of these collectibles contribute to the Penitent One’s growth, especially Marks of Martyrdom that you earn over time by defeating enemies and opening minor chests. These can be traded for more altarpiece capacity for minor boons and used as skill points for weapon upgrades.
The downside to having all of these collectibles is that they pressure you to backtrack through previous areas multiple times. The first few regions are especially laden with chests or ledges that are out of reach and barriers the hero can’t get through. At the very least, the map gives you the ability to mark certain squares with an icon, so that you can return to them at a later time. But there are about six traversal techniques that are learned over the course of the story, and each of them beckons you to re-explore past sections. This makes the pacing of the game more tedious than it should.
A righteous cause
Blasphemous 2 is a solid sequel that improves upon its predecessor by being truer to its Metroidvania inspirations. It refines the concept of the original game by mixing classic platforming with more modern Soulslike themes. The combat and platforming aren’t ground-breaking, relying a lot on backtracking and collectibles, but the difficulty level generally strikes a fine balance between being challenging and fair. Along with a wonderful art style and spirited music, the game makes blaspheming a reason worth fighting for.
This review is based on a PC (Steam) code provided by the publisher. Blasphemous 2 will be available to purchase on August 24, 2023 on PC, PS5, Xbox Series X|S, and Nintendo Switch.
- Blends Metroidvania with Soulsborne concepts
- Competent level design and challenging bosses
- Choice of three weapons
- Strong artistic direction
- Spirited soundtrack
- Lots of backtracking
- Combat in close corridors reveals gameplay issues
Nick Tan posted a new article, Blasphemous 2 Review: The second coming
I think he's named Penitent One
Slightly different from what I call my favorite pair of warm up pants I wear at home, Penis Tent One
Loved the first game. Hopefully the art and atmosphere is just as good.
Yessss, looking forward to this
Loved the first one, beat it this spring, looking forward to this!
Man.... I am so jealous you got to play it :( , having said that my body is ready and it has to be a day one for me, Blasphemous 2 looks totally insane over the first game(and I loved that one)!!!!!!!!
Thanks for the review.