Blasphemous, developed by The Gaming Kitchen’s Spanish studios and published by the growing Team17 Digital Ltd, is the latest attempt to recreate a 2D Dark Souls. Is it by these lines that all the action of this title is sewn?
Structured as a Metroidvania, Blasphemous is a 2D action-platformer that can be brutal at times. With a strong history surrounding the religious world this is certainly the most unsettling Indie game of the year.
The game’s plot is set in a land called Custodia, a religious empire, where faith saturates every aspect of society. Now all this religion is totally dedicated to the miracle of the greatest pain, an imperceptible divine event that makes all sin and guilt “manifested in a visible and tangible way” in all others. People inflict different kinds of torments on themselves in order to get rid of this guilt by calling it Penance.
The player controls a warrior known only as “The Penitent One,” who carries a cursed sword and an overly high helmet. At the beginning of the game, “The Penitent One” wakes up surrounded by corpses, all naked, but with the small detail of wearing the same helmet. Leaving this image behind, he sets out to find three artifacts that will pave the way for the source of the miracle itself. These are the foundations of history.
As you progress through the land of Custodia, you will find a number of items that include short lore or story notes, much like Dark Souls. However, most of these pieces of history seem to be a bit vague and have no apparent sense of connectivity to others, meaning it doesn’t make a story as comprehensive as it does in Dark Souls. It is the same with the items and upgrades to the armor and sword that the player can collect, tell a short story, all with the same theme around the religious world and human suffering.
Blasphemous gameplay works similar to many other platform games set in Metroidvania worlds. At his disposal the player will have a movement that gives the possibility to dodge an enemy attacks, or the movement to make a “parry” thus avoiding the attack of the enemy. Both work perfectly and are an essential aspect of survival.
In terms of skills or more advanced, and “power ups” the player will have at his disposal some notes that help him on his demand. It will not be possible to have a handful of power ups equipped as there is a slot limit for each weapon piece.
Passive Rosary Beads can provide protection against toxins, reduce dodge ability time, increase player defense and more. The “Relics” are also in the form of a passive ability. One example is the “Blood Perpetuated in Sand” that allows its bearer to reach places it could not reach before, featuring a blood-based platform, or the “Shroud of Dreamt Sins” that lets you hear the last words of fallen corpses. This last one adds nothing special to the gameplay itself, just a detail that can help engage the player in the atmosphere of the game. “Mea culpa Hearts” that can be placed on “The Penitent One” weapon, where it can make the attack stronger in exchange for something negative. Prayers, or the special attack skills that consume the blue bar, or mana bar. For example “The Penitent One” has the possibility of throwing his sword, as if it were a boomerang, in exchange for a percentage of his blue “mana” bar. Another example of attack will be the possibility of the player having an attack buff, losing a percentage of life in return.
This blue bar, or soul bar, recovers as the player perform normal attacks on the enemies. After the player’s death, his special bar, used for this variety of special attacks, will be cut until he finds the point where he died and gets rid of the blame.
Speaking of enemies and although this title has a 2D look, there is a wide variety of them in terms of form and attack. From giant blindfolded babies, to people strapped to a bell who deliver melee attacks where it is convenient to shred them, or even a group of grotesque people appearing from the ground who throw stones.
There are save or life restoration points, just like bonfires in Dark Souls. The player will collect “tears” as he annihilates his enemies. These tears are used to increase the player’s abilities or trade for objects in the store.
The pixilated landscapes that make up the game’s scenarios are also extremely detailed and well made. All of this fuels the powerful atmosphere of the game which is complemented by minimalist yet super absorbing ambient music.
Blasphemous was easily one of the best of the year in the Indie world. With immensely satisfying gameplay, memorable art style, and map structures that make sense is a must for those who like metroidvanias.