In a market full of fellow Metroidvania games, it can be hard to stand out and catch the attention of a well-served audience. However, Team17 and The Game Kitchen definitely did that with 2019’s Blasphemous, with its bloody and gruesome religious iconography making a deep impression. With Blasphemous 2, the Penitent One is back, and refines some of the sinful edges for a more complete experience.
Picking up where things left off from the first game and the Wounds of Eventide DLC, it is not exactly necessary for players to have played the first game to enjoy this sequel. That is because the storytelling in Blasphemous 2 remains cryptic as ever, with convoluted dialogue and writing meant to transport would-be adventurers to a strange new land outside of Cvstodia.
All you need to know is the return of The Miracle and the birth of a new miracle child is upon us, and judging from previous encounters, that is never good news. The endless cycle of life, death, and resurrection continues, and with the Penitent One, it is time to choose your penance.
Thankfully, it is the gameplay of Blasphemous 2 that will keep everyone coming back for more, with combat and exploration being the core pillars of this adventure. Naturally, the genre’s staple offering of sprawling areas to explore and secrets to find is here to be found, with plenty of eerie and foreboding environments awaiting players to step foot into.
The Gothic motif remains strong throughout, as enemies, environmental hazards, and the generally otherworldly atmosphere combine effectively to heighten the senses. How players want to tackle the starting portions of this Metroidvania is entirely up to them, as no place is really safe when it comes to the monsters that stand in the way.
It is certainly a pleasure to see how the developers have built on the original and ensured that no biome essentially feels the same. Creatures of all manner roam the lands, each bringing a unique threat to the table while the locations themselves are treats for the eyes, all the while amping up the religious terror that undeniably builds up in the dark corner.
Secrets and precious items are often tantalisingly out of reach, reminding players of the need to return once they have obtained more skills in which to gain mastery over the various platforming obstacles in Blasphemous 2.
From summoning platforms with the help of ringing bells to learning how to double jump and air dash, there is always an incentive to revisit previously explored areas with new skills in tow to seek out new discoveries. The timed sections are perhaps the highlight, forcing players to switch between tools quickly in order to overcome the puzzle successfully, and are excellent examples of breaking up the monotony that tends to crop up for such games.
Of course, being able to explore freely is contingent on clearing areas of enemies, and that’s where Blasphemous 2’s blend of challenging and varied foes comes into play. There are hordes of monstrous enemies that populate each area, and learning the ins and outs of each opponent is the only way to survive.
With both ranged and melee-type enemies to look out for, players will have to take into account spacing, making it possible for precise parries and dodges to avoid damage and counterattack. The former retains the satisfying element of time slowing down for a window of bloody retaliation, while the latter provides players with a boost of speed to escape precarious situations. Every once in a while, stunning the enemy allows for brutal executions to be carried out, further rewarding players for their combat mastery.
The Penitent One can also call on powerful Prayers to even the odds, spells that utilise Fervour which can be gained from being aggressive against your foes. This will be familiar to veterans coming back for the sequel, but there is a marked improvement in the speed at which these spells are executed, making them much more useful against more relentless foes. It never gets old blasting fools with a faceful of lightning or poisonous miasma should they get too close.
And just when you think you have it all figured out, Blasphemous 2 throws its roster of great boss fights into the mix, bouts that demand players’ full attention when it comes to all things related to combat. Various fresh mechanics emerge for many of the boss battles, and beyond the dodging and parrying, the added surprises are a delight to partake in, even if it means a gruesome death during the initial learning phases.
There are straight-up clashes of weaponry, battles that weave in platforming, and magical duels that prioritise timing and spacing. Overall, there was always something distinctive about each boss fight that made them feel like a proper test of your mettle, tough opponents that up the ante without being unfair. It also helps that each of them continues the series’ commitment to creep the player out with their designs and lessen the inevitable frustration that arises from constant retries.
To help players be more competent, Blasphemous 2 features three unique weapons to wield. After making the initial choice, the other two have to be found in the world to add to the arsenal. The balanced sword does a great job for both power and speed; the giant flail-like weapon is all about overwhelming power, while the twin blades are all about speed over everything else.
In addition to their usefulness in solving environmental puzzles, valuable points accrued from vanquishing foes can be used to upgrade their effectiveness even further. Unlocking new skills and combos can make all the difference when fighting the denizens of this land, and the customisation options offer a good degree of depth for those willing to invest the time and effort. Combine them with the right Prayers, and you can become a true killing machine set to save the world from even more sin.
Blasphemous 2 goes one step further in terms of customisation with the new Altarpieces mechanic, where players can boost their abilities in combat using differing combinations of carved statues. These can be bought at merchants, found in the wild, or come as rewards for completing quests. Together with the Rosary Beads, which offer other stat buffs and perks, there is plenty of help for those worried about the challenges ahead.
The presence of a large cast of NPCs can help flesh out the world even more, that is, if you choose to engage with them via quests shrouded in mysteries. Locating key items is only the first step; figuring out who requires them is the more difficult part. From fetching items to locating hidden, veiled figures needing saving, these distractions never veer too far from the core tenets of the game, and it is most certainly worthwhile to do your part whenever you can to benefit. After all, everyone can always use more healing vials whose potency can be further enhanced.
It is clear to see that Blasphemous 2 is an excellent sequel which addresses many of the issues that plagued the debut game. The combat retains its tactical and methodical nature but amps it up with improved mechanics and the breadth of customisation available to players. Similarly, exploration is even more enjoyable this time around, with environmental puzzles doing their part. Combine all of that with the stunning pixel art visuals, and you have a great time ahead of you, even if the storytelling can be a tad ostentatious.
GEEK REVIEW SCORE
The Penitent One awakens to a much-improved sequel, bolstered by better combat and exploration mechanics that fit well within the Metroidvania genre, but Blasphemous 2’s story remains strictly for players of a certain ilk.
Gameplay - 9/10
Story - 7.5/10
Presentation - 9/10
Value - 8.5/10