Let me get this out of the way first. It’s hard for me to do a review of Blasphemous 2 without coming across as biased at some point. Blasphemous, which launched back in 2019 is one of my favorite games of all time – one that I’ve replayed multiple times in the last 4 years (check out my review here). The drop-dead gorgeous art design inspired by Spanish Catholicism and Medieval architecture, the abstract storytelling, the macabre enemy designs and some of the most grotesque but intriguing bosses ever made Blasphemous a joy to experience. Thanks to the slew of excellent free DLCs that significantly shake up the experience, revisiting Blasphemous in anticipation of the sequel has been nothing short of gratifying.
So, it’s an understatement when I say that Blasphemous 2 is my most awaited game of this year. Thanks to Team17 and The Game Kitchen, I’ve been playing the game for the last two weeks. After playing it for 30 hours, completing almost all the side content (damn you 99% map completion), here are my thoughts on Blasphemous 2, where penitence and punishment are the local populace’s favorite pastime.
Blasphemous 2 continues the story of Wounds of Eventide, the final DLC for Blasphemous. After the events of the canon ending, which sees the High Wills destroyed and the Penitent One laid to rest, a tear opens in the sky and the grievous Miracle returns and is in labor? This spells bad news for anyone remotely religious in Cvistodia (which is 110% of the population). Resurrected from his peaceful rest by higher powers, the Penitent One is tasked with preventing the birth from taking place. But in order to do that, he has to overcome the Arch confraternity, the sentinels of the Miracle lead by the first Penitent Eviterno. It’s then business as usual for the Penitent One as he once again dons his pointy Capriote-ish helm and sets out to explore the twisted lands and meet some really sorry sods on his way to the unholy maternity ward.
Much like the original, Blasphemous 2 only tells you what you absolutely need to know outright. It relishes in the abstract environmental storytelling popularized by the Soulsborne games. The game uses its world, citizens and item descriptions to tell pieces of its story and leaves it up to the player to piece them together. The lore this time around is much easier to understand thanks to the brisk nature of the item descriptions, compared to the ones in the original, which were verbose a lot of the time. The religious and folk mythos of Seville seems like a goldmine for interesting storytelling, as the sequel doubles down on all things fans adorned. The world of Blasphemous 2 is filled with macabre tales of penance and absolution, with each location having its take on tales of twisted divinity and the denizens whom you just can’t help but feel sorry for, even the bosses. I can assure you that Blasphemous 2 will certainly leave a lasting impression on anyone willing to take a leap of faith into its intriguing world and characters.
Dishing Out Punishment
Blasphemous 2 is a by-the-book sequel in a lot of ways. It takes what worked in the first game and polishes them to a shine while also introducing a handful of new mechanics. As far as the gameplay is concerned, Blasphemous 2 is a clear improvement over the original in every possible way. From the much-needed changes to character progression to subtle QoL improvements in the level design, Blasphemous 2 is the definition of a good textbook sequel.
The biggest change made in Blasphemous 2 is with the combat. Whereas you could only wield the Mea Culpa in the previous game, the sequel introduces a three weapon system that serves as a tool for exploration as well. The Penitent One can wield three weapons – The War Sensor, a big mace-like weapon that can be lit up, a rapier and dagger combo that can be imbued with lightning and the Praying Blade, which does loads of mystical damage. Each of these weapons fit into the heavy, fast and balanced archetype playstyle respectively and feature their own skill tree with unlockable moves, combos and passive upgrades.
Moreover, each of these weapons have their own function during exploration. For example, the Veredicto (fancy name for the War Sensor) can be used to strike huge bells that open up specific doors, while the Raper-dagger combo can be used to quickly phase between various mirrors and the Praying Blade’s plunging attack can be used to strike open these fleshy tree log looking things in the world. Upon starting the game, players can choose one among these three weapons and will have to find the other two by exploring. The weapons can be upgraded using Martyrdom Points. They can be further enhanced by equipping specific figures in the Altarpiece of Favors. More on that below.
A new feature that’s been added to Blasphemous 2 is the Altarpiece of Favors system. In the hub town, the player can render the services of a sculptor to place various figures (that you find, buy and unlock) into the Altarpiece fitted on the back of the Penitent One. These figures can induce a variety of changes to the Penitent One’s base skill set. They can increase the base damage of a weapon, the crit chance, the elemental damage, the damage of prayers or provide defensive bonuses like buff the potency of Bile Flasks, reduce guilt accumulation, etc. On top of this, most of these figures have synergies with other figures and using them in the same set nets you extra abilities like leaving a trail of miasma cloud when you dodge or adding a second element to a weapon. However, the Penitent One has a limited Altarpiece slot (four slots comprising two figures each at max level) and you’ll have to pick and choose which set suits your playstyle better. There’s even an option to make multiple presets so that you can hot swap them before a particular encounter. These add the much-needed build variety to the game, and I can’t wait to see what builds the crazy people on the internet come up with.
