Blasphemous 2 has some unique visuals which blend gorgeous pixelated vistas with brain-meltingly grotesque 2D characters of biblical visions brought to life. Animated cutscenes worthy of their own Netflix run add the final flourish to the side-scrolling Metroidvania game's somewhat obtuse storytelling.
Obviously when we say 'obtuse', it isn’t a dig. Instead, it's part of the game's intrigue. Much in the same vein as titles like Dark Souls, there’s so much to uncover if you’re willing to read item descriptions and figure out solutions to side-quests with what you can pick up with a keen eye.
Once again, in the cone-helmed cuirass of the Penitent One, you’re tasked in locating and destroying the Three Regrets, part of the Archconfraternity, in order to stop a cataclysm of sorts – that being the birth of the Miracle Child. Your goal may seem straightforward, but with a large map full of dangers and the freedom to roam, your journey will be anything but.
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This time around, you’ll have a larger arsenal at your disposal but begin your journey by choosing which starting weapon you’d like to get to grips with first and leaving you to uncover the rest as you go – a nice touch, and one that gave us pause for thought before we set off.
Aside from each weapon having different attack styles, they also act as useful tools for traversal among other things.
Veredicto, a large flail that deals slow but shattering damage, also rings blue bells you’ll find dotted around the map which, for a time, create platforms of water and pull down doorways. Sarmiento & Centella are lightning-fast rapiers which are great in a pinch if you need to get a jab in first, while also allowing you to fly through mirrors as a bolt of lightning.
Ruego Al Alba, much more akin to the previous game's sword, sits nicely in the middle attack-wise, but comes equipped with the ability to slam powerfully into the ground, destroying key blockers as you explore.
It’s fitting each of these weapons has both attack and exploration in mind, as Blasphemous 2 has had a lot more care and attention put into its platforming elements, often really pushing our reflexes as we dived from crumbling platforms to teleport through mirrors or timed doorways – all the while fending off enemies from all distances.
You’ll find a varied array of areas to explore including the Streets of Wakes, which feels like something from a steampunk nightmare, and the mysterious desert wastes of Sacred Entombments, which reveals a deeper dungeon as you destroy vials of sand. It’s a welcome addition to encourage exploration up and down the screen while backing the promise up with genuinely interesting arenas.
Everything for the sequel has been touched with a caring hand to refine the experience overall.
Combat is no exception. Bosses are as hard as ever, each with unique patterns to learn and distinct visual stories to tell. We’re sure everyone will have their favourite (or most frustrating, as the case may be). Afilador, Sentinel of the Emery, a samurai swordsmith whose blade sharpens throughout the fight, was one of our favourites, dancing around the screen and really testing the limits of our pattern recall to get the final blow in.
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Sadly, the more mundane enemies you’ll face as you explore each area could have done with more of a shake-up, each consisting of the same three or four enemies, which can quickly become a little tiresome.
It’s telling, though, that after sinking so many hours into the game, this is our only significant gripe.
Of course, there’s upgrades to be had. As you slay minions of The Miracle, you’ll earn Marks of Martyrdom and they can be used to unlock new abilities for your weapons, buy key items from vendors or unlock slots for your Altarpiece of Favours, the latter granting you additional buffs such as reducing damage to certain elements, increasing your window to parry and much, much more.
You’ll also find beads for your rosary, which can offer equally powerful tweaks to your experience.
And with prayers – special incantations which act as special moves during combat – thrown into the mix, there’s a deceivingly deep amount of customisation at play under the surface should you look for it.
The upgrade systems on offer are easily deep enough to keep you interested and experimenting, and they don't feel shoehorned in.
2023 has been a banner year for games, and it’s clear that Blasphemous 2 sits in the upper echelons of those releases, a beautifully grotesque Metroidvania that’s deserving of everyone's time. From the gloriously gruesome visuals to its ferociously paced combat and beautiful soundtrack, Blasphemous 2 is an instant classic in the genre.
Platform reviewed on: Xbox Series X
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