This title was reviewed on Xbox One, but is also available on PlayStation 4, PC, and Switch.
I love MetroidVanias, having reviewed my fair share in the year or so I’ve been working for TIG. I also ‘love’ (although it might be Stockholm Syndrome) the Souls-like genre. So what happens when you put these two genres into a blender? You get Blasphemous, but is this game a holy treasure or should it be cast aside like the heretic it is? Let’s find out.
Right away, Blasphemous looks absolutely gorgeous. Being a MetroidVania, it is stuck on a 2D plain, and goes for a somewhat retro style akin to its predecessors like CastleVania SoN and Metroid, but you can tell it’s a modern title by the sheer amount of detail they’ve managed to cram in. Both the backgrounds and foregrounds look absolutely superb and rich with detail, and as you go through each of the game’s areas; the visual variety is great. On the smaller scale you have the character sprites, which are also phenomenally detailed and also have some incredibly fluid animations. The game’s cutscenes are also pretty damn well-done, with their retro style looking akin to old 90s DOS game FMVs. All in all, there’s an ugly beauty about Blasphemous’ dark world.
The story here is surprisingly deep for a 2D MetroidVania. The game is set in a dark and dead world after a plague known as ‘The Miracle’ has ravaged the it. You play as The Penitent One, and must rescue the world from the plague as well as discover your origins. It’s simple on the surface, but is told quite well, with a lot of in-game items having deep lore, as well as recurring side characters giving cryptic insight on your origins.
Blasphemous is a MetroidVania, and therefore has many of the same trappings of the genre. The game takes place in a massive open world in a non-linear (but at the same time linear) design, with different thematic areas. The game’s linearity is disguised in the fact that you need certain items and abilities to access certain areas and continue the game. Because of this, level design plays a huge part in the quality of a MetroidVania, and thankfully, Blasphemy delivers. The game’s numerous areas are all unique and present different challenges, but all link together in a way that actually makes sense, as going from a church to a snowy area makes sense because the game places said snowy area on a mountain, and so gives it continuity.
Level design isn’t the only thing that a MetroidVania needs, as combat plays a massive part too. The combat here is where all the Dark Souls comparisons you’ve probably seen of this game come to light, as it has a lot of the same ideas. The game is certainly challenging, with bosses that are massive and will kick your ass, and combat is very melee based, with a dodge move, a parry, and a variety of spells. The combat is initially very satisfying, thanks to the aforementioned animations, and hits have a lot of impact. Parrying moves and retaliating with a massive overhead slam never got old either, and some enemies and bosses can be slid under for a cheeky dodge. The icing on the cake is the brutal executions you can do, with every common enemy having one. However, the problem is that the combat never really evolves from its initial form. While you can acquire new spells and equipment that augment your stats, the actual combat doesn’t change overall, except with certain enemies needing certain tactics. It also kind of dampens the experience when you realize that it’s quite unoriginal too, as the basic combat is just Dark Souls on a 2D plain. A few unique ideas and more progression in the combat system would have done wonders here.
Like the visuals, the audio here is top notch. Sound effects are well-done and appropriately crunchy, especially during combat. The music is very atmospheric and matches the tone of each area to a T. One thing that was surprising was the fact that the game has voice acting, and that the voice acting is actually decent. Overall, solid work here in the audio department.
Blasphemous is a valiant effort and a welcome addition to the MetroidVania genre. The presentation across the board is absolutely fantastic, with smooth animations, incredible detail and great sound. The story is also surprisingly decent. On the gameplay front, the level design doesn’t disappoint with its overall continuity and how fun it is to explore. Sadly though, while the combat is initially satisfying, it doesn’t evolve much, and it lacks originality, being simply Dark Souls on a 2D plain, complete with the reliance on dodging and parrying. Despite that though, if you’re a fan of MetroidVanias or Souls-likes, then give this one a go.