The magic from the first game also return, but this time, they are divided into two categories – prayers and chants. The Penitent One can equip one of each at the same time and can press Down and B to unleash a prayer or hold Down and B to utter a prayer. Prayers do low damage but use only a small bit of Fervor. Chants do tremendous amounts of damage but have a high Fervor cost. There are a total of 17 prayers and chants in the game, and players can synergize them with the aforementioned mechanics to deal maximum damage.
Path of Repentance
The utilitarian nature of the weapons, among the other unlockable abilities, tap into the more Metroidvania-esque trappings the sequel is going for. While the ability gating is not as prevalent as other Metroidvanias, there’s a significant change in level design and combat to make use of these newfound abilities. Throughout the journey, you’ll come across ability gated sections, doors that require specific keys, puzzles and more that require the player to find the corresponding abilities elsewhere and backtrack once you unlock them.
The non-linear level design has been overhauled with plenty of QoL improvements such as frequent save points, plenty of fast travel mirrors and later on in the game, you even get the ability to travel between save points, something which makes the backtracking a pleasant and quick affair. Moreover, spikes and bottomless pits no longer cause instant death, but just take a portion of your health bar away. The platforming sections no longer feel annoying thanks to the fluid animations. The rosary bead system returns, which lets you stack passives and resistances to suit your needs and has been streamlined, making them more effective in combat and exploration.
The exploration in Blasphemous is extremely gratifying thanks to the rewards it offer. Taking a cue from Blasphemous’ post-launch updates, the map is also better than ever thanks to the option to mark locations with premade tags. Like the original, there are plenty of collectibles and hidden things to find while exploring. Aside from finding hidden Cherubs and Cobijadas out in the world, the Penitent One can also run into several side quests – some of them vague, some of the fetch quest type, but all equally rewarding, and they contribute to the indirect storytelling. By completing side quests and finding all the collectibles, Penitent One is rewarded with rosary beads, prayers and figures, all integral for achievement hunters.
Forged in Flesh
One of the most striking aspects of Blasphemous is its tremendous art design, with visuals so grotesque that it’s hard to look away. This, combined with gorgeous backgrounds, intricately detailed spritework and a huge variety in both levels and critters, made the original a joy to look at. And don’t get me started on the music. Blasphemous 2 keeps up the good work through its excellent audiovisual presentation. The visuals are crisp (though slightly less pixelated). There are more animations, and they feel super smooth. Actions like attacking, climbing, changing directions in the air all feel vastly improved compared to the original. The game has a talent for making even the most hideous, disgusting thing appear appealing. I’d pay so much for a physical ArtBook of the game. Make it happen Game Kitchen!
But Why Though
By this point, you’d probably think that Blasphemous 2 is the best thing ever. But I have a few gripes with the game. Granted, they are more along the lines of subjective nitpicks than anything else. The one thing that surprised me the most about Blasphemous 2 is how “grounded” most of the boss fights are. The first game is beloved for its awe-inspiring, larger than life boss battles. While the sequel’s bosses certainly have more varied and interesting movesets and will test your motor and cognitive skills, they do come off as a bit tame in the presentation department. 90% of the bosses you fight in the game are humanoid or, at the max, a few feet taller than you. You no longer fight giant screaming blind babies that turn into a snake mid-fight and whatnot. So I was kind of bummed out regarding this. Stir at Dawn still has the best boss fights in the series IMO.
Another gripe I have is with the lack of unique executions. Aside from a few giant enemies, the Penitent One tend to execute most of the grunt type enemies the same way. Considering that the brutal executions of the first game were so well regarded, I thought The Game Kitchen would double down on this and give us like two dozen unique finishers. Oh, well. Another complaint is that I found a lot of the unlockable weapon moves to be useless, like the first game. I had much better luck sticking with the basic 4 hit combo throughout the playthrough. YMMV. Plus, I would have liked to have gotten a NG+ mode and Boss Rush at launch, even if that wasn’t the case with the first game. But, I have no doubt the devs will implement these features in a post-launch update.
Now it’s time to address the Charging Knell in the cove. It’s regarding Team17 and their regional pricing or the lack thereof. Since the past few months, the publisher has been raising the price of their upcoming games in Third World countries, egregiously. Not only this, but they’ve even been going back and raising the price of their already released games to a ridiculous amount. Blasphemous and Blasphemous 2 suffer from this. Blasphemous used to cost INR 569/- in India ($7). Now, the game costs INR 1999/- (~$24). Even with a 75% discount, the game now costs more than its original price. Blasphemous 2 costs INR 2399/-, a price point usually reserved for AAA-level games. All Team17 published games like Dredge and Trepang2 suffered a similar fate. I really hope the publisher does something about this sooner rather than later because it will surely hurt the sales.
Blasphemous 2 is the perfect sequel fans could ever ask for. The sequel doubles down on everything Blasphemous is beloved for, and then proceeds to add a slew of new features. The result is a beautifully rendered action platformer with challenging combat, varied character builds, rewarding exploration, a plethora of side content and some great music. I would have liked to see more epic screen-filling boss fights, some post-campaign modes and reasonable regional pricing, but I guess the last wish is not up to the developer. Team17, if you’re reading this, fix your prices. Blasphemous 2 is a gem of a game otherwise.
FINAL RATING: 90/100