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Blasphemous sees you taking on the role of the Penitent One, destined to change the course of the Miracle that has affected everything around it. Both a blessing and a curse, it bestowed its gift upon the land and its people, the Miracle gives people pain and they believe that pain to be divine so all throughout you’ll encounter people who have become twisted and monster like under the influence of the Miracle and the Penitent One is able to take on their guilt with the Mea Culpa and send them to the other side of the dream.
Blasphemous is a sprawling side scrolling action platformer in the same vein as games like Castlevania but with more of a souls-like flavour to it, clearly taking inspiration from games like Dark Souls and Bloodborne. It’s fairly easy to pick up and while it can be difficult in some places, it’s not as challenging as it might appear on the surface. Initially you have your basic sword combo, dodge and block to use at your disposal but as you progress through the game you’ll find shrines that increase the power of the Mea Culpa and allow you access to new moves, such as a ranged attack, combo extenders and a down stab, to name a few. As the power of your sword increases, so too does the damage it inflicts, making the combat a little bit easier the more of them you find and if you go through the trouble of tracking them all down, you’ll find that near the end of the game that you can waltz through areas killing enemies with one or two blows.
In Blasphemous you can expect to die a lot, especially at the beginning of the game and if you do you’ll be sent back to the last shrine you used and all of the enemies you defeated up until your demise will have also returned. You’ll leave behind a guilt fragment on death which will inhibit your maximum fervour and the more consecutive deaths you suffer the more of the bar you’ll lose access to. If you manage to pick up the guilt fragment you lost, it will recover some health and fervour as well as remove some of the thorns reducing the size of your fervour bar. Each time you die, you’ll leave behind a different fragment that will require retrieval to completely restore your fervour bar but if you die in the same place more than once you’ll find that there’s only one guilt fragment left there and it won’t restore the bar for as many times as you died in that spot, there’s also a glitch where sometimes your guilt fragment will end up on the spikes where you’ll be unable to collect it. If you find that you’re stuck with a massive hindrance on your fervour bar from either being unable to collect the fragments or multiple have rolled into one, not to worry, I allowed myself to die multiple times to build it up and to see what happened if you completely filled the bar with thorns but it doesn’t fill your bar more than about half way, no matter how many times you die. If you need a way to restore the fervour bar without collecting the fragments, you can visit one of the many statues in the world and pay Tears of Atonement to have your guilt expiated and your bar restored to normal. Try to resist the urge to destroy these statues until you know what they’re for though, otherwise they won’t be around when you need them.
You’ll get a limited amount of health and fervour when you start the game, fervour being the power you need to be able to use prayers or your ranged attack, if you run out you can defeat enemies to build it back up again but unlike your health, it won’t refill if you visit one of the shrines but you can find items that will allow you to collect more of it from enemies or the various destructible items littered about the place but if you’re really in need of some fervour you can sacrifice some of your health and Tears of Atonement to be granted some at any time.
As you go through Blasphemous, you’ll start gathering up items that can be equipped to your rosary which will grant you additional benefits such as the ability to harvest life from your enemies or be granted resistances to certain elements and while they do help, they’re not enough that you can start taking it easy since your enemies will still get in a few good hits if you don’t remain on your guard. As well as the rosary beads you’ll also find prayers which are basically your special abilities and allow you to use attacks like the ability to call down lightning or have things floating around you as a defence for a short time, these are good to have in theory but you can only have one equipped at a time and they require more than a few moments to execute, so there’s no using them to escape from combos and as with all items, some are more effective in certain situations than others.
Traversal through the game is a fairly simple affair, you can jump, slide and wall climb. I found that later in the game my ability to survive was more dependant on being able to do those three things well, rather than worry about enemies. You constantly have to be on your toes, especially while jumping since it can mean instant death if you fall in the wrong place and a lot of the jumps you can just barely cover even if you jump from the very edge. It’s not just the jumps you have to worry about either since there are times when you’ll have to fight close to an edge and there are some enemies who can send the Penitent One flying. As well as that there are also environmental hazards to be aware of, some of the places you have to go through seem like cruel jokes but luckily there are some that serve as pathways to shortcuts so you might only have to get through it once, there are areas such as The Sleeping Canvases though that may cause some irritation but if you’re lucky you’ll encounter the glitch that enables you to walk on the spikes and be spared death, at least until the next set of spikes.
The more you explore in Blasphemous, the more you’re rewarded, with things such as more powerful rosary beads and prayers as well as health and fervour upgrades but the most useful things you’ll find, at least in the context of exploration, are the relics, these are items that allow you to get through previously unreachable areas to find more things. For some reason you can only have three of them equipped at any time which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me since you can just go to your inventory and swap them out without penalty whenever you like. As you get to new areas you’ll start finding Mea Culpa hearts and these are items that grant your sword additional abilities but they always come at a cost, other than the fact you have to swap them out at the shrines that cause all the enemies to respawn, they have benefits but they also come with negative effects, one that I used a lot towards the end of the game allowed me to siphon off health from attacking enemies but it also reduced the amount of health I could restore using my Bile Flasks.
There’s quite a few bosses in Blasphemous and some of them will seem like they come out nowhere, particularly if you’re going in without any knowledge of the game. Luckily there’s usually a shrine nearby when you go to fight the bosses so it’s not a big slog fraught with impending death scenarios to get back to them so it gives you a good chance to be able to get used to fighting them and learning what attacks are coming and the best tactics to use to deal the most amount of damage. When the boss’s health gets around halfway, they’ll switch things up a little and start to use different attacks which means you can get caught off guard if you’re not expecting it. Some of the bosses are easier than others, with some being more easy to avoid and staying open to attack longer than others, there were actually a couple I managed to beat of the first try but it could all depend on which order you decided to tackle them in because you can head in any direction you like, though you are locked away from the second half of the game until the first few bosses have been dealt with.
When I first saw Blasphemous I remarked about how it looked like a difficult game and that I was a little apprehensive about playing because of that fact but after having played it I can say without a doubt it’s now one of my favourites. It can still be difficult but not in any way that’s unfair, there’s no dodgy hit boxes or enemies with instant kill unavoidable moves, if you die in Blasphemous it’s more than likely from something you didn’t see coming and can prepare against next time or because you let your guard down and got taken out by the environment. I absolutely loved everything about the game and I have to say it might be one of the best looking, if not the best looking pixel art game I’ve ever played, simply put it’s a visual masterpiece. There’s so much detail in the game it’s a little hard to believe and that detail extends to the world itself with there being lore literally all over the place, everything you find has a description and some lore to it, it’s clear that a great deal of love and care went into making Blasphemous.
I couldn’t put the game down and nor did I want to, I explored every nook and cranny I could find, painstakingly making my way to 100% completion, admittedly a lot of the time could probably have been shortened down if I didn’t keep going around in circles trying every new relic I found to see if that was the one that allowed me to go somewhere new, but there was never a time when I felt bored of playing it. I wish there was more to the game so I could keep playing even though I already poured more than 40 hours of my time into it, it was just simply a joy to play and while there were a few annoying deaths here and there, there was never anything that soured the experience.
A quick look at the game’s Kickstarter page, which you can find here, indicates they have reached goals for several post game content additions, so now would be a great time to jump in to Blasphemous knowing there could be more content on the horizon.
If you want to buy the game and I sincerely urge you do so, since this review doesn’t even begin to do the game justice because the only way you can truly know the game is to play for yourself, then you can visit the links below;
If you want to learn more about the game before committing to a purchase, you can visit the official website.