Time to repent, sinners! The Miracle has finally arrived at our consoles. Will it be worth the penance? Find out in our Blasphemous review.
Another day, another opportunity for me to talk about metroidvanias. Sadly, this time I won’t be covering something like Minoria. You know, that 2D action platformer about religion and the influence of the Church. No, today I’ll be covering a game about… Religion and the influence of the Church with a 2D action platformer style. OK, I wasn’t expecting that but hey, this one has pixel art! However, reality doesn’t look as great as the hype made it seems. And if you want to know why make sure you keep reading this Blasphemous review.
The long Pilgrimage
I covered The Game’s Kitchen second title a couple of times already. I won’t fool anyone if I say that I wasn’t looking forward to this title. Back when the Kickstarter knocked on everyone’s door a couple of years ago, everything about Blasphemous smelled of success. The art, the lore, the bosses, the enemies,… You could tell just by taking a slight glance at it that this title was going to make a lot of noise. And then, they released the launch date: September 10th.
Lucky me, I managed to get a review copy of the game, so my hype completely skyrocketed the moment I downloaded the beast. And then, I started playing. And boy I felt completely disappointed after a couple of hours.
In the name of the High Vanias
By now, you should know everything good about Blasphemous thanks to other websites. The visual part of the game is superb, so it is the musical compositions and the lore. And as I hate saying the same thing everyone agrees on, I’ll talk about why this game doesn’t really hold up in the, well, game aspect of it.
Blasphemous is a 2D action platformer that drinks heavily from titles like the one everyone compares everything with. This title is also inspired by metroidvanias and I know the devs say this is not a metroidvania game, but I’m sorry: it is. You obtain new abilities and ways to progress by means of exploring every nook and cranny of a map with areas interconnected via shortcuts. But I have to agree that this is not a real metroidvania due to the abilities you get.
While I don’t have any issues regarding the abilities you get in Blasphemous (which all of them are completely optional unless you care about exploring), I do have issues with how they work. These Relics are not actually giving our protagonist The Penitent One new physical upgrades like in other games of the genre. Instead, these are just basic stuff like creating platforms, creating more platforms and being able to fall from bottomless pits without dying. And in order to use them, you have to equip every single time. And you only have 3 slots for 6 relics! I think the NES Metroid game already stated that upgrades have to be automatically equipped. Could you imagine having to equip double jump every single time you want to use it? It’s just annoying in the long run, plain and simple. And speaking of which…
What a drag it is to backtrack
What do you expect to do in a metroidvania title? Explore everything. How do you make this pleasant? By a good blend of level connectivity, design, and control. Super Metroid’s biggest flaw was that it felt dull having to walk everywhere due to the lack of a fast travel option. Symphony of the Night fixed this with this addition, but there were some areas that you have to pass some others in order to reach them. Fortunately, as time passed this was improved with better shortcuts and better-placed warp points. I mean, exploring is fun, but it can get annoying on repeated playthroughs. I think you can tell what I’m going to say next.
Blasphemous level design and fast travel system are plain as bread. You only have 5 warp points for 21 areas. If at least these areas were well connected with clever shortcuts, I wouldn’t mind at all. But every single area is filled with one-way exit hallways that feel just like a drag to return when you see that you can’t keep going because the game doesn’t want you to grab on a ledge just because. And when you take into account the amount of backtracking you have to do if you want to get everything in this game, the experience turns from sweet to sour really quick. And now, I think it’s time to address the elephant in the room: the controls.
The Order of Arbitrary
Now that I reached this part of the review, I want to talk again about Minoria and contrast its gameplay with the one from Blasphemous. As I stated in the review, Minoria combat feels great when it works due to its snappy controls and quick movement. This was tainted with the contact damage enemies inflicted upon you when you get too close, but guess what? Bombservice already fixed those issues! They were really quick and they are still listening to feedback, so that’s impressive. But I don’t think the issues with Blasphemous can be fixed so easily…
I’m going to repeat myself here, but if a game doesn’t have a stamina bar and encourages getting close and personal with the enemies, you have to follow certain rules. And the word that defines Blasphemous the best in this aspect is arbitrary. Sometimes you can grab on ledges, other times you can’t. Some attacks can be parried only to be followed by a counterattack, others don’t. Dashing works for the most part until it doesn’t. You get it already, right?
When your game focuses on close combat, you can’t have features like enemies getting knockback while being hit if you have a 3-stage combo attack. If I get hit by an enemy, I want to get knockback either from all or from none. As a developer, you have to create rules in order to make the player understand what they can and can’t do in the game. And most of the time, Blasphemous didn’t feel like something with clear rules to follow.
Visuals and music worth the praise
As I don’t really want to make everyone think I hate this game, I’ll talk about something I really enjoyed: the art and the music. The heavy inspirations in Spain’s southern architecture, as well as the iconography and romantic influence, is top-notch. Every single pixel is crafted beautifully with the sweet taste of Spanish grotesque figures and characters. You can tell how much love the artists who worked in this project put in the game, and it is worth watching each animation and mountain in the distance.
The same thing goes to music. The drums paced like in a Holy Week parade are just brilliant. Make sure you listen to the entire OST, it is that worth it.
For twisted the ways of the Media are
This last part will be hard to swallow to some people, but I don’t really care. I don’t give a single crap if a game was made in Spain, Bosnia, Italy or the North Pole. I judge a game by how much fun I had with it, not only because it was just a pretty thing to see. Some reviewers tend to forget that the important aspect of a video game, aside from the graphics, is the game itself. And I have to say that Blasphemous falls on the mediocre pit, which is quite the shame.
This could easily have been one of the best titles of the year. A bast world to explore with interesting lore mixed with great and addictive combat. Instead, what I’ve found in this game in my 36 hours playing it can be summed up in one word: annoying.
There are no markers on the map, which makes backtracking looking for collectibles a huge pain. Those collectibles, by the way, do not appear on the map, so I hope you are happy going back and forward while going crazy looking for them. And hope you have a big old can of patience with you if you want to get the true ending because you’ll get that map memorized whether you like it or not. And all side quests are just “bring X number of stuff to me and I’ll give you obsolete currency by the time you finish them”.
Like a candle in the wind
I won’t lie: hype shaped my vision regarding this game. I was hoping to see something that could reach games likes Hollow Knight or even Bloodstained. Instead, I just experienced a title that stands out with their visuals and score and that’s about it. The lore sure looks really great (even if it gets really pompous at times), but that’s the video part of the video game. Mechanics are basic and just there, combat has big flaws as I stated earlier and bosses are just great looking but barely a challenge. If we add the fact that once you are done with the game there’s no New Game Plus or something similar, there is not really much to revisit here.
Do I hate Blasphemous? Far from it, I think it’s a game with great potential within its core. Do I believe it’s one of the greatest titles of the genre? In terms of visuals and themes, sure! But as a game, this barely holds itself enough for me to say that you should grab it right now. And that’s quite sad if you ask me because at the end of the day the greatest games are those that not only look but play well too. And I’m afraid that this one will be at the mercy of the Miracle.