Blasphemous is one of those games with such a strong sense of identity that The Game Kitchen could have literally coded a few more boss fights and thrown the Penitent One back into the same locations and probably would have gotten away with it. Thankfully, though, the team didn’t do that. Blasphemous 2 is bigger, deeper, better looking, and has a bunch of new mechanics that steer it a little bit further along that thin line between Soulslike and MetroidVania.
It falls more squarely into the latter category than its predecessor. Death is still punishing and you’ll still leave behind portions of your health and Fervour when you die, but the inclusion of new weapons and tools that tie directly to your progression through levels elevate the sequel beyond the humble 2D action of the original.
For a start, you’re not just wielding the Mea Culpa blade throughout the entire game. Instead, Blasphemous 2 has three weapons to choose from, all of which have a different ability to bypass obstacles. As a result, your progression through the game will differ depending on which weapon you pick at the start. The Rapier and Dagger, which I chose, not only allows for weaker but faster attacks, it also allows you to interact with floating silver mirrors that act as short teleporters, getting you over gaps and through doors. It can also be upgrades to allow an air dash that bypasses certain barriers. The “Praying Blade” single sword can perform a ground slam that destroys fleshy barriers, and the War Censer (like a big hammer full of incense) can ring giant bells that open passageways barring your path.
It’s a clever system, and means that each time you find a new weapon you’re also finding a key of sorts that lets you explore new paths and solve new puzzles. Blasphemous 2 leans into this aspect, with puzzles that operate on timed levers to move platforms, or require you to wall-cling, slide, and teleport around the place, often at speed. It feels like a direct response to criticisms that the first game felt a little slow and stale by the latter third due to a lack of variety.
Each weapon also has its own skill tree that you upgrade with Marks of Martyrdom. This doesn’t just improve damage, but adds brand new attacks, abilities and buffs. For example, you can add a move to the Praying Blade that lets you uppercut enemies or imbue the steel with your own blood for extra damage and reach.
The world of Cvstodia is a grim, oppressive land plagued by horrific manifestations of religious guilt. It manages to steer clear of outright calling out Catholicism but it’s hardly subtle in its implementation of imagery. NPCs are usually either dour, silent peasants lounging in the streets of the hub, or merchants plying goods and services in exchange for a currency of guilt. Themes of blood, sacrifice, purification and penance are weaved in and out of every encounter, level, conversation and set-piece. It’s so all-pervasive that it’s almost off-putting, but that’s kind of the point.
Huge teleporters allow you to travel around the world, while you’ll collect effigies that can be slotted into a blessed Altar by a stonemason in the town to bestow permanent buffs to the Penitent One. The possibility to build your character is realised much better here, as you can swap and change these buffs, and employ one large and one small incantation to deal damage or even outright escape to town when it gets too much. Not only that, but if you select the right combination of effigies, you can trigger effects known as Resonances, powerful buffs that can make a major difference to how you play.
Blasphemous 2 also features the series’ signature boss fights, but while they’re just as tough as the first game, you do have more skills and abilities in your arsenal. Magical spells that cost Fervour (which is reduced in death until you repent your sins) and the ability to switch weapons at any time mean you have more options, and employing the right weapon at the right time can make all the difference. The Censer, for example, hits slow but hard and has a long reach, while the Rapier and Dagger are great for parrying but deal decidedly less damage per hit.
What Blasphemous 2 lacks, though, is a clearly defined path. Environments are more detailed, more grotesque and beautiful in equal measure, and vary greatly from place to place. But there’s no real throughline in terms of aesthetics, and nothing to track to know if you’re on the right path. It intuitively guides you based on what you can and can’t unlock or bypass, but it’s still not always clear where you need to go, despite a slightly more detailed room-by-room map.
To simply say Blasphemous 2 is bigger and better and then leave it at that certainly ticks the boxes, but it goes far deeper than that. The Game Kitchen have listened to player feedback and done everything in their power to address concerns. From the additional weapons and even more brutal array of executions, to the broader range of traversal moves and bamboozling puzzles to make it feel more like a grand MetroidVania adventure than a straightforward action game.
That being said, some of the issues from the previous game do rear their heads. For example, the combat is still sublime when facing a foe or two, but any more than that and it becomes difficult to work through the flinching and stun locking. It’s also 2D, so when the same enemies bunch up they become very hard to see and read. And while it’s par for the course, this game is incredibly obscure in its terminology, and not least because it doesn’t use a simple word for anything. A lot of the names are in some version of Latin, and my god is the writing incredibly po-faced. This is not a game given to comedy, divine or otherwise. Half the time I was picking things up and visiting NPCs and had no idea why or what they did for a while after.
Even with a good grasp of the first game you might struggle, as even the simplest systems have been overhauled just enough to require a moment’s thought, and everything is much grander, from the teleporters to some of the NPC appearances. Blasphemous 2 is a game determined to eclipse its predecessor in every way.
And it mostly succeeds. The combat is smoother and far, far more varied. Many enemy types return but there are a host of new ones, too, and the bosses are mostly terrifying, disturbing, or both. It’s a bold step in a new direction for The Game Kitchen, and a title that manages to navigate the almost impossible path between feeling familiar and feeling brand new.
Combat feels great
Some brilliant new mechanics
Don't always know where to go
Fighting groups can be frustrating