Blasphemous (Xbox One) Review

By Gabriel Jones 09.09.2019 1

Review for Blasphemous on Xbox One

You are The Penitent One. Trapped in a perpetual state of undeath, you've long forgotten what it means to live, or die. This is just a small price to pay for all of the sins that have been committed. Don't be too concerned about what those sins could have possibly been. After all, you miraculously survived the massacre of the Silent Sorrow Brotherhood. It's as if you were chosen by God to complete a holy task. Cvstodia, the land you call home, has become cursed. All of its inhabitants share a fate much like yours. Though their flesh may rend and their bones may break, they are never truly allowed the sweet release of death. In a short time, they are revived, and their suffering continues. If there is some means to escaping this purgatory, then it is surely guarded by a legion of horrific fiends. Grab hold of the legendary blade Mea Culpa, and prepare to explore a corrupted realm.

Upon starting Blasphemous, you're greeted by the horrific sight of countless corpses, all wearing a helm just like The Penitent One's. This grisly spectacle serves as the perfect introduction to your misadventures in Cvstodia. Due to the undying curse, your body will never be added to the pile, but this game will do its best to push you into the throes of madness. Whether that's done purposefully or inadvertently will be explored in the following review.

As always, a brief view of the basics is necessary for one to get their bearings. The realm is broken up into several zones, which are filled with all manner of evil. Defeating them is merely a matter of pressing the attack button repeatedly, but that's no excuse to get careless. Death comes to those who underestimate their enemies, or misjudge their next leap. In either case, The Penitent One is returned to the last checkpoint they activated. Thankfully, you won't lose your "souls" aka tears of atonement, which are needed for skill upgrades and status-boosting rosary beads. However, a physical manifestation of guilt will appear, and it drains a portion of your fervour. Fervour governs your most powerful attacks, so make use of it whenever possible.

Interestingly enough, exploring Cvstodia doesn't require double jumps, grappling hooks, or passage-opening bombs. In fact, none of those abilities actually exist. Rather, you're going to want to keep an eye out for a handful of McGuffins. They're guarded by the strongest and most depraved in the realm. Still, if you're willing to trek outside of the beaten path, you might discover a few relics. These blessed trinkets aid in exploration, whether it's by causing platforms to appear out of thin air, or allowing you to breathe toxic fumes. They're entirely optional, so anyone seeking an added challenge might want to skip them.

Screenshot for Blasphemous on Xbox One

Speaking of challenge, there's a fair amount of it in here. Surviving each zone, without bathing in dozens of healing flasks, will require players to effectively utilize the parry mechanics. Some attacks can't be deflected, so knowing when to jump, or dash out of the way is also essential. Once you get the hang of everything, it's relatively smooth sailing. The word "relatively" is used here because there are minor issues to account for. Mainly, one has to be wary of the fact that hit-boxes aren't quite 1:1. Depending on the enemy, this can work for and against you.

This problematic aspect comes into play as early as the first boss. He's an awfully large fellow with a massive club. However, it's not the swing of his weapon that hurts you; it's the shockwave it makes after colliding with the ground. In other words, The Penitent One can safely jump through the swing and not take any damage. Later on, adversaries embedded in the walls will slash at anyone who comes near. Their swipes have an inexplicably long-range, but if you're in just the right spot, you can hit them without suffering any retort. It might seem like you're too far, but that's how it goes when the hit-boxes aren't perfect.

Remember what was said about misjudging leaps? That also needs emphasizing. While the jumping controls are responsive enough, it's the pits themselves that players should be concerned about. Many of them are the exact width of a single bound. To put it another way, if the jump button is pressed too early, then the protagonist won't reach the other side. There's no room for error here. In the platformer genre, your mind is usually focused on reaching the end of the course, not on every single jump. That definitely isn't the case here. Expect to spend a fair amount of time bracing your-self for each chasm, no matter how mundane it may look. Otherwise, your penalty is a swift kick back to the last checkpoint.

Screenshot for Blasphemous on Xbox One

Cvstodia is filled with many mysteries. Solving them all will require an observant eye, and a lot of patience. Much like the Dark Souls series, every pick-up contains a piece of history, which may allude to its purpose. However, you'll want to keep notes. While there is a map, it doesn't track certain objects of interest, such as items that can only be obtained with relics. Make a note of anything that can be interacted with, or else you'll be wandering in circles. Discovering this world's secrets can be quite thrilling, but don't fret too much if you can't figure everything out. Most of the puzzles are entirely optional.

