Developer: The Game Kitchen
Publisher: Team17 Digital
Genre: Metroidvania, Platformer
Availability: Nintendo Switch, PC, PS4, Xbox One
Back in 2017, nearly 10,000 people came together on Kickstarter to back Blasphemous, a new indie Metroidvania. The Game Kitchen received over $333K to create their vision, which finally released on September 10.
Is Blasphemous everything these Spanish developers promised in their Kickstarter pitch? Read on to find out.
Fresh out of the gate players take control of the Penitent One, the silent protagonist of the game. Not much about the world is explained to you. The game is set in the world of Orthodoxia, where religion dominates. All of your abilities and upgrades are based on religious imagery like relics, rosary beads, and mea culpas — items that grant additional powers.
The world of Blasphemous is an open sprawling affair that takes plenty of inspiration from the Castlevania series. There’s a light sprinkling of Dark Souls mechanics littered throughout — flask-based healing and respawning at checkpoints are just two examples. You’ll also need to recover your body (guilt) when you die — though you can pay to absolve your sin and wipe your guilt clean.
Players are never limited in where they can go due to a lack of upgrades. All upgrades to the Penitent One’s movement allow him to reach collectibles only — not new areas. There are tons of collectibles to find, mostly bones of holy patrons and saints in the world.
The world itself is non-linear, so the player is free to explore as they please. The NPCs in the game will share their often tragic story with you, but you’re left guessing what items they might need. Most give enough hints to set you in the right direction — and completing some quests can change the world profoundly.
Blasphemous is a pleasure to play. The controls are tight and responsive, which lends well to platforming across the vast landscape. My only real issue with how the game controls is the recovery animation time. Getting hit once in a tough boss fight usually means you’ll eat a couple more hits.
For example, the Our Lady of the Charred Visage fight has an almost bullet hell-like quality to it. Eating just one magic blast to the face knocks your character down, with no invulnerability frames as you’re getting up. That means you’re susceptible to being hit by barrages again and again.
I found boss fights to be more frustrating than they needed to be, for that reason. Clever use of the environment can also impact the movement of your character. Gusty wind and sticky mud all affect how well the Penitent One moves through the environment. There’s enough variety there to make locations feel fresh, but not so much that the character becomes a chore to control.
The game also features an execution mechanic to help you dispatch smaller enemies. Land enough hits in your combo and the enemy will flash red. You can quickly hit ‘X’ to perform an execute with an animation that is unique to each enemy.
The aesthetic of Blasphemous is part of what makes the game so enjoyable to play. You’re thrust into the ruins of a decaying world — much like Dark Souls — and told you might be able to fix things. The result is a world full of lore waiting to be found, rather than revealed through lengthy exposition.
This similarity to the Dark Souls series is one of the primary reasons why the project received so much attention on Kickstarter. The developers really perfected the art of story-telling through found items and helping random NPCs. The story isn’t put together in a neat package for you to digest — instead you learn about the world of Orthodoxia at your own pace.
Much of the religious imagery in the game seems to borrow heavily from Catholicism, which could be upsetting to some. The religion depicted in the game is a fantastical creation that borrows from real-world concepts. Many of the bosses in the game are holy visages that have been corrupted.
While I found the world fascinating and couldn’t wait to explore more, not everyone will have that reaction.
The original soundtrack for Blasphemous has very heavy Spanish influences. That’s not surprising, given the dev team is from Spain. It compliments the game well with haunting piano and organ tones that seem to pick up and settle at random.
Unfortunately the soundtrack isn’t available on Band Camp, but you can pick it up on Steam or Amazon Music. Give the YouTube video above a listen if you’re a fan of orchestral performances.
Blasphemous Final Thoughts
I think Blasphemous is one of the best Metroidvania games on Switch right now. It doesn’t rank above Hollow Knight or Ori and the Blind Forest, but the art style and more forgiving exploration are welcome.
I think Metroidvania fans in general will find a lot to love about Blasphemous. Dark Souls fans might enjoy the way the story of the game is told and how there are multiple endings based on the quests you complete. Definitely check this one out if you’re a fan of the genre.
I paid full price for my copy of Blasphemous for this review.
* You like a detailed world where you learn the story as you explore
* Like getting more powerful as you progress
* You like hidden challenges and esoteric quest details
* Liked any of the Dark Souls games
* You like playing Metroidvania games in general
* You dislike Metroidvania games with lots of back-tracking
* Find challenging platformers to be frustrating
* You find religious imagery offensive
* Don’t like dying repeatedly to learn boss fights
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