Welcome to EXPlay, (Explain & Play) the review series where we care not for scores but tell it how it is when it comes to every game we get our hands on, whilst also taking the time to include some lengthy gameplay, to give you the reader, the chance to shape your own impressions and views whilst watching and reading.
In this explanatory review, we’re covering Blasphemous II by developer The Game Kitchen.
Blasphemous II: (The Explanation)
Blasphemous II is the sequel to the Metroidvania action-adventure game, Blasphemous. The first game was released in September 2019 on Nintendo Switch and other platforms and was generally well received by critics. The game’s hero is the Penitent One, a silent knight who travels across the land of Cvstodia on a pilgrimage.
As for Blasphemous II, the Penitent One finds himself in a strange new land and is tasked with preventing the birth of “The Miracle”, which should it come to be, will bring a terrible curse upon the land. It is up to the Penitent One to take up arms once again and stop the birth of The Miracle and anything else that gets in his way.
Like with most Metroidvania games, Blasphemous II will have the player explore a labyrinthine world, one room at a time. Players are given a series of markers on an empty map that they must reach. At each of these markers there is a boss that must be defeated but before you can defeat them, you must navigate your way through the many different biomes in the game. Each biome with the exception of the City of the Blessed Name (where most of the friendly NPC’s can be found) is home to many perturbed and horribly deformed enemies.
All enemies have a distinct form of attack and it is wise to learn their attack patterns and whether it is best to dodge the attack or parry it. for the most part, dodging easier to pull off but if you learn how to get the timing down with a parry, you can sometimes follow up with a counter attack that will do a lot more damage. I will add that some enemies can hit like a freight train, taking huge amounts of your health when hit. When dealing with these enemies, it is wise to chip away at their health, preferably at a distance, rather than going in swords waving through the air and hoping for the best.
Throughout Blasphemous II, players will find all kinds of trinkets that can be used to buff the Penitent One in a myriad of ways. You can find prayer beads that, when attached to the rosary, will provide some passive buffs like resistance to certain elemental or physical attacks. Statuettes come with more active buffs that can increase the chance to stun an enemy, improve critical hits, or replenish health by executing enemies. Then there are chants and verses that are essentially spells that the player can cast to magical damage to enemies at range.
As for weapons, there are three to choose from in the beginning of the game but you may only have one of them to begin with. The other two you will find hidden around the map and it is helpful having all three weapons as each has a special skill that is needed to access certain areas. Weapons can also be upgraded using Marks of Matyrdom. This will allow the player to use special attacks that can only be used by that weapon.
Getting around the world of Blasphemous II can be time consuming, especially if you have no idea where you are going. Using the map often will help you keep your bearings of where you potentially need to go but for the most part, you are free to explore how you see fit. Right from the start of the game, you are given three locations that you need to go to but how you get there and in what order is totally up to you.
That said, there is literally no handholding whatsoever and not everything is clearly explained. When you find items, you are not always greeted with a prompt or message to tell you what they do or what section of the menu it pertains to. This means that you will have to manually search through the menu so you can see what exactly it is that you found and whether you can make any use out of it.
Blasphemous II is a rather challenging Metroidvania game and will require plenty of patience and skill. I am no expect at Metroidvania games, even though I have played Metroid and Castlevania games, and other games series like Bloodstained, Shantae, and Axiom Verge, which I do enjoy them but If I am being honest, I just can’t to seem to gel with Blasphemous II.
I respect the gameplay, the story and the art style. The heavy religious tones and iconography is an interesting choice for a game and I can certainly see that the developers were deeply inspired by the historic roots of their culture. Especially by artists from the Baroque period and I find it rather fitting. The whole game is about suffering and punishment and if you are not an expert Metroidvania player or veteran Blasphemous player, one small mistake will see you punished for it and you will suffer for it (maybe I’m reading a little too much into it, but this was my experience at least.
The fact that there is very little reward for the amount of risk that a player must face is also disheartening. I won’t go into too much detail about that because that is spoiler territory. What I will say is that, if there is anything Blasphemous II teaches the player, it is that one should not seek reward for simply fulfilling their task and that perhaps, the reward was the completion of the task itself?
To wrap up, Blasphemous II is sure to be a delight to series fans and hardened Metroidvania Pros. Newcomers to the game and the series may struggle at first and will probably struggle throughout until it either the game eventually clicks for them or they decide that they have suffered enough punishment for the day. I personally, didn’t gel with this game at all, but I’m sure there are plenty of people out there that will find this game right up their alley.
Blasphemous II: (The Gameplay)
Developer: The Game Kitchen
Platform: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Category: Role-Playing, Platformer, Action, Adventure
No. of Players: 1 (Single System)
Release Date: NA|EU: August 24, 2023
File Size: 2.2 GB