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As A Solid Metroidvania, 'Blasphemous' Is Anything But

Blasphemous Splash Screen
Courtesy of Team17

Blasphemous Deluxe Edition

Developer: The Game Kitchen
Publisher: Team17
Release Date: July 20, 2021
Available as: Digital and Physical

Blasphemous Is A Metroidvania Rooted In Religion

Blasphemous, in its own right, is what players would call a “Metroidvania.” The term “Metroidvania” quickly became a genre in its own right, often pigeon-holing games that fit the criteria of “2D action platformer that relies on exploration, tricky enemy memorization, and proper use of the game’s battle mechanics to succeed.” This also begs the question, is Mega Man a “Metroidvania” since it was released around the same time as the Metroids and the Castlevanias? At that point, it’d be like asking “What came first? The chicken or the egg?”

In any case, games that are inspired by the old-school 2D action platforming genre often rely on their original predecessors as a benchmark for the design of their games. Games we played in the past are developed with this in mind, such as Tanuki Justice. Blasphemous does this as well but offers its own unique still to stand out apart from the rest. The gothic-like graphics, with fully animated cutscenes dating similar to that of old 90s PC games, blends well with the premise of the game. You play as a nameless wanderer only known as the “Penitent One,” going through trials and tribulations to seek redemption for himself.

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Blasphemous - PlayStation 5 Direct Capture

A Platformer With 3D Action Elements

At first glance, it follows cues from other “Metroidvania” games. You can run, climb, attack, and dart about much like any Belmont and their whip. It’s only until you reach your very first boss within the first five minutes of the game, does it begin to give off other vibes.

During the first take recording of this game, it took everything in my power not to compare it to a Soulslike game, which is a genre of game that, too, took a life of its own thanks to Dark Souls and similar titles, but it’s hard to ignore the inspiration. Blasphemous may just be the first of its kind to be considered a...Metroidvania Soulslike.

game over screen
Blasphemous - PlayStation 5 Direct Capture

“YOU DIED,” But Make It Gothic

Aside from the “fight a boss within mere moments of booting up the game” trope, other comparisons that can be made to the Souls games are praying at specific statues during your journey. These statues also exist in Metroidvania games as safe rooms for players to save and restore their health, sure, but there’s another mechanic in the form of collecting the Blasphemous equivalent to “souls.” As you defeat enemies, you collect “souls” which, upon reaching a specific type of shrine, can be spent to teach yourself new skills. You can also come across a shopkeep in which you can exchange for rare and beneficial items.

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Blasphemous - PlayStation 5 Direct Capture

Blasphemous Is 2D Platforming ‘Dark Souls’ Action

As the player dies, a portion of their collected “souls” are lost, forcing the player to return to the point of death and retrieve them. Likewise, the combat is a combination of the magical weapon-based skillset of Castlevania yet mixed with a form of strategy not unlike Souls. The protagonist can parry attacks, timing the enemy’s attack with their guard. Upon succession, the player can follow the blocked attack with one of their own, which if timed correctly, can stagger the enemy enough to execute them.

This makes fights engaging and unique aside from simply “mashing the attack button to overwhelm and kill before the enemies do the same to you.” Some attacks cannot be parried, while other attacks will lead you to a considerable blockstun state, losing your chance of retaliation. In this regard, fights in this game plays out like a fighting game, sorta, as distancing and baiting your opponent to attack is key least you suffer the same fate as your opponent for being careless.

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Blasphemous - PlayStation 5 Direct Capture

Blasphemous Is A Dance Of The Righteousness

Different types of equipment in the form of rosary beads will further augment the stats of the protagonist as various collectibles and secrets scatter the country. There are enough diverse locations including dilapidated towers and barren wastelands, complete with unique enemies depending on the region.

Overall, it’s a very surprising game as it’s honest, bringing in an engaging atmosphere with its dialogue and music, while also keeping fun gameplay mechanics that reward and punish the player depending on their level of patience. The goodies bundled with the physical edition are also a plus, giving players who love the art design and music a digital artbook and soundtrack to go with it. Blasphemous is a great game for fans of the “Metroidvania” who wish to scratch the itch that Metroid Dread will surely tame later this year, yet even on its own, it’s a surprisingly amazing experience.

Blasphemous Deluxe Edition is available on PC, PS4, Xbox One, and Switch

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