Making a game that is difficult to play through while maintaining a balanced structure throughout is not the easiest thing to do. Many times, games that aim for this can end up being unbeatable or simply not as challenging as the developers intended. The Game Kitchen certainly didn’t have this problem as their latest game, Blasphemous, was a very well balanced game full of punishment, challenges, and death. Not only that, but the overall theme of the game was as dark and dreary as the dreaded gameplay made you feel when approaching a new boss fight - in a good way, that is.
You play as The Penitent One in Silence, a religious martyr who is making their way through a hellish world in hopes of finding a way to cleanse their guilt. In order to do this, they must traverse an enemy laden landscape and defeat all of the corrupts in which hold their guilt.
The game starts you off light with a quick introduction to the story and movement controls before you walk into your first enemy, a mini-boss. When I first encountered it, I thought it was a difficult fight, but it turns out to be one of the easiest fights in the game and is, in fact, an ease-you-in kind of fight. This was a great way to start the tone of the game when it comes to how challenging it is going to end up being.
Once you get through the first fight, you will quickly find that the world is full of smaller enemies that can be easily taken down once you figure out how to fight against them, but are difficult when there are multiples of them around. At least defeating the small enemies is permanent until you die or use a checkpoint shrine. With every successful kill, you will gain more “Tears” and get the most from defeating a boss. However, with every death your guilt meter will slowly have a vine creep on it and shortening the amount that you can hold at once. This can be cleansed at a cleansing statue for tears or by defeating a boss.
Fighting gets easier the further into the game you go as with every kill you gain a form of currency known as “Tears.” These tears can be used at certain shrines to purchase fighting abilities, such as the dash stab and further combo attacks. These abilities will prove to be incredibly useful when fighting both regular enemies and bosses. The other use for the tears are the purchases. Whether you are at a merchant or looking to have your guilt cleansed from one of the cleansing statues, this will cost you tears.
When it comes to healing, there are flasks that you can fill with blood in order to heal. You can find empty ones throughout the map that can then be filled at one of the blood alters, but until you fill it the first time it will remain empty. These flasks can be refilled at any checkpoint shrine, but can not be initially filled at a checkpoint shrine. There is also a woman outside of most boss fights that you can talk to before entering and she will offer to aid you in the battle, which means she will heal you with magic a certain amount of times in the battle. But using her healing can be difficult because she doesn’t initiate the healing spell until you are almost dead and it takes roughly 10 seconds for her spell to cast giving the boss plenty of time to land the final blow.
Aside from all the combat, there is the platforming and traps that can also get you killed. With various death pits, spike pits, or light-damaging traps throughout the map, you need to tread carefully in unknown sections of the map. These traps vary in style and damage, but all of them are potentially lethal. One of the cooler platforming aspects was stabbing a wall to help you climb up, but note this can only be done against certain surfaces and if you take damage while climbing you can not re-grab the wall until you land. This note has proven to lead to death on multiple accounts for me during my playthrough.
Graphics and Sounds
While the gore may be pixelated, the brutality that the game portrays throughout is both entertaining and unique. Everything is well visualized in a colorful fashion that it is never unclear what is happening at any given moment.
There aren’t a ton of different noises in the game, but the necessary ones are there to provide both atmosphere and realism to the actions around the player or by the player. It mixed well with the dark tones of the different atmosphere music each section of the game provides or the intense undertones in the boss fights.
For those looking to improve on their skill, there is plenty of reasons to go back. Even knowing how to defeat each boss does not mean that the fight itself will be easy. There are plenty of personal challenges a player could give themselves to make the game more challenging and even more ways for the player to find every advantage to increase their skill.
There are also a whole map of collectibles and plenty of secrets to unfold. While many of these areas are optional, there are plenty of things to unlock and find throughout the game. If you are looking to 100% complete this game, you are certainly in for a long thorough map search.
What Could Be Better
Without any guidance system in the game, there are some punishment sections that seem unnecessarily challenging. There are only vague, religiously-styled hints given when it comes to the first three bosses, but once you get in the gates there are no more hints as to where to go. This usually wouldn’t be worth being mentioned as an issue, as it increases the punishment value, but it is easy to get stuck on a certain area because you have to find a specific item that hinders your progress until it is found and equipped.
Blasphemous is the most frustrating fun I have had this year! While there are plenty of challenges that were hard to push through, every fight and enemy is able to be defeated, with or without taking any damage yourself. It all comes down to timing, thorough map exploration, and taking every opportunity to strike your enemy down. I thoroughly enjoyed the experience this game provides.