Blasphemous

A game by The Game Kitchen for PC, Mac, Linux, Switch, PS4, and Xbox One, originally released in 2019.
Blasphemous is a brutal melee-based action-platformer with light metroidvania elements, set in an open world filled with nasty creatures and tormented souls. As it says on the tin, the game employs no small amount of blasphemy in its narrative and visuals, opening with a nun pounding her chest with the base of a small statue as she calls out to claim the Grievous Miracle and begs for punishment. Then she rubs her thumb over the statue’s penis, clicking it to reveal a gigantic sword, which she rams into her chest, apparently summoning forth a being known as The Penitent One.
The player takes on the role of The Penitent One, whose first act is to withdraw the thorny blade from the chest of the dead nun, who has now turned to stone. The Grievous Miracle – rendered by a righteous yet pitiless deity whose will is unknowable – spread throughout the land, manifesting the pain of every soul into reality, which was a blessing for some, but a vile punishment for most. Many creatures encountered in the game are burdened by heavy objects that they are cursed to carry as they forever wander, and some NPC’s and bosses are undergoing continuous torture as well.
You wake on top of a pile of naked bodies (never a good sign) all of whom are adorned with the same metal capirote that you wear. Fortunately, you are clothed, and the thorned sword lays at your side. Nearly dead, you stand up and smash a healing potion against your steel mask, healing you a bit so you can set out on your mission. The opening area acts as a tutorial to demonstrate the movement controls, after which the player is pitted against a boss as his first enemy encounter.
You have a 1x variable jump, a fast sword swing that can be strung together into a 3-hit combo on the ground or a 2-hit combo in the air, and ground-based combos are not initiated unless you strike an enemy with your first swing. Attacking while pressing UP allows you to perform an upward strike while standing or jumping. You cannot attack downward, but you can perform a low sword swipe while ducking. You also have a ground slide that lets you pass through enemies without taking damage, or enter small openings, and you can perform a ledge grab, allowing you to pull yourself up or drop down.
In most cases, combat is a very deliberate affair, with many enemies taking time to wind up large swings with heavy objects, and many taking a long time to turn around. All enemies are dangerous upon first encountering them, as the player will need to learn the strategies for defeating each if he hopes to make any progress. Understanding their behaviors, attack range, and telegraphs is of paramount importance.
To supplement this tactical melee combat is a block maneuver that allows the player to parry and counterattack against normal strikes with the proper timing, or deflect damage from heavy strikes while being pushed backward in the process. Parrying at the right moment can make a lot of difference even in the opening area, as some enemy attacks are devastating. Mashing the attack button and hoping for the best is a recipe for quick and repeated deaths.
The player has a health meter and begins the game with two potions that restore a sizeable percentage of it. The player’s health and potions are restored at save points (in the form of prayer desks), but there are no health restoratives dropped by enemies or destroyed objects, requring players to hone their combat skills. Potions are assigned to a hotkey for immediate use in battle, although the player leaves himself defenseless for a moment when using them. A secondary meter – called the fervor bar – fills when you attack enemies (or when you sacrifice a bit of health), and this is used to cast spells once you acquire them.
Borrowing from soulslike conventions, killed enemies remain dead, allowing the player to retrace his steps without having to face them again, but activating a save point respawns all of them (except for bosses). Also, when the player is killed, there is an additional penalty, which is that his fervor bar is temporarily shortened, limiting his ability to use spells. This restriction is lifted by revisiting the location where you died and collecting the “guilt fragment”, or there are certain statues that allow you to atone and have your guilt removed for a price. On the upside, you retain any collected items and currency you were carrying upon death.
The player’s health, potions, fervor, and attack power slowly increase as the player makes discoveries in the world. By finding certain objects – sometimes hidden behind false walls – the player can incrementally increase the length of his health and fervor bars. By finding empty potion bottles (called bile flasks) and visiting a bloody fountain, he can increase his potion-carrying capacity (these fountains will also restore the player’s health and potions for a price). An NPC can make your potions stronger but requires you to sacrifice one of your potion bottles in the process and provide further payment. Finally, the player’s attack strength and abilities are increased by finding giant carved tablets.
Each time the player discovers a tablet, he is given the option to purchase one or more combat upgrades (based on the total number of tablets found). These fall into five categories: combo finishers that let you add additional strikes or special attacks at the end of a combo, charged attacks that let you charge and unleash a single powerful blow, downward plunging attacks that let you strike enemies below you, dodging attacks that let you slide forward and strike enemies, and throwing weapons that require you to sacrifice a small bit of fervor to hit enemies at a distance.
Most of these strikes are much more powerful than a standard attack, and some are more useful against certain enemy types. For instance, the charged attack is great for stationary enemies or those that move very slowly, while the sliding attacks are good for enemies that have a longer attack range. When dealing a heavy strike against an enemy while it is attacking, they are often stunned, allowing the player to follow up with a brutal and bloody enemy-specific kill. Not only is this satisfying and tactically beneficial, doing this also rewards the player with larger currency drops.
The player has a massive inventory that falls into multiple categories. First off are rosary beads, each of which represents a passive buff. At the start of the game, the player can equip two beads, which are found by exploring the world. After he discovers rosary knots and encounters a certain NPC, he can extend the length of the rosary to eventually hold up to eight beads. These corresponding buffs are minor in nature, allowing the player to deflect more damage from certain kinds of attacks, gain a small amount of health or currency from destroying objects, gain added health, and experience reduced cooldowns for dodging and plunging attacks.
