Blashemous Review - A Hardcore Metroidvania
I played the Blasphemous demo a few weeks ago and fell in love with the game's utterly beautiful artwork and incredible atmosphere. I finished the true ending and all of the challenges in Strife & Disaster tonight. There are some games that you just know are going to stay with you, and this is one of them for me.
This game reminded me of the atmosphere of the Dark Souls series because it had some gruesome and dark elements that I enjoyed. Even though it is a pixelated title, the gameplay mechanics are very polished, which I did not expect from a quick glance. This is the best hack and slash action platformer game I've played in recent years, in my opinion, because it has a satisfying amount of plot, setting, characters, and more. If you like the "From Software" series, this is the game for you.
Blasphemous is a metroidvania platformer with Christian themes set in a mysterious, fantastical setting. Imagine yourself walking through Torquemada's fevered dreams, complete with twisted medieval Spanish landscapes, soaring cathedrals, and forgotten crypts. There's no doubt that the game's graphics, music, and overall atmosphere are superbly realized - major props to everyone involved. Even if you have to retrace your steps through the same areas after (another) death, the experience of the game world around you is well worth it. I was still excited to meet a new boss, just to see what larger-than-life art he had in store for me.
Blasphemous is also challenging, but with a few exceptions, I didn't find it to be as difficult as comparable platformers like Hollow Knight. After a short period of game play and some buffing, I rarely died from injury. The lovely spike pits are the most common cause of death (and this is a common trend in the reviews), but for me, there were only just a few places where I regularly died from them (looking at you, Sleeping Canvases). And this was frequently due to my impatience or dumb mistakes. Some of the bosses were also difficult, but I don't think any of them needed more than 5-6 tries for me. Though my playing style is to collect as many powerups as possible before entering a boss match, so that may have influenced the outcome.
And, if you're looking for a platforming challenge, the Strife and Ruin expansion will not disappoint (though, if you're anything like me, be prepared for some severe frustration). With just 5 challenges, it's not a lot of extra material, but the last three of those challenges required a lot of practice to master, the last of which required potentially 25-30 retries.
I died much too many times due to the game failing to register the jump button, and some puzzles/challenges became ridiculous as a result. Since it's infuriating to die because your order didn't click with the geometry, the game would have gained greatly if instant death was replaced with health loss, a la Hollow Knight.
Blasphemous does seem to have several gameplay problems. Jumping ladder grabs and ledge grabs seem to be incompatible. When jumping past a ladder, you must hit up exactly at the right time or you will miss it. If you didn't know it already, the Strife and Ruin extensions would make it perfectly clear. I wish you could just hold down up and it would auto-grab as you walked by. And, whether you like it or not, ledge grabs happen all the time. If there's a ledge on the frame, there's a good chance you'll be hanging from it soon. Also, it's a minor detail, but I wish the sword bounce didn't use the same directions as the downward thrust; this burned me on several occasions (again, especially in Strife and Ruin). Finally, there are some cheap moments when numerous attacks are placed in such a way that recovery is impossible. But, to be frank, I think this is standard fare in many platformers.
The level design is typical metroidvania fare. It successfully immerses you in the universe, and the secrets are abundant enough to warrant careful exploration. The bosses are creative, unique, and relatively easy to work with. The music is amazing.
Having said that, I believe the game's positives far outweigh the disappointing moments. There's a lot to discover, secrets to discover, powers to obtain, enemies to defeat (and several ways to do so) - basically all metroidvania fans like myself enjoy. And the whole journey is both breathtaking and haunting. If you like the genre and are up for a little punishment, this is a must-read!