Waking up in a pile of dead bodies, all wearing the same head gear, a tall barbed pin. You are the Penitent One, the sole survivor of a congregation about to be punished. Armed with a sword you go out into the dark world, this is the start of a long violent journey, which is only going to get weirder and more gory as you progress.
A lot of games get slapped with the dark souls clone sticker but within the first 10 mins of playing I lit a shrine which act as a respawn point and faced a boss which completely destroyed me a few times. It’s hard, it’s fun and while it does draw inspirations from the aforementioned game, blasphemous is something completely different.
Taking inspirations from Metriodvania titles, the grim town of Cvstodia is free to explore. Some paths may be easier to take, others may have you coming face to face with certain death. It pays to explore, you may find items that will aid you on your journey or secret shops selling valuable goods. You’ll backtrack to places once visited, unlocking new areas to explore, new hideous things to encounter.
Blasphemous is a sight to behold, with it’s incredibly detailed pixel art from the get go, it sets the games visual tone. It’s dark, it’s gory and it conveys the message that Cvstodia isn’t a friendly place to visit on a weekend with your family. The world is filled with more religious imagery than you can shake a bible at, from the crumbling buildings to the characters you meet they all have some form of religious look to them.
The characters which you discover along the way all seem to be serving some form of penance, the protagonist included. Some more accepting of it than others. It all adds to the bigger mystery of Blasphemous, why is one character made to follow me around recounting my journey and what caused some of the denizens to want to kill me. They’re bits of lore scattered about to uncover which do give some insight into the events leading up to the game, random trinkets and items have stories to them all as dark as the game itself.
You’ll face off with some grotesque beings on your journey, all varying in difficulty. Some that are able to block attacks, or some which can only perish if you parry their attacks. The variety of enemies was refreshing, the visual/gameplay style was different with each horrific thing you came across, making each encounter feel fresh. You’ll face-off with bosses that will test your skills, admittingly these are the bits of the game I struggled with. Death came plentiful, patience is key much like Dark Souls and that genre. Learn the patterns, focus on the goal because once you do best these beasts, the satisfaction you get sure does push your forward.
Combat is fairly straight forward with one button acting as the attack, and another for parrying. Parrying can take some time to get used to, but timing it right and pulling off counter moves is extremely satisfying. It’s all fast paced, with combos and more to take down each creature. Combine that with some gory finishers, and you’ll feel powerful in no time at all.
Your weapon is upgradable, titled the Mea Culpa it can be made more powerful using the tears you collect along the way from enemies. Add more intense combos and add the ability to use your blood as a ranged weapon by swinging your sword. Wrap rosary beads around your hand to have yourself become powerful, increasing your stats.
My one gripe with this game is its font style. I’m dyslexic, certain font types worsen it, Blasphemous’ font, which is styled like medieval writing unfortunately throws my reading off. It wasn’t unreadable, but it was a struggle to read the lore pages and dialogue. Compared to Overland which recently included a special font for dyslexia, I was disappointed there wasn’t an option to change how the writing was displayed.
This MetroidVania infused game with the essence of Dark souls makes for a bloody adventure that is worth every death. Exploring this macabre world which is full of mysteries may be challenging, but the satisfaction of overcoming what blasphemous throws at you is worth it.
With more than one ending and more ways you can play, there’s a lot of content to be had.
*Code kindly provided by the publisher for review*