The original Blasphemous was The Game Kitchen’s breakthrough title and wowed critics and fans alike – myself included – back in 2019. Characterised by brutal combat, punishing platforming, and a unique aesthetic that drew both visual and lore influences from Spanish Catholicism. The complex narrative brought together notions of guilt and sacrifice but most importantly linked these to play mechanics and character development rather than using them as simple set dressing. All of this came together to create one of the most impressive indie titles of recent years. It was therefore no surprise that the announcement of a sequel was met with excitement, and having now spent 20 hours on my first completion of the game, it’s safe to say that my hopes have largely been met.
The narrative of Blasphemous 2 continues on from the DLC of the original and sees The Penitent One dragged from their slumber to face a new and powerful threat. The nature of the story and its reliance on religious iconography and lore feels like a true continuation of the earlier title which means that it is also deliberately obscure and arcane. This has the happy result of meaning that newcomers to the game will be just as confused as veterans. There are a lot of well-researched lore videos on YouTube if you want to delve more deeply into the story and I anticipate new versions to include the sequel.
You begin the game as The Penitent One, awoken and confused, and crucially weaponless. The iconic sword, Mea Culpa (literally translates to My Fault) that saw you through your earlier adventures is nowhere to be seen. You soon have the choice of a new weapon though, with three distinct options that offer different playstyles. I chose the heavy Veredicto, a mace shaped after an incense holder that can be triggered to add fire damage to attacks. Every weapon also has an ability that is vital for exploration, with the mace striking bells to activate doors and platforms. I was taken aback for the first few hours, though, as the mace has no parry mechanic – a crucial part of the Blasphemous experience. The other two weapons, a curved heavy sword and twin rapiers, do both have a parry though, so these may be better starting options if you want to continue the combat feel of the first game.
Blasphemous is perhaps as well known for its punishing difficulty as its unique aesthetic so I went into this playthrough prepared for a hard time. Surprisingly, whether because I had the experience of the first title, through improved exploration mechanics, or possibly some oddities in weapon balancing, I found the majority of my time with Blasphemous 2 to be easier going. This isn’t to say that I didn’t die a lot or make simple mistakes in combat and platforming but more that the game offers a more polished experience than its predecessor. Jumping doesn’t generally need to be as pixel perfect as the first game (although there are a few secrets that rely on dexterity) and the new enhanced dodge makes combat far more fluid.
If pushed for a criticism, however, I did feel that the weapon balance is off as the mace I chose became the default choice for almost every boss encounter with its high damage and wide spread of effect making it far more useful than the alternatives. This didn’t spoil the experience, however, as the other weapons are necessary for their exploration abilities, but it did sometimes feel as if I was ‘breaking’ some encounters. Although, having now written that down, the tinge of guilt I feel is entirely appropriate for the world of Blasphemous 2.
Alongside your trusty melee weapons you also have access to a wide number of spells in the form of prayers. These are hidden around the map and can be triggered using your fervour (essentially mana). Some of these are simple ranged attacks that can be essential to wear down difficult enemies whilst others are more involved and require more fervour to cast. One that enables you to return to the main hub city at any point is especially useful although it is a one way trip so be careful when you use it.
There are a huge number of collectables of various types scattered around the massive map in Blasphemous 2. Some of these are rosary beads that offer passive enhancements when equipped whilst others are needed to increase your healing flasks or health bar etc. Many of these are relatively obscure but speaking to every NPC should ensure that you find out who requires which item. By the end of my game I had fully upgraded my healing flasks and two of my weapons but still had a number of collectables and spells unfound despite a map completion of 99%. It remains to be seen whether these are missable items or whether the map follows the earlier game in going above 100% for full completion.