Dark Light

A young woman, deeply tormented by feelings of intense guilt, struck her bosom with the figure of the Holy Father, soliciting penance. The Great Miracle, the divine will in the savage lands of Cvstodia manifests itself as a thorn-rooted sword in place of the figure and pierces her guilty heart. “Mea Culpa“, the woman mutters her last words. Now, the woman is no more. In her place stands a porcelain statue free from earthly stigma. In the ground, lies the thorn-rooted sword, Mea Culpa, drenched in our sins.

Thus begins Blasphemous, one of the early-announced pixel-art platformers inspired by the Soulsborne series that now fill the indie section of STEAM. It seems like the game was announced ages ago and the longing had been nothing less than painful. At last, Blasphemous launches worldwide tomorrow and I had the leisure to check out the game in its entirety for the last two weeks. Ladies and gentlemen, we hereby present our in-depth thoughts on what Blasphemous- what it gets right, and what it doesn’t.

Story & Setting

Blasphemous does a great job of setting up the mood with the aforementioned scenario. It goes without saying that you’re in for something special. Blasphemous takes place in the isolated world of Cvstodia where religion is above everything else. Folks believe that the only way to appease the equally pious and cruel divine will, The Miracle, is through vehement prayers or mortification of the flesh. Speaking against the one true God is the most grievous crime one can commit in these savage times. You play as The Penitent One, the sole-surviving member of the massacre of the Silent Sorrow congregation. Donning the thorny headgear filled with the blood of a zealous beast, The Penitent One sets forth on a pilgrimage to get to the root of the curse that is plaguing Cystodia, a journey that will test his faith and beliefs.

Blasphemous is heavily inspired by Spanish folklore and medieval history including, but not limited to, Catholicism, the Spanish Inquisition, contemporary architecture, painting, legends, literature etc. There are even glimpses of Edgar Allan Poe and Lovecraft to be seen within. It all works together to shape a dark, disturbing and gothic world that is an allegory of events both present and past. It’s easily the best feature of Blasphemous, one that sets it apart from the countless pixel-art platformers out there.

The story of Blasphemous is mostly told by its own world, thus taking an indirect approach to storytelling. The characters, items and location each serve to fill in the gaps in the narrative, as well as providing tidbits of twisted lore on Cvstodia. Of course, you don’t have to go out of the main path to enjoy the main story but exploration is recommended to get the full picture. Sometimes, it feels like the game is trying to be forcefully dark and edgy. However, that’s perfectly all right as long as you don’t plan to do a complete deconstruction on the religious themes and its presentation. It’s a video game after all.

Gameplay & Mechanics

Blasphemous is a 2D sidescrolling action-platformer taking inspiration from Metroidvanias as well as the Soulsborne games. Staying true to its influences, Blasphemous is nothing short of a challenge. Featuring non-linear levels and meaty combat where one wrong move spells the difference between life and death, the game is truly old-school in design and difficulty. At the same time, there are a lot of modern tropes, such as huge interconnected levels with unlockable shortcuts, checkpoints that replenish your health and supplies while also respawning enemies, having to reclaim lost mana and so on.


Rewarding exploration is the bread and butter of Blasphemous. Levels are large, expansive and full of secrets. The game doesn’t hold your hand in telling you where to go, who to speak to and what to do. Hardly anything is spoon-fed to you. Going out of your way to explore the gorgeous levels results in the discovery of powerful upgrades, side quests, lore notes and collectables. Trust me when I say that you’ll need all the help you can get. The Metroidvania elements come in the form of backtracking levels to get to places you couldn’t before using newfound abilities. Once again, it’s up to the player to figure out what goes where. You might even complete the game without discovering half the offerings of Blasphemous. It took me around 25 hours to complete the game and was at 85% completion with a few collectables left to find.


The combat in Blasphemous is highly satisfying with ample feedback and enriched with beautiful animations. Each attack has a sense of weight behind them and connects beautifully to the enemy sprites. While constricted to a basic 3 hit combo, a parry and a dodge at first, The Penitent one can unlock more moves for the iconic sword ‘Mea Culpa’ at various altars and slot it with ‘Sword Hearts’ that grant powerful buffs but at a cost. The customization doesn’t stop there, you can also find various stat-boosting rosary beads as well as Relics which grant you extra abilities like conversing with the dead or seeing hidden platforms. If that’s not enough, there are various magic spells that can be cast using Fervor gained from dispatching foes.

