Blasphemous 2 Review

An immaculatus Metroidvania

By Paul Hunter

I couldn't help but get sucked into the well-crafted world of Cvstodia in the original Blasphemous. With its Roman Catholicism and Spanish cultural influences, along with its macabre overtones, it was a world both familiar and foreign. So of course I jumped at the chance to review the sequel, Blasphemous 2, which was touted to be bigger and more ambitious in virtually every way.

We once again step into the role of The Pentiment One, this time to stop the birth of the child that gestates in a large beating heart over top The City of the Blessed Name. To accomplish this, you'll need to defeat the three guardians that are holding up the Citadel high in the sky. Employing Metroidvania-style exploration and Soulslike combat, this is a game fans of either genre should pay attention to.

Is Blasphemous 2 the divine sequel that I was hoping for or does it make some sinful slipups? Let's head on into Cvstodia to find out, here are three things I liked about the game...and one I didn't.

Liked: Improved Gameplay in Every Way

Initially, the gameplay felt a lot like the original Blasphemous with not much changed. But once you start unlocking more weapons, abilities and spells that's when the game really opens up.

To start, you're asked to make the big decision of choosing which weapon to use out of the gate. First up, there's a heavy flail called Veredicto that's slow but very powerful. It also swings with a huge arc, great for not only taking out enemies in front of you but also above and below. This weapon can be charged up to unleash a thunder strike, as well as lit on fire for extra damage so long as your Fervour (MP) meter has a charge.

Next, there's a swift rapier and dagger called Sarmiento and Centella that can parry attacks in addition to performing a rolling lunge strike. Later on, you can unlock a rapid barrage thrust attack as well as imbue the blades with lightning. If quick strikes, parrying and counterattacks are your thing, this is the weapon for you.

Finally, there's a curved sword you can choose called Ruego Al Alba. This blade can be empowered with mystical energy for extra damage or used to block and reposte enemies. The Alba is a great all-around weapon that has good range, damage and speed but is not quite as specialized as the flail or rapier.

Choosing your weapon is a key decision as it can take a few hours to locate the other two weapons within the game's dense maze-like map comprised of multiple zones. Eventually, you'll be able to wield all three weapons and can quickly switch between them with the tap of a button.

While I didn't know this when I made my initial weapon choice, each weapon has a special traversal ability used to access new areas of the map. The flail can be swung into bells to send out vibrations that can activate hidden platforms or unlock doors. The rapier can strike mirrors to teleport in specific directions and can even be used to phase through some walls. The curved blade has a special downward strike that can be used to smash through some floors or walls, opening up new paths. So to a degree, whichever weapon you begin with will determine the map areas you're able to explore in the early goings of the game.

As you progress through the game the platforming will get trickier since you'll need to string together your weapon powers to solve more complicated puzzles. You may need to swing your flail at a bell to reveal hidden platforms, and then quickly climb them while switching to your rapier to hit a mirror teleport at the end. Or you might need to hit multiple mirror teleports in a row, then flip to your curved sword mid-air to downward slam through the floor. The puzzle variety in the game is great and I enjoyed the constant challenges to overcome, which were all solvable with a little experimenting.

All weapons have an extensive skill tree with new abilities unlocked by using Marks of Martyrdom, a currency gained by killing enemies or opening chests. Upgrades include increasing the weapon's base damage, adding new weapon abilities or embuing weapons with elemental damage. Enemies are often best defeated using specific weapons—for example, some foes get easily stunned with the flail, while bulky and slow enemies quickly succumb to the rapier's fast striking. This encourages you to switch between the three depending on the adversary you're up against or the particular area you're in.

Weapons aren't your only method of attack as you've also got Prayers, i.e. spells, consisting of Quick Verses and Chants. Quick Verses are simple, effective spells that you can unleash with the tap of a button and include lightning bolts, fireballs and homing missiles. Chants are a bit more complicated, requiring you to hold down while pressing the spell button, which might seem simple but with combat being so fast the extra input may not always be worth the effort. Chants have a variety of effects ranging from summoning a spirit to help you in battle to unleashing a massive column energy wave to opening a portal that can take you back to the hub city safe zone.

Rosary Beads make their return in Blasphemous 2 and give you resistances to physical or elemental damage or can reduce the amount of Guilt you gain upon death. Acquiring Guilt can reduce your max Fervour meter, which in turn limits the number of magic spells you cast. There's a specific healer in the hub city that can eliminate your Guilt for a price, and there are also numerous shrines scattered around the map that heal you to full health and replenish your potions.

Altarpieces of Favour are another crucial item you can equip to receive a wide range of benefits. These sculptures can do everything from healing you when you land a critical strike to increasing the amount of Fervour you receive when hitting enemies to reducing the amount of Fervour cost for casting spells. Altarpieces are found throughout the game's massive map, often as a reward for finding the most well-hidden secrets, and can be equipped at shrines or back in the main city.

When you combine the three weapons, deep skill trees, rosary beads, prayer spells and altarpieces of favour there are vast customization options to choose from depending on your preferred playstyle. You could opt for the flail and physical damage reduction to become an unstoppable tank or go with the lightning-fast dagger, parrying upgrades and reduced rolling cooldown to become a deadly agile ninja. If a particular area or boss gives you trouble, you've also got a lot of items and spells to change up your build and try a different approach. The gameplay in Blasphemous 2 is bigger in every way, while still feeling familiar for fans of the original.