Some aspects of this game are a bit more frustrating than they probably should be. For one, The Penitent One doesn't have any recovery frames after getting knocked down. This is a prime opportunity for the enemy to land an additional attack, one that the player can't do anything to avoid. It's especially noticeable, when dealing with bolts of lightning or swinging pendulums. Warp-points allow for fast traversal to a number of locations throughout the land. Unfortunately, only five can be found, so needlessly running from point A to point B is still a frequent occurrence. Also, despite their heavy cost, weapon skills are unlikely to see a lot of use. Winning regular battles is mostly just a matter of getting in the enemy's face, dodging or parrying their attack, and then responding in kind. There isn't much of an incentive in playing stylishly.

All told, Blasphemous isn't really the sort of game that lives or dies by these minor qualms. Granted, "More than the sum of its parts" is an overused phrase, but it does fit. Players are human beings, and it is in their nature to adapt to any situation. Even in the face of numerous incongruities, they will most definitely soldier onward, and complete their divine task. Now why exactly would they do that? Well… It's quite simple really. Through stunning art-direction and a rich atmosphere, The Game Kitchen has created something truly special.

Screenshot for Blasphemous on Xbox One

Apologies for the sudden tangent, but when you think of Hell, what it does it look like? This title creates a vision of the underworld that isn't fire, brimstone, and raging infernos. Instead, it's repetitious pain and torment, a broken land where everyone suffers. All of the enemies that inhabit Cvstodia are human. It doesn't matter if they lived lives of poverty or opulence. Here, they are all forced to carry unimaginable burdens, and thus will lash out at anyone who comes near them. Notice the thorns on The Penitent One's sword. By holding down the B button, they'll grasp them tightly, taking damage in the process. However, it also increases fervour. Apparently, one must accept punishment in order to inflict it upon others, even though their continued existence is already punishment enough.

Witnessing all of these horrific sights might cause one to dwell on their purpose in life. Perhaps everyone lives because deep down, they fear death more than anything else. The afterlife could very well be a world just like the one here on Earth, except its inhabitants are no longer shackled by morality. If belief is a constant series of trials, then surely the afterlife would be the greatest test of them all. Imagine if everyone, both good and evil, ended up in the same place. How do you continue holding onto your beliefs, knowing that the only reward is pain and torment?

Part of what makes this game so fascinating is how it's paced. The trials of The Penitent One are spread out in such a way that they allow players time to think about what has transpired, and reflect on its meaning. Yes, the lack of warp-points is still somewhat of a nuisance, but it also represents an opportunity to question the world around them. The answers are either left open to interpretation, or don't actually exist, but they help lend the adventure a layer of depth. This is the kind of depth that isn't found in complex fighting mechanics or a multitude of statistics.

Blasphemous is a game that can be forgiven for all of the rare moments where it is less than perfect. Though there are times where players have to suffer for inexplicable issues, they rarely amount to more than simply retrying a difficult boss. If one takes the time to explore, they'll uncover the means to easily defeat anything that is giving them trouble. While piecing together the story and taking in the unbelievable sights, you might start reflecting on your purpose, as well.

Screenshot for Blasphemous on Xbox One

Cubed3 Rating

8/10
Rated 8 out of 10

Great - Silver Award

Rated 8 out of 10

For an action-adventure title, inaccurate hit-boxes and level-design that's even slightly off can be a deal-breaker. Rather than get dragged down by its deficiencies, Blasphemous rises above to create a uniquely engaging experience. Exploring the dire realm of Cvstodia is a treat in itself. The lore is intriguing, and the few characters you meet weave compelling narratives. Still, there remains an unshakeable thought that this game is a beautiful painting, but with an askew frame. Then again, maybe it's because of the imperfections that players start to question everything around them. Whatever the case, you'll definitely want to give this a look.

Developer

The Game Kitchen

Publisher

Team17

Genre

2D Platformer

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  8/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date 10.09.2019   North America release date 10.09.2019   Japan release date 10.09.2019   Australian release date 10.09.2019   

Comments

Sounds pretty similar to Dead Souls, the plot is almost a clone from what I can tell.

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