The original Blasphemous was a gorgeous, richly detailed Metroidvania full of labyrinthine pathways to explore and grotesque religious imagery to make even the most determined atheist feel like repenting.
Now, the sequel, Blasphemous 2, has descended from on high to bless us with its presence, and developer The Game Kitchen has opted to remain faithful to the dogma rather than to forge a new path.
Once again, you're controlling the Penitent One, a devout warrior with a rather fetching piece of conical headgear. You're tasked with exploring a massive, non-linear world for opaque reasons, dispatching heretical enemies and bosses as you wander.
If you're thinking this sounds very much like a case of "second (Bible) verse, same as the first", you wouldn't be wrong, but The Game Kitchen does manage to iterate on the formula in some interesting ways.
Blasphemous 2 Tells A Portentous But Obscure Story
The first Blasphemous' strength lay in its striking aesthetic, which married body horror with warped holy iconography.
It probably won't surprise you to learn that Blasphemous 2 continues in this vein, once again populating its massive, sprawling world with disgusting creatures who are somehow simultaneously rapturous and corrupt.
There's a woman who's singing to a baby in a pit covered in flower petals, a man breastfeeding a child using a breast that appears to have been "borrowed" from someone else, and an angelic figure who's slowly having her skin torn off by cherubs.
It's safe to say this isn't a game you should play if you want something cutesy and endearing.
Unfortunately, the story Blasphemous 2 tells with these elements feels somewhat lacking, as it did in the first game. The narrative is sorely lacking some straightforward context; while the Penitent One is told what he should do and where, he's never really given a particularly compelling reason.
Blasphemous 2's imagery is thoroughly disturbing and expertly crafted, but it feels hollow thanks to a story rich in symbolism but empty of surface-level context.
The Souls series, from which Blasphemous 2 seemingly takes heavy inspiration, tends towards obscurity in its storytelling as well, but in Blasphemous 2, uncovering a layer of obfuscation seemingly just reveals another one.
Before long, every character speaking in flowery religious allegory begins to wear, and it gets more and more difficult to take Blasphemous 2 seriously because it won't just get to the point.
The World In Blasphemous 2 Is Huge
Thankfully, Blasphemous 2 doesn't need to rely on telling a compelling story to give you a reason to explore its world. The Game Kitchen has crafted a huge world here, and it's one that's consistently compelling to explore.
Each area loops around itself in satisfying ways, and as is the case in the best of the Metroidvania genre, I was often surprised to discover shortcuts to areas I didn't expect to be revisiting.
The Metroidvania elements of Blasphemous 2 have been expanded over the first game as well. While the movement abilities you'll unlock don't feel particularly unusual, they're combined and used in interesting ways, with each weapon the Penitent One uses unlocking a different traversal element.
You'll use your flail to strike a bell that spawns platforms, for instance, while your rapier lets you hit mirrors to teleport across chasms.
Most of Blasphemous 2's platforming challenges make excellent use of these traversal abilities, leading to puzzles that never feel too difficult to surmount but test your skill in consistently interesting and varied ways.
Towards the end of the experience, repetition does start to set in a touch, but for the most part, moving across Blasphemous 2's multi-layered Metroidvania world is a joy.
There's a massive amount to discover, too. Seemingly, around every corner, there's a new NPC to talk to, usually with some kind of deliciously grotesque design to savor.
All of Blasphemous 2's NPCs have a material reward to offer for following up on their sidequests, as well, so discovering a new character to talk to isn't just a novelty.
Blasphemous 2's world is also pretty striking to look at, as befits its aesthetic. Some sights, like an upside-down city reflected on a shimmering lake, are breathtaking and made me want to explore every nook and cranny of the world to see what it had to offer.
Unfortunately, Blasphemous 2 does tend towards linearity in its final half, but even then, each new location is exciting to explore.
Blasphemous 2's Combat Is Solid But Unremarkable
While movement and discovery are great in Blasphemous 2, the combat fares a little worse. You've got access to three weapons: a standard sword, a rapier, and a heavy flail.
These three elements of your arsenal fill the traditional "balanced-quick-heavy" triangle, and while there are upgrades that make them a little more interesting, they're fairly generic as weapons go.
There's a decent range of enemies to test your abilities out on as well, although too many of them are mere palette swaps with slightly different attacks.
Still, Blasphemous 2's bestiary is varied enough to sustain its relatively short length, and while each enemy doesn't have more than one or two attacks, the game often finds interesting ways to combine them, forcing you to think through a combat strategy rather than mindlessly mash buttons.
Thanks to zippy, responsive controls, actually moving around and fighting enemies is usually great fun as well.
There are minor annoyances; some enemies recover a little too quickly from the end of a first attack, for instance, and damage can sometimes pile up when invincibility frames don't coincide with an enemy's followup attack.
However, for the most part, Blasphemous 2 feels great to play in both movement and combat terms.
Although enemy variety in Blasphemous 2 is solid and its controls are well-implemented, too many of its bosses are Dark Souls 2-style humanoids with basic weapons.
Some bosses shirk this design philosophy to become more interesting; one larger boss swaps heads to attack with different projectiles, for instance.
After the fact, though, I'm struggling to remember most of Blasphemous 2's boss encounters, which suggests they aren't particularly compelling from a design standpoint.
Blasphemous 2 | Final Thoughts
All in all, Blasphemous 2 is a solid follow-up to the original. It improves many of the first game's shortcomings; exploration is better, combat is nicely varied, and the world is bigger with more interesting stuff to find.
With greater enemy variety, more ambitious boss design, and a less pretentious story, Blasphemous 2 could have been a classic, but as it stands, it's merely a very solid Metroidvania adventure.
Blasphemous 2 was reviewed on PC with a copy provided by the publisher over the course of 16.7 hours of gameplay. All screenshots were taken during the process of review.
- Huge, sprawling world to explore
- Striking, disturbing religious aesthetic
- Meaningful exploration and side content
- Pretentious, confusing story
- Unambitious boss design
- Slightly disappointing enemy variety