Liked: The Metroidvania Map

Blasphemous 2 features a massive sprawling Metroidvania map that is a joy to explore. At the heart of the map is The City of the Blessed Name, a friendly hub filled with a few helpful NPCs that will upgrade your character, sell useful items and absolve your Guilt.

In total, there are 24 zones to find and explore, ranging from demon-infested streets to haunted towers to long-lost caverns to sacred cathedrals. There's a lot of visual variety and most zones add a new enemy or two to keep things fresh. Zone layouts differ quite a bit as well, with some being highly vertical having you climb a majestic basilica or towers full of traps, while others are flat and present rooms with deadly enemy gauntlets. There's even a decadent castle that has a mirrored version below ground with the same layout yet offering new enemies and challenges.

Blasphemous 2 does a great job at pacing your new skill and weapon acquisitions and then encouraging you to backtrack through previous zones with your new abilities to unlock new routes and secrets. Being soulslike, enemies respawn every time you rest at a shrine, but the good news is once you acquire abilities like the double jump or air dash you can quickly dodge enemies as you backtrack.

Perhaps the best part about Blasphemous 2's map is just how many secrets it holds. There are areas blocked off until you acquire new skills, there are dozens of hidden walls containing nice rewards and there are a bunch of doors that only stay open for a few seconds and task you with doing pixel-perfect platforming to reach them before time runs out.

And then there are a bunch of seriously obtuse puzzles that require you to use specific items, equip certain loadouts or perform specific actions like crouching at the right spot. I managed to get 99% map completion before writing this review and I've been unable to figure out how to access that final 1%. Finding the game's hardest secrets often requires you to read the lengthy item descriptions which can provide hints for how to use them. Blasphemous 2 also has two endings, with the second ending only accessible by essentially completing the entire map and finding the game's biggest secrets.

I also appreciate that this time there's a more generous placement of fast travel points and shrines to heal yourself. There are few areas and bosses where the difficulty spikes, but overall Blasphemous 2 is medium difficulty compared to other soulslike. It's not as hard as say Salt and Sanctuary or Hollow Knight and closer in challenge to games like Bloodstained Ritual of the Night and Metroid Samus Returns. To help cut down on frustration, there are usually save points right outside the boss rooms making it easy to replay them should you die. With the well-designed zones, numerous fast travel points and secrets galore, the map is incredibly fun to fully explore.

Liked: The Macabre Graphics and Ethereal Soundtrack

Presentation-wise, Blasphemous 2 goes all out. It's a lovely-looking game with a ton of detail baked into its pixel art world, and the many varied animations help to breathe even more life into each place. The art also strikes a good balance between religious elements and macabre touches that put a creepy twist on familiar iconography.

Blasphemous 2 sees the return of a number of enemies from the previous game, but there are a good number of new ones too. As expected, the new enemies are spooky and disfigured, whether that's the deadly sickle woman that can shred you in seconds or spirit knights that appear out of thin air and strike. I did think overall there was a bit too much enemy repetition, but as mentioned it's fairly easy to bypass foes if you want to quickly progress.

Turning our attention to the game's soundtrack, it is a mix of dark and mysterious tracks along with calming and serene ones that fit the game's focus on light and dark perfectly. The darker songs are filled with organic rock notes that add weight to the zones, while the lighter tracks are usually beautiful orchestral pieces with a holy air to them. All told, the soundtrack mixes aspects of light and dark wonderfully and depicts nicely the grey road walked by the Penitent One.

Didn't Like: Uneven Difficulty

Blasphemous 2 is a fairly forgiving game overall and I was able to beat the majority of the zones and bosses without much difficulty. But I did find bosses to generally be at the extremes: They were either laughable easy or ridiculously challenging.

For example, the dual boss fight against Lesmes and Infanta gave me flashbacks of Ornstein and Smough in the original Dark Souls. It was a challenging fight having to avoid both at once while finding brief moments to counterattack. But then there were bosses like Radmes or Orospina that I beat after just one or two tries and only required me to swing my flail wildly without much strategy.

The same goes for the map zones. The majority of zones I had little issue completing, but then the final couple of areas spiked the difficulty significantly. I was still able to complete these places without too much of a struggle, but I would have preferred a smoother difficulty ramp-up versus the flip-flopping between easy and hard.

The Verdict

If you enjoyed the first Blasphemous then you will definitely enjoy the sequel as there's a lot to love here. From the nice variety in weapons, abilities and loadouts to the well-designed map to the pristine presentation, everything here is on point. I would have liked a bit more risk-taking with the formula and a smoother difficulty ramp-up, but those are minor complaints for what's otherwise a polished Metroidvania that fans of the genre absolutely should check out.

Final Score: 9/10 - Amazing

Blasphemous 2 details

Platform: PS5, Xbox Series X|S, Nintendo Switch, PC
Developer: The Game Kitchen
Publisher: Team17
Genre: Metroidvania, Adventure
Modes: Single-player
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

A key was provided by the publisher.