Since Elden Ring secured its position as one of 2022's best games, Soulslikes have seen another huge spike in popularity, with a plethora of titles already released or in the pipeline for this year. Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, Remnant 2, Lies of P, The Lords of the Fallen, Hollow Knight: Silksong, The Last Faith — the list goes on — each one of them throwing in their own unique twist on the beloved genre to try and steal the limelight. The latest and greatest of these, Blasphemous 2, is a 2D hack-n’-slash, Metroivania sequel to the well-received 2019 release, from Spanish based developer The Game Kitchen.
Blasphemous 2 builds upon its predecessor with a brand new world full of advanced traversal mechanics, challenging boss encounters, and a much clearer focus on its Metroidvania aspects. The story follows on from the first title’s free DLC, Wounds of Eventide, and sees you take on the role of the Penitent One once again. Awakening in a new land, you are thrust back into your endless cycle of life, death, and resurrection, exploring this mysterious, treacherous place and uncovering its dark and dangerous secrets. In true Soulslike fashion you’ll be navigating various environments, palaces, dungeons, towers, forests, ravines; slaying foes both fresh and familiar en route to face the Embroideries.
You’ll be glad to hear the gruesome combat from Blasphemous has returned, with some slight tweaks to make it faster, smoother, and more accurate. Vibrations from landing hits are now emphasised with the use of the DualSense’s haptic feedback, sliding now has some weight behind it, making use of the adaptive triggers, and additional execution animations have been added to up the brutality to a whole new level.
Unlike the first outing, you’re presented with a choice of three weapons: Veredicto, a large, slow but hard-hitting mace; Sarmiento & Centella, a pair of close combat, swift-striking, needle-like swords; or Ruego Al Alba, a good all-round serrated blade. Each one not only has its own strengths and weaknesses within their unique attacks, but is also tied to a traversal mechanic making your choice even more important. For instance, we chose Veredicto, the mace, and in consequence were able to ring the bells scattered throughout the map, sending out chimes that made invisible platforms appear and blockades disappear, allowing access to new areas.
If you happen to choose one of the other weapons however, you’ll have access to another enjoyable traversal ability — but we won’t spoil them here. As you progress, you’ll eventually unlock all three, gaining the ability to explore as you please, and so you won’t have to worry about missing out on anything.
The equipment and upgrades have also had a major overhaul from the original. Instead of Mea Culpa Hearts, you’ll be presented with an Alterpiece of Favours from the sculptor. This consists of slots to place sculptures in, providing a wide range of stat buffs, like a simple 10% increase in physical damage. When arranged correctly, placing two figures of a similar type together will combine to give you an additional boost; higher crit chance, heals on executions, etc. We often found ourselves tweaking the arrangement of figures to get the best buffs possible for the current boss we were facing.
What's more, there is an entirely new currency, Marks of Martyrdoms (M&Ms?), that are used to unlock new abilities on the three weapon skill trees, and to expand your Alterpiece with more slots. Meanwhile, the prayers system returns, allowing you to cast a vast array of devastating spells from simple fire balls to summoning a ghost that'll fight for you. Lastly, the rosary beads make a return, giving you resistance to certain elements, like fire, electric, poison, etc. These can be swapped on the fly and are often the difference between life and death when facing difficult bosses.
The Embroideries make for enjoyably memorable boss encounters, with attack patterns that can be challenging, but easy enough to learn and adapt to after just a handful of attempts. Soulslike fans will be familiar with boss phases and may or may not be happy to know they make an appearance here, often fooling you into thinking the boss has been defeated, only for the health bar to refill and the fight to continue.
Whenever we came up stuck against a boss, we returned to the hub, City of the Blessed Name, to upgrade and switch out our equipment, and this was usually enough for us to return and conquer our foe. If you're still having trouble, however, you can often find an NPC just outside the arena who's willing to lend a hand. With the variety of customisations, the ability to explore further, and the NPC’s aid, we never found the level of challenge to be unbeatable. Outside of bosses you’ll also get locked in some rooms, pitting you against combat trials, consisting of four to five waves of enemies. Although nothing new for the genre, they are an enjoyable change of pace.
Blasphemous 2 isn't just about challenging combat, either, presenting you with difficult platforming in-between your bouts. Many of these sections task you with getting from A to B in a matter of seconds, precisely timing weapon switches to pull off the different traversal abilities. You'll be double jumping, air dashing, and bell ringing your way through treacherous passages of traps, spike pits, and enemies to reach a closing door with just enough time to Indiana Jones style slide underneath. It’s a tough ask, but perfectly doable as you rely heavily on your muscle memory. There are many platforming areas throughout the vast world, and they're a joy to complete due to their outstanding design.
Visually, Blasphemous 2 is a huge upgrade from the already attractive original, with smoother looking pixel graphics, gorgeous animated cutscenes, and environments that go hand in hand with the Spanish inquisition setting and its elaborate structures. The music and audio are equally impressive, marrying up perfectly with the action, as you land your hits with a swoosh of your blade, the ting of metal on metal as you perform the perfect parry, and the squelch as you pull off a gory execution. It’s just so addictively satisfying.
It's clear The Game Kitchen has addressed criticisms aimed at Blasphemous. We criticised it for its unfair insta-death traps, clunky user interface, and for being a little on the short side. But with traps now dealing a set amount of damage instead of being one-hit kills, the platforming sections are much more manageable. The map and user interface have been cleaned up to allow for ease of use when swapping out equipment or marking the map with points of interest. And, with a total playtime of 40+ hours on our first playthrough and a bunch of secrets still to uncover, there is more than enough content here to keep you busy.
Blasphemous 2 takes the foundations of its well-received predecessor and builds upon it in all the right ways. Tweaking combat to make it faster, smoother, and more accurate, removing insta-death scenarios to make platforming more manageable, and packing the game full to the brim with secrets and collectibles. The great attention to detail in the presentation and high level of polish make Blasphemous 2 a delightfully memorable experience that players will look back on fondly for years to come.