English
Gamereactor
reviews
Blasphemous II

Blasphemous II

The Penitent One now has more weapons and abilities at hand to explore a harsh labyrinth full of monsters and darkness. Is it too much of a playable penitence?

Subscribe to our newsletter here!

* Required field
HQ

When the majority of the fledgling indie studios decided to try their hand at the trendier-by-the-day Metroidvania genre, Seville-based The Game Kitchen managed to leave their own mark with 2019's very successful Blasphemous. They opted for a detailed pixel art, a rich but cryptic lore and storytelling based on Spain's darker religious traditions, and a somehow fitting foot-dragging moveset. And it undoubtedly set itself apart in such a crowded genre, even though we found it a bit rigid and underdeveloped.

So for its sequel we naturally wanted a more agile and developed 2D dark fantasy adventure, and just like it happened with my first impressions three months ago, I can now confirm that is exactly what we're getting.

Blasphemous II

We're not talking about Samus Aran's athletic swiftness in Metroid Dread here, but just rest assured that if the ungainliness of the original was your main problem with the game, you'll have a great time here. The character's reaction time is just much better, even when taking into account the mandatory cool-down times for some of his abilities, while the way you traverse the different stages - more so when a bunch of fancy moves have been unlocked - just feels good.

This is an ad:

Now, as we said back then, the main new feature this time around is how you shape both your playstyle and the way you approach the map's exploration from the get-go, as you're given the choice of one out of three specific weapons to start with. And why does this decision impact both combat and traversal? Well, because the Ruego al Alba wide sword can open up new paths by cutting through thick roots; the Veredicto censer-flail can ring some platform-creating magic bells; and the dual-wielded Sarmiento & Centella daggers can make you lightning-port through mirrors.

This has been designed with care to clearly give players freedom of choice and expression, and it really works for the most part. However, as per usual whenever you introduce more variety and different alternatives, it sometimes feels like the enemies you're facing, other than the paths you cannot obviously take, are meant to be fought with a different weapon, and it can also happen that you may grow too attached to one of them, which will most likely have you seeing more "Exemplaris Excomvnicationis" screens than you were expecting.

Blasphemous IIBlasphemous II

This last point is of course fine as it just makes you master at least two weapons, and the new ones succeeding your original weapon of choice come early enough in the game (with their additional skill trees taking a bit more to unlock). All this, together with the character's own abilities, additional powers, and elementary spells, make for a much more fun combat and movement system, thus enhancing both encounters and the expected backtracking.

This is an ad:

However, and perhaps this has to do with both the deliberately cryptic nature of the game together with its Soulsborne tenacity, it takes a good while to understand how the different systems and items work, how they interconnect between one another, or what the hell you're supposed to do in certain occasions. This extends to the story, character interactions, side quests and the whole meaning of the game or even your own purpose in the plot.

I understand, and game director Enrique Cabeza told us just that, that everything related to the lore is intentionally obscure, and I also like how a lot of players love to investigate, share, or come with their own interpretations. However, I can also see how the whole approach could end up being off-putting in the first 5-10 hours of playtime if you don't feel like you're getting back something meaningful, a risk the original took too far.

Blasphemous IIBlasphemous II

My other only problem with an otherwise beautiful, brutal and thoroughly entertaining adventure (besides some minor bugs and glitches that were confusing but apparently not game-breaking) has to do with pace, balance, and the design of a few specific encounters. Pace can take a hit depending on your weapons of choice and thus the order in which you're exploring the different areas, including some more duller walks. Balance might need a revision or two given how some of the fantastic bosses can be extremely easy or extremely hard, the former letting you down and the latter getting on your nerves no matter how much you upgrade or tailor your 'loadout'. Finally, some of the encounters just feel a bit too archaic or cheated, as you for example get stuck being hit irremediably or have to deal with erratic enemies.

That being said, all the rest more than compensates for my gripes. The environments you visit are some of the most beautiful and atmospheric pixel art I have seen. The level design is on par with some of the genre's best, including a couple of interesting new ideas we'd like to see more of, such as the sand mechanic, one specific collectible forming a ladder, or the way you find the hidden sisters.

The soundscape is much better too, and some pieces such as The Severed Tower's are memorable. And the final third of the game, as per demanded of the genre, is nothing short of powerful. Even the lore, with its intrinsic mystery, somehow manages to fascinate, despite only fully understanding a portion of the disturbing stories and references.

Blasphemous II will take you around 15-20 hours depending on how much of a completionist you consider yourself, which makes for a tight enough experience in my opinion. If you're a fan of the genre, I'd say this is the best Metroidvania 2023 will see, and I also think it's a must for fans of the first one and a redemption for those who thought it was too stiff. Nevertheless and for the aforementioned reasons, I'm also certain that the incredibly talented team at The Game Kitchen can excel even more. That they can reach even higher heavens.

Blasphemous IIBlasphemous II
08 Gamereactor UK
8 / 10
+
Great level design, soundscape, and art work. Stunning atmosphere, lore and environments. Weapon switch adds variety in many ways. More agile than its predecessor. Full of personality.
-
A bit too obscure, a bit too annoying at times. A few bugs and glitches. Misses purpose and reward occasionally.
overall score
is our network score. What's yours? The network score is the average of every country's score

Related texts

0
Blasphemous IIScore

Blasphemous II

REVIEW. Written by David Caballero

The Penitent One now has more weapons and abilities at hand to explore a harsh labyrinth full of monsters and darkness. Is it too much of a playable penitence?



Loading next content