This dark Metroidvania-style sequel marks a wonderful return for The Penitent One.
The original Blasphemous will always stand out to me as something special. It took all of the things that I loved about old Castlevania games (the dark, gothic imagery, sometimes punishing difficulty, and incredible enemy, world, and boss designs) and birthed something completely new with its own vast and twisted world.
The silent monk protagonist - The Penitent One - from the previous game returns, and now must face a new threat. I don’t want to spoil story aspects from the first game, so I’ll just say that The Miracle is now bringing about the birth of a child in the sky, and The Penitent One must stop this from happening. Does this sound crazy? Welcome to the world of Blasphemous.
Shortly after leaving his resting place, The Penitent One is given a choice of one of three weapons. Each has its own movesets and vastly different playstyles attached to them. Once more than one of them is obtained later on in the game, they can be switched up on the fly with a single button press.
The closest to the Mea Culpa sword from the first game is the Ruego Al Alba, and this was the weapon I used the most during my playthrough. It has a really strong parry that can be used to counter attacks with damaging blows that vary based on how good your timing is with the guard button.
The weapon can also utilize a powerful mode called “Blood Pact” and this can be activated after filling a gauge by attacking with normal attacks. Once activated, the sword hits several more times per swing and can even heal you with each hit. The trade-off to this is that you must first lose some health to activate it.
In addition to this, the weapon also has a ground stab that can be done during a jump and can deal damage all around you. If it is done from a great enough height, the damage will be substantial. This attack is also used to break through certain objects that block your path.
The next weapon is a sword and dagger set called Sarmiento and Centella. They have a very quick attack speed and can also do a parry, but this time the riposte dashes straight through enemies with lightning speed. The weapon can even gain the ability to add lightning to your attacks if enough hits are done to enemies without receiving any damage.
This weapon can also be used to traverse floating mirrors that are found throughout the map of Blasphemous II.
Finally, we have the censer weapon known as Veredicto. This large incense burner can do some absolutely massive damage if used correctly. It can be lit aflame and used to smack the hell out of enemies. The weapon is quite heavy though, so the time it takes to recover from throwing out an attack might take some getting used to.
Even though you have to make a choice to only obtain one of these weapons at the beginning, they can all be unlocked fairly early on in the game and you get to test them out on an enemy before choosing the one that fits you the best. They can also be upgraded throughout your quest, adding more attacks and magic abilities, as well as more overall damage output.
Not only has The Penitent One gained new weapons, but he also has a lot of new abilities that can be unlocked. For instance, a double jump and an air dash. These help not only with getting around the map quicker and reaching new areas but also with avoiding enemy attacks.
The slide from the first game returns and it still comes in handy during almost every enemy and boss encounter in the game.
Rosary Beads and Prayers have also returned and can help immensely. Rosary Beads allow you to equip certain buffs like resistance to physical damage or elemental damage like fire or lightning. Prayers can also be found hidden away and are magical attacks of all kinds that really help when trying to deal damage, especially from a distance.
What fuels Prayers is Fervour. Fervour is gained by hitting enemies, so the more you are punishing enemies, the more you can use these special abilities to punish them to an even greater extent.
However, if The Penitent One dies, he leaves behind a remnant of himself called Guilt. When these exist they block off a chunk of your Fervour, but if you travel back to where you died, you can touch them and clear the Guilt. If you leave behind too many of them, you can always go to a priest and have them perform a sacrament relieving you of your guilt, for a price.
A neat addition that Blasphemous II has is an artisan who can supply you with wooden doll carvings that give additional buffs like more weapon damage or a quicker cooldown after a dodge, so you can dodge more often. Finding and bringing back tools to the artisan is an important quest throughout the game.
I had a few gripes here and there during all of my hours playing the first Blasphemous across a few different platforms. The land of Cvstodia was filled with pain and lots of punishment, and a fair amount of it was mine. However, I can happily state that Blasphemous II seems to have fixed those issues.
First of all: spikes. Anyone who played through Blasphemous remembers the spikes and how one tiny misstep could halt a good chunk of progression through an area. Let’s be honest, they were frustrating. In Blasphemous II, instead of an instant death, you are simply teleported to the last ledge you were standing on before your mishap, and you just lose a bit of life instead.
The next thing that was fixed was enemy placements. This time around the places where enemies are located do not feel cheap at times like they did in the first game. Sure, you will still have combinations of enemies that force you to stay more grounded or have a smaller area to fight in, but those feel like a well-designed challenge, and not just something to annoy you.
Another wonderful thing is the portals that can teleport you to different parts of the map when discovered are actually utilized a bit more here. This makes getting around the map much less of a chore when trying to get that last bit of map completion or just getting back to a certain area in general.
And finally, health vials feel like they actually matter. If I took the time to use a health item, it healed me for a significant portion of my health. In the first game, I barely felt like I got healed at all, even when the vials were maxed out.
The map screen thankfully still allows you to add markers to areas that you might be stuck at or that are unexplored, and the game will even auto mark certain places where NPCs deal you helpful items or upgrades. Portals were never too far away from these areas either.
Blasphemous II isn’t perfect, however. I did find that a few of the boss fights (while well-designed in their visual aspects) didn’t match up to some of the fantastic encounters in the first one. I still loved a great deal of the bosses presented here, but just not all of them.
Another issue I had was in one particular area where I got stuck in the floor a few times. I also had a few minor visual glitches where if I switched my weapons rapidly, they still looked like I had them equipped, even when I didn’t.
Even though the level design here might not include as many memorable moments as the first game did, I still think the areas were a ton of fun to go through and explore. The map is quite large, and the different locations like cathedrals, caves, forests, towers, aqueducts, and temples show off the beautiful pixel art throughout. Not to mention that the areas in Blasphemous II were so much more enjoyable to traverse than in the first game.
The cutscenes this time around are handled in a very different manner than the original, but I still thought they were gorgeous. The art style reminded me a lot of Dante’s Inferno: An Animated Epic movie: with very dark imagery done in a colorful and detailed fashion.
Another aspect of the game that I found to be absolutely stellar was the soundtrack. It was honestly so calming and beautiful that I truly just got lost in the game’s world. I can’t praise it enough, and if they release it on vinyl at some point, I’m grabbing one of those for sure.
Very minor issues aside, I think that Blasphemous II is an absolutely fantastic and challenging addition to the list of Metroidvania titles that exist, and the majority of fans of the first game are going to adore this. I know I do.
Blasphemous II Review Score - 9/10
Improves on several issues that were in the first game
A huge map with plenty to explore and uncover
The combat is fast, fun, and brutal with more weapons to choose from
The game still offers a stiff challenge
The music and hand-drawn art are stunningly beautiful
A few minor visual glitches
A few bosses leave more to be desired with their fights
Level designs are just slightly less memorable than in the first game
Reviewer played on PC.
Blasphemous II is now available on PC, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series X|S