 I absolutely loved the variety in enemy design and the boss fights which are these highly challenging encounters designed in an epic scale (think Kickmaster). It goes without saying that you’ll die, you’ll die a lot. However, everything is not perfect. Even though Blasphemous gives you fair amounts of options in combat, the spells are very underpowered for the trouble you go through to obtain them. Some are outright useless. I also found that some of the rosary beads were not working as intended and did nothing other than cluttering my inventory space. Maybe this will be fixed when the game officially launches tomorrow.

The biggest change players of Hollow Knight and Dead Cells will see in Blasphemous is the pacing of the combat. While simple to learn, there are a lot of nuances to Blasphemous’ comparatively slow-paced combat. For one, there is no attack cancelling. Two, there is a minuscule recovery time between each animation (especially the dodge mechanic) that encourages precise actions. Thus, the focus here is taking on one enemy at a time. One wrong move and it’s back to the checkpoint for The Penitent One. I think this sense of pin-point precision and tankiness could make or break the combat for some folks. You can get special items to reduce the recovery times later on but personally, I loved the tactical feel of the combat and wouldn’t have it any other way.


As mentioned above, Blasphemous features a control scheme that is more weighty than its peers. It takes some time to get used to it, especially if you’re coming from fast-paced platformers. It’s not uncommon to feel that there is an input lag but don’t fret, that’s how the controls are designed. It can cause some frustration during precision platforming sections and against fast enemies where it feels unnecessary sticky. Things like jumping over big distances, climbing down ladders and dropping down ledges feel off due to the weight of The Penitent One’s autograb. There is no way to control the height of your jumps either. Having tested the game using an Xbox controller, a Dualshock 4 controller and keyboard, the controller experience was the best (obviously). Although the game is perfectly playable using a keyboard alone, there have been some reports of clunkiness.


As with all platformers, there are some badly designed areas just to induce artificial difficulty. Contact damage and the resulting knockback is annoying as ever. Like many other Unity games, the gameplay is tied to the fps. Fps above 60 might cause some problems while climbing down platforms. There are also minor bugs such as missing animations, getting stuck in the terrain, unable to hide the mouse cursor, getting damaged while in a cutscene etc. Some of the Kickstarter stretch goals like NG+, Boss Rush etc are also missing in the review build. I assume they’ll be added post-launch.

Visuals & Performance 

Blasphemous is an absolute treat when it comes to the visuals. The art style inspired by Francisco de Goya, along with other old Spanish painters is a feast to the eyes. The handcrafted environment, levels and items are all full of detail. The characters are well animated with smooth and polished animations. It’s just one of those rare games that makes me not lose faith in pixel-art graphics.

The game runs flawlessly without any performance hiccups…but at 60 fps. Fps more than 60 might cause some problems as stated above. Weirdly enough, Blasphemous runs at my native refresh rate (75) with Vsync on and 60 with Vsync off.

Music & Sound

Absolutely fitting music and sound design. Blasphemous is filled with dark and epic orchestral soundtracks that fit the tone of the game perfectly. Sound design is also very well done. Everything from footsteps to attack sounds feels in-place. I just wish there were more ambient sounds like the howling of wind or the cawing of crows outside buildings. Voice acting is not the best, but I’m glad that it’s included in such an indie title.


Blasphemous is a challenging and equally rewarding action-platformer that perfectly blends old-school and modern gameplay mechanics. The setting and theme are unique, the art style is iconic, the combat is satisfying and exploration is rewarding. There is no doubt that fans of the genre will love Blasphemous if they give the controls and combat system a fair chance to get used to. For a price of $24.99/€24.99/£19.99, Blasphemous is a no-brainer for fans of the genre. Here’s hoping that the devs will patch in some of the issues we’ve mentioned sooner than later.

  1. Wow, I have just discovered your site after making a google search for a review on Blasphemous, and I must say i’m very pleased with your site and reviews!

    Looks like I will be making the purchase, thanks!

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