Even the item menu has a dark backstory
September 11, 2019 8:39 AM   Subscribe

Blasphemous: In for a penance, in for a pounding [Polygon] “The easy way out is to define what Blasphemous does by dropping in a series of game names you may already be familiar with, but which often sound like gibberish to the uninitiated. But it’s worth starting simply: Blasphemous is equal parts Soulsborne game mixed into a healthy helping of Metroidvania. [...] This is a game about pain, illustrated in striking detail, to skillfully communicate the shock value that’s inherent in the religious imagery it plays with. As The Penitent One, I have to take my silent protagonist throughout the far corners of a serpentine map and back. My side-scrolling, 2D quest through ravaged cities and defiled dungeons brings me closer to fulfilling my penance.” [YouTube][Launch Trailer][NSFW: GORE/VIOLENCE]

• Blasphemous: Your Suffering Will Be Legendary [Destructoid]
“These last few years have been generous to 'vania fans. A ton of promising games have tried to make a name for themselves, and while some rank alongside the best of 'em, others fell way below lofty expectations. Blasphemous won't go down as an instant classic, but know this: it's great. With that preface out of the way, what is this game, exactly? It's not an attempt at 2D Souls, despite what you might be thinking. You aren't going to be grinding for XP or keeping a watchful eye on a stamina meter. In a lot of ways, Blasphemous is a traditional action-platformer; it just so happens to borrow elements like tying enemy respawns to resting and drenching item descriptions in lore. Playing as The Penitent One, a silent sword-wielding masked warrior, you're on a singular mission to incite change in a cursed, guilt-ridden land. That I can say for certain. Otherwise, post-credits, I'm still working things out. The narrative requires piecing together disparate clues and reading between the lines. If you can't be bothered, that's fine. You'll find value in the lavish world-building and double-take-worthy cutscenes–”
• Blasphemous: Witness the Sickness [Nintendo Life]
“Blasphemous opens with its central protagonist, the metal-masked Penitent One, last survivor of the Silent Sorrow Massacre, staggering to his feet atop a mass grave of bodies, each one an exact replica of himself. Here is a hero caught in an endless cycle of death and rebirth, charged with lifting a great curse that’s descended upon the land of Cvstodia. Sword in hand, he makes his way down a flight of steps, surrounded on all sides by crucified bodies and mounds of broken, rotten corpses wrapped in twisted thickets of thorn. From here he must venture forth on a solemn pilgrimage to seek the Cradle of Affliction and discover the seed of his anguish hidden behind a sacred door in the Mother of Mother of Churches. Blasphemous has been wowing its many Kickstarter backers for the past couple of years with screenshots of the sumptuous pixel art-style which brings to life its incredibly detailed world, a world filled with twisted religious iconography, grotesque enemies, brutally warped boss battles and imposing landscapes dripping in blood, filth and decay. From its opening level set around the dusty Spanish-styled village of Albero and onwards across the Wastelands of the Buried Churches to the Desecrated Cistern – a festering, toxic labyrinth that descends into the foreboding depths of Jondo –”
• Gothic Platformer Offers Brutal Combat With A Side Of Religious Trauma [Kotaku]
“The player character, known as the Penitent One, wears a large, pointed helmet reminiscent of the hoods worn by Catholic inquisitors in Spain and Portugal. Basic enemies consist of self-flagellating believers and bell-wielding nuns, and the architecture resembles the sharp steeples of places of worship from old Europe. Everywhere the player turns, statues honor unnamed saints, with frozen faces looking to the skies in supplication and stone arms reaching for heavenly salvation. But something is very wrong in Cvstodia. Religion has twisted and distorted the world, leaving behind a wasteland, albeit one that’s more Bloodborne than Mad Max. It’s clear that this apocalypse has had a devastating effect on the populace, many of whom now huddle for shelter in the ruins of temples that offer more tangible protection than religious teachings ever could. Every item the player collects in Blasphemous—from ability-enhancing rosary beads to bones of notable dead—is a testament to this lost era of history, detailing an excruciating past that saw the world collapse under the weight of its dogmatic hubris. Cvstodia is some of my worst childhood nightmares come to life, and my mind was flooded with these memories as soon as I stepped into the well-worn boots of the Penitent One.”
posted by Fizz (12 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
I haven't played a video game in 20+ years but, dang, that is some serious art direction.
posted by late afternoon dreaming hotel at 9:24 AM on September 11, 2019

