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Blasphemous review

written 2023-09-01

Blasphemous is 2D side-view Dark Souls. Look, I know I said in my Hollow Kight review that it was Dark Souls inspired and couldn't stop comparing it to Dark Souls, but Blasphemous is even closer. Not only does it have similar lore, tone, death system, and approach to storytelling, but also similar combat, aesthetics, and sound design. I mean heck, *this* is its death screen:

image of "EXEMPLARIS EXCOMMVNICATIONIS" written in red letters, just like the "YOU DIED" from Dark Souls

You *can't* tell me this isn't a Dark Souls wannabe.

With this much vice signaling, the only reason I played it at all is because I heard a Hollow Knight fan suggest it was good, which was before I saw all these Dark Souls-isms. I played in 2023/07 and ended up playing maybe 12 hours, but not finishing the game.

Combat

The combat and player movement feels a little slow and sluggish, but maybe I just think that because I was coming from Hollow Knight. Like Dark Souls, it has a block/roll/parry trifecta for your defensive options, where you're invincible while rolling (but it's shown as a slide-dash thingy in this game), and parry is this thing that's strictly better than other options in any situation where it's an option, balanced only by being harder to execute. I'll admit the way block works is different though: instead of costing stamina, your character blocks for a short time when you press the button and then un-blocks. And you can't block while moving.

Also like Dark Souls, the main problem with the combat is trial and error. Hitboxes and telegraphs are often unclear, and which defensive options work against which attacks is often unclear. I'll show a boss I think is a particularly good example: Ten Piedad.

video of someone fighting Ten Piedad

See how *sometimes* you can dash through the boss, but other times the boss is a wall? See how the floor spikes after its stomp attack come out with literally no telegraph? See how the number of spikes on some of these attacks increases the farther into the fight you get, so the game shows you the attack spawns 3 spikes, then next time you stand back from the first 3 but surprise there's more this time?

This is just an example - *most* bosses are like this.

Shitty enemy design

There are some really bad enemy designs, which unfortunately tend to overlap with the hardest enemies.

Hidden information

Also... like... Dark... Souls... there's a huge problem of item descriptions being totally unclear about what they do. It's worse than Hollow Knight - at least Hollow Knight makes it clear what the charms do *qualitatively*. Mostly. In Blasphemous you'll find a bunch of tradeoff-equippable upgrade items that say things like "protects from magical damage". Which attacks deal magical damage??? Absolutely nothing in the game suggests what attacks deal what type of damage. I found out a few of them from the fan wiki, and I was suprised.

Also... the fan wiki in general is a lot less filled out than Hollow Knight's, making the trial and error worse. There were several times I went to the Blasphemous wiki to find out how an aspect of the game worked, and most of the time it didn't have the answer for me.

Communication failures

Something really just *bad* I'd like to rag on is the game being inconsistent about what its elements are *called*. In the beginning you're taught that your healing potions are called Biliary Flasks, then later they're referred to as "Bile Flasks" and "Biliary Vessels". I didn't realize those were the same thing.

Related to this, there are some major communication failures about *major* upgrades that can result in you not understanding the terms of the upgrade you're being offered, to disastrous results:

Misc

Another thing that put me off from finishing the game was disturbing imagery. There are people you walk past in some areas who are being tortured - I'm not gonna describe what the game shows in detail here - but the game treats them like background objects, no different from the breakable pots you find everywhere. The only thing you can do is kill them. Which the game treats just like breaking a pot. They're alive again if you come back. Super disturbing.

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