Blasphemous 2 review: tough Metroidvania will test your faith

An angel reads a scroll in Blasphemous 2 art.

Blasphemous 2

MSRP $35.00

“While it commits its fair share of game design sins, Blasphemous 2 delivers a rewarding, unsettling Metroidvania that’s worthy of some devotion.”

Pros

  • Evocative visuals
  • Top-notch bosses
  • Deep combat customization
  • Rewarding exploration
  • Lots of secrets

Cons

  • Underexplored religious themes
  • Frustrating combat quirks
  • Heavy on backtracking

My greatest crisis of faith in Blasphemous 2 didn’t come from any Goliath-sized boss. It came from one simple room.

About midway through the indie Metroidvania sequel, I was in the midst of a fairly standard 2D exploration segment. After trekking through some enemy-filled hallways, I made my way into an empty room. The doors locked behind me and I found myself in a quick combat encounter against standard enemies. That simple task became a herculean effort, as my lack of invincibility after taking a hit meant I kept finding myself juggled into a corner or attacked out of a parry. With every frustrating death, I was sent back to a far-off checkpoint, forced to complete the same tedious hike so that I could get wiped out after taking a simple hit. I was Sisyphus rolling the boulder, wondering what I’d done to deserve such punishment.

Though that initially shook my faith in the sequel, my patience would be rewarded later. Some late-game discoveries that I should have made much sooner opened up the proverbial pearly gates, allowing me to blaze through those same encounters with the fury of a vengeful God. My issue was that I hadn’t placed enough trust in developer The Game Kitchen — though the at-times obtuse 2D action-platformer never fully earned that blind worship.

Blasphemous 2 doesn’t break any new ground for the Metroidvania genre, but it delivers a holy trinity of important genre staples: rewarding exploration, top-notch boss design, and deep secrets. Those strengths are balanced out by a slew of sins, as tedious backtracking and some eye-rolling sacrilege make for a tough trial that’ll sift out the non-believers from the devotees.

Test of faith

Picking up where its predecessor’s DLC left off, Blasphemous 2 once again puts players in control of The Penitent One. The hero is still at war with a divine being called The Miracle, as he waits for a prophesied birth to change the world. Though the story is loaded with religious imagery, it doesn’t have much to say about its subject matter. The flat tale of violent penance seems more interested in delivering grotesque shock than any substantial meditation on worship and sin.

A skeleton holds a candlestick in Blasphemous 2.
Team17

Granted, some of its haunting visuals make for evocative nightmares. Health upgrades are handled by a beautiful angel surrounded by cherubs. The stronger she makes my blood, though, the more I see her own. By the time I’d gathered every healing item, the cherubs had peeled the NPCs skin off like a banana, leaving me to kneel before a flesh popsicle. It can all feel a bit like edge for edginess’ sake, but pixelated tableaus like that at least make for some memorable moments of Christian creepiness.

Rather than delivering anything thematically substantive, Blasphemous 2 instead goes heavy on lore. Its dark 2D biomes are filled with eerie characters that speak in religious riddles and quest items wrapped in mysterious flavor text. The first Blasphemous was often painted as a FromSoftware-inspired Soulslike, and that can still be seen in how its sequel shrouds its world in a layer of fog. That makes for a strong sense of atmosphere, but it isn’t always functional in the context of a Metroidvania.

Blasphemous 2 can be a test of patience that takes a long time to pay off.

Through my adventure, I accumulated a whole mess of quest items like tokens and wax seeds. I rarely had any idea what I was supposed to do with them, as item descriptions were more concerned with delivering dry lore than directions. Though that makes for some surprising discoveries (one secret quest involving a letter was hiding in plain sight my entire playthrough), it also means that fundamental gameplay loops are often hidden. I spent almost my entire adventure underpowered because I never stumbled into an optional town that contained a way to upgrade my magic, increase my perk slots, and unlock important resources. Even basic tutorials are hard to decipher as I try to untangle unexplained terminology.

Other times, I found myself having to backtrack through a large, winding map with limited fast-travel just to seek out some room I’d seen eight hours before and test whether or not an item was even useful there. Even when I’d find the right room, I’d often find that I’d need to return to it several times to actually reap its reward. Like a God forcing its followers to prove their devotion, Blasphemous 2 can be a test of patience that takes a long time to pay off.

Combat trials

Once it does get cooking, Blasphemous 2 offers up some tasty morsels of flesh to devour. Structured as a more combat-heavy spin on Castlevania, the sequel goes heavy on intense 2D action. The Penitent One gains three weapons in total, each of which has its own unique set of skills. Sarmiento and Centella are a pair of rapiers that generate electric damage, while Ruego Al Alba is a heavier sword that can perform a devastating downward thrust. That, alongside some magic-based spells, lends some variety to an otherwise standard hack-slash-and-parry combat system.