Relics may be equipped up to three at a time, and these are more impactful on the gameplay experience. For instance, one relic makes the player immune to the poison gas that fills certain areas. In some cases, this poison gas only makes exploration more risky, since players may slide under low-hanging clouds and take out enemies, but this gas makes other areas completely inaccessible. One of the more useful relics causes hovering blood-soaked platforms to appear in the air, allowing the player to reach numerous hidden areas and pickups.
Mea culpa hearts are a way for the player to acquire a bonus in trade for a penalty, such as gaining more currency when killing enemies but losing the ability to use healing potions, increasing attack power at the cost of lowered defense, or lengthening the effects of spells but shortening the fervor bar (from which spells draw). This allows players to tweak certain conditions to benefit their specific playstyles, or players may ignore them altogether. Spells – called prayers – allow the player to cast ranged attacks, area effect attacks, or temporary buffs, such as granting the player faster strikes for a limited time.
There are loads of secrets to be found by those looking to explore. In addition to the aforementioned items and enhancements, the player frequently finds bones strewn about the world, which can be traded for currency, and there are caged cherub-like creatures (Children of Moonlight) that you can rescue for rewards as well. There are also many strange tormented creatures occupying the world who will ask favors of you, a number of puzzles to solve, and many arcane mysteries to unravel. You’re unlikely to find them all on a first attempt, but a New Game+ allows you to dive back into the world once you have beaten the game.
A metroidvania map assists you in your exploration, showing which areas remain to be explored, along with color-coded regions and a map completion percentage. The map indicates save points, warp points, blood fountains, carved tablets, and a few key NPC locations, but unfortunately it doesn’t mark the locations of shops or creatures offering side quests, so you’ll have to make use of the marking system to manually note these locations.
Exploration is made easier by the presence of warp points that allow players to get around the map fairly quickly, but there’s still quite a gap between them, so players will need to fight their way through a lot of enemies when revisiting previous areas, although increased health and attack power make these encounters less difficult as the game goes on (and it is possible later in the game to create additional warp points). There are also loads of shortcuts throughout the game… Often, the player must fight his way through a tough area, which eventually leads to a glass-enclosed gearbox that controls a portcullis, or a lever that causes a ladder to drop, allowing the player to get back to the safety of a save point and easing future exploration. The world is also linked by several elevators that allow for quick travel back to the central village.
The game’s primary focus is on fighting enemies, but a few areas shift this focus onto platforming challenges, offering sequences where the player must properly time jumps – sometimes dealing with enemies as well – with the penalty of instant death by falling into bottomless pits or landing in pits of spikes. The player must contend with a few moving platforms, swinging blades, blowing wind, and climbable walls in order to pass from one area to the next.
Encountering new enemies remains challenging throughout the experience, but the game is also punctuated by numerous boss encounters. Most of these feature a nearby NPC who offers to assist you in the battle, but fights against regular enemies do a good job of preparing you for the kinds of challenges you will face in these tougher encounters, and there’s always a nearby save point, so there is little penalty for failure.
That said, some bosses are actually fairly easy compared to other tactical combat games, with many allowing several uninterrupted seconds of mashing the ATTACK button to wear down their health bars. This is especially true of the larger screen-filling creatures that reveal their weak points and then leave themselves open to attack, often delivering weak strikes that the player can simply absorb while continuing to slash with his sword. The smaller bosses tend to require more strategy, as they move more quickly, are more agile, and require the use of dodging and blocking.
If nothing else, bosses are complete spectacles, offering some of the game’s most disturbing moments and macabre visuals. You’ll find yourself battling a giant rotting corpse, gnarled creatures, and some kind of massive tree that seems to be draining the life force from a baby… and that baby can use magic to tear the arms off a doll and kill you instantly.
Aesthetically, the game is gorgeous, offering dark twisted visuals and detailed animations that emphasize the level of torment that many creatures are suffering. The writing is dense and heavily weighted with the mythology of the world - rooted in Spanish folklore - which adds an air of mystery to the proceedings, and this is all delivered via excellent vocal performances. The game is accompanied by a soundtrack that is at times intense, and oftentimes haunting and melancholy, supporting the visual themes of pain, dread, and suffering.
Each character you meet along your journey opens up a small window into the machinations of the world, but none explain its workings outright. Your quest is guided by a tortured individual named Deogracias who is serving his penance by assisting you while tightly bound, and he’s the one who sets you out to kill several bosses that will open the way forward. The storytelling is further aided by a handful of hand-drawn cutscenes that fill well with the disturbing nature of the game’s world and its focus on suffering. The game offers two endings, a New Game+, and free DLC with new bosses and quality of life improvements throughout the base game.

2D CRED
Blasphemous was developed by The Game Kitchen, a studio based in Spain, which previously developed The Last Door. The game was funded in part by a successful Kickstarter campaign.
The game was published by Team 17, the studio behind the Worms series. The studio also published Yoku’s Island Express.


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