Perhaps ‘Dark Souls-vania’ is a bit of an overstatement, but there’s no denying the plethora of influences, both modern and contemporary, in this gorgeously sacrilegious metroidvania. Blasphemous is dripping in grim atmosphere and stuffed full of macabre religious iconography, bloody combat, and enough lore to fill the Old Testament.
You take on the role of the Penitent One, a mute protagonist that for once has a good reason to be – he’s taken a vow of silence. The narrative for the most part keeps its rosary beads fairly close to its chest. Rare moments to catch your breath will likely be spent reading up on the lore, piecing together what sent this dystopia to hell, and what you’re meant to do about it; only the beautifully disturbing pixel art cutscenes give hints.
Blasphemous blends gameplay elements to effectively craft progression that feels earned. Combat requires you to be smart; blocking and dodging are essential to handle the horrific, highly detailed monster variants that each feel unique, both in their revolting designs and their method of assault. Fortunately, the Penitent One doesn’t just rely on his hallowed sword, as passive effect artefacts, a progression tree, and prayers (spells) allow you to personalise your playstyle. The combat is smooth and the movement is slick. The only rare source of frustration comes from some unfairly placed falls and the occasional cheap, overpowered enemy that drains your health with one tombstone to the cone shaped head.
If you’re skilled, you can speed through in a little over ten hours, though exploring every nook and cranny of the map and finding all of the collectables can take upwards of double that, especially considering there are two endings to experience. At any rate, Blasphemous is torturously fun, and one of the best the genre has to offer.