Even when the first Blasphemous launched in 2019, the idea of a 2D Metroidvania that drew inspiration from Dark Souls wasn’t new. Now in a more crowded landscape just four years later, it’s downright tired. There’s little that sets Blasphemous 2 apart from Moonscars or Ender Lilies: Quietus of the Knights other than the fact that it’s fairly polished. For instance, it contains a slew of sharply designed boss fights that are tough without ever feeling insurmountable. One initially brutal battle atop two floating chandeliers quickly turned me into an expert on dashing as I zipped between platforms to dodge floating heads and crushing pillars.

There’s meaningful discomfort in the moments of suffering …

Combat is also helped along thanks to a deep customization system that lets players alter their character’s loadout with items. Equipping statues and rosary beads offer some specific perks, from magic resistance to decreased death penalties. All of that lets me shape the experience in my own image, filling in some lacking depth.

Blasphemous 2 even does a fair amount to downplay some of the frustrations that come from smashing two disparate genres together. In Hollow Knight, I always feel a touch annoyed whenever I’m exploring far off in its map away from a checkpoint only to die and drop all my experience points. While Blasphemous 2 has a similar “corpse run” mechanic, it’s far more forgiving than anything I’ve seen in the genre. When I die, I mostly only lose a bit of my magic bar which can be recovered at the site of my death. If I die before I get there, I can pick up both corpses rather than having one wipe out the other. If I don’t feel like doing that recovery, I can simply pay off a priest to absolve me of sin. That decision takes some stress out of combat, allowing me to explore (and die) with more confidence.

The Penitent One fights coffins in Blasphemous 2.
Team17

Though when it comes to a precise action game, the devil is often in the details. My smallest gripe ended up transforming into a major grievance by the end of my adventure, one that had me ready to forsake my playthrough. Blasphemous 2 isn’t generous with invincibility frames, meaning that you can get hit again almost immediately after taking damage. I’d often find myself in situations where I’d get stuck in attack loops I couldn’t recover from, whether it’s because I was knocked into a pack of enemies or I was thrown off a cliff and respawned in the line of an attack I didn’t have time to block.

On some level, it’s a punishing decision that fits the oppressive world; The Penitent One must die a thousand bloody deaths to earn a seemingly impossible penance. There’s meaningful discomfort in the moments of suffering when I’m forced to make the difficult pilgrimage to the next checkpoint again. I just wish the design gods at The Game Kitchen weren’t so wrathful.

Rewarding exploration

At some point in the back half of Blasphemous 2, I was ready to give up. Mounting frustrations around its combat quirks and empty lore had me questioning if the tedium was worth it. Though in those moments of darkness, I felt myself compelled to sink deeper into it. That’s because the sequel nails the most important aspect of any Metroidvania: exploration.

The dreary 2D world is loaded with deep secrets …

Blasphemous 2 makes that strength apparent off the bat with its open-ended introduction, in which I take down three bosses in any order I choose while picking up each primary weapon. Those tools double as platforming items, letting me smash through walls or teleport through mirrors in between battles. It’s a strong opening that sets the stage for more freeform exploration and locations that are worth revisiting anytime I acquire new tools. It’s a much more traditional Metroidvania than its predecessor and it’s clear that the team took the right design cues from genre standouts like Axiom Verge 2 that launched after the first game.

The dreary 2D world is loaded with deep secrets that I was still uncovering after beating it, from spells to hidden quest rooms that always come as a mysterious surprise. It’s that loop that kept beckoning me back to Blasphemous 2 even in its most hopeless moments. I was always rewarded for my dedication as I tirelessly scoured every corner of the world. That’s not without its own tedium, though. Most items I find need to be brought back to an NPC to actually get the upgrade they contain, adding even more time-consuming backtracking to the adventure.

The Penitent One meets a merchant in Blasphemous 2.
Team17

It’s that consistent friction that’ll make Blasphemous 2 a hard sell for those who don’t already worship at the church of Castlevania. It’s a series of mountains to be climbed, with jagged handholds that’ll often send players tumbling back down to the bottom. At times, it can be demoralizing — or worse — a little boring. There’s always something beyond that peak, though, so long as you’re devoted enough to endure the climb, bloodied palms and all. Have faith that it’s worth the pain and you’ll always find the light on the other side, even if the deadly rewards you find earn you a first-class ticket to Hell.

Blasphemous 2 was tested on a Nintendo Switch OLED in handheld mode and on a TCL 6-Series R635 when docked.

Editors’ Recommendations






Leave a Comment