I play a lot of soulslike games and this is something I'd definitely place closer to the top of the list. Unlike so many others, this game doesn't intentionally pull back from lore, it leans into it. There's a lof of story, a lot of world-building, and it's not obtuse or difficult to piece together. It's all there and it creates so much wonderful atmosphere. It has a kind of Salt and Sanctuary feel to it, with a dash of La Mulana.
posted by Fizz at 10:10 AM on September 11, 2019

Fizz - how much ground do you have to cover between deaths? I'm realizing lately that my enjoyment of Souls-style difficulty depends a lot on how tedious it is to get back to the Part Where I Failed, especially when that means getting through nontrivial enemies on my way to a boss battle where I need full supplies.
posted by Tomorrowful at 10:29 AM on September 11, 2019

Your Suffering Will Be Legendary

This is a great tag-line. (Or, as Jake from B99 might say, "...title of your sex tape!")
posted by praemunire at 10:42 AM on September 11, 2019

Fizz - how much ground do you have to cover between deaths? I

There are prayer-desks (shrines?) scattered at very reasonable places throughout the labyrinth-like caverns you explore. I'm about 1.5 hours in and I've defeated the first mid-level boss and I never felt like I was being punished when I died. I always spawned a reasonable distance from the last place I died. It is one of the best things about this game, it is challenging but not unfair or mean-spirited in it's difficulty.
posted by Fizz at 10:46 AM on September 11, 2019

I was wandering through the PS4 store a few days ago and saw this. It looks very pretty but I do not think I am at a point in my life where I need a brutally difficult Metroidvania full of melancholy, sadness, and angst, not when I just recently gave up on Hollow Knight after getting the Bad End and not really feeling motivated to seek the Good End. Instead I've been playing Guacameelee 2, a mostly-chill Metroidpuncher full of color, cheer, and magical wrestling. Even the gloomiest, darkest places in Guacameelee 2 are drenched with color; right now I'm working my way through the Serpent Temple, which alternates between bright shining jade architecture and gorgeous rainbow iridescence as a setting for all its end-game Spike Hell platforming. Plus I've been doing all of this as a middle-aged lady character, something I never get to do outside of games with character creators.
posted by egypturnash at 11:40 AM on September 11, 2019 [3 favorites]

It looks very pretty but I do not think I am at a point in my life where I need a brutally difficult Metroidvania full of melancholy, sadness, and angst,

@egypturnash, Guacameelee is a ton of fun. I've played through the first game, haven't picked up the sequel. If you're looking for a metroidvania that is not as grimdark as Blasphemous, give Steamworld Dig 2 a chance. You don't really need to have played the first one to understand the story. I half-played the first and it's not really of consequence. The world is bright, vibrant, and cartoony. It's a ton of fun.

I love Hollow Knight, I think I'm just a fan of more moody metroidvanias, but I totally understand wanting to get away from sadness, so much of living in 2019 is defined by a sense of dread. Different strokes, different folks.
posted by Fizz at 12:12 PM on September 11, 2019 [4 favorites]

Also, you play as a badass lady hunter/digger/prospector in Steamworld Dig 2. So huzzah!
posted by Fizz at 12:14 PM on September 11, 2019

I really love this movement of high-fidelity pixel art. There's something about the economy of design that really captures my imagination and gets me emotionally involved. Sort of forces the focus to stay on the fundamentals.

I'm waiting anxiously for Children of Morta's Switch release and this might be a good tide-over. Looks metal as fuck.
posted by Phobos the Space Potato at 12:50 PM on September 11, 2019

Fizz, thanks for making this post! This game is 100% up my alley and I probably wouldn't have even heard about it if not for this post. I bought it the other day for the switch and have been really enjoying it so far.
posted by Television Name at 7:23 AM on September 13, 2019

#1 It's team 17, so I'm giving it a shot.
#2 On PC, it doesn't support controllers out of the box. So, I'm already kind of soured on the experience of having to map a bunch of buttons before I even know what they do.
posted by lkc at 12:32 AM on September 14, 2019

edit: had to unplug my controller 1 (fightstick) and reboot. Now it's picking it up, but still grar's me.

Also, why can't you reassign controllers on windows?
posted by lkc at 12:39 AM on September 14, 2019

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