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PREVIEW: Blasphemous 2 [PC]

What you need to know about the upcoming sequel.

Did the first pilgrimage through the dark and twisted world of Cvstodia leave you yearning for more? Hold on to your rosary beads, because Blasphemous 2 is slashing its way into your game library very soon. While checking all the boxes any good sequel should with familiar-but-expanded level designs, Blasphemous 2 is also bending the rules of its predecessor a bit.

Your main weapon is no longer set in stone, as there are now at least three deadly weapons with which to strike down your opponents. Each of these serves one of the typical trinity of speed, power, and balance. While this is a small change, it goes a long way to creating a smoother on-ramp for those that found the original game’s default weapon more prohibitive, as I did.

While I personally was fine with pushing through it, I wanted to see this choice early on, so it’s nice to see that addressed in the sequel. It’s also nice to see unique abilities and upgrades to work towards, regardless of which weapon you choose.

A deeper dive

The three possible weapons are a simple, but effective way to cater to a wider audience and introduce more choices.

The cryptic murals and enigmatic characters from the first game were a huge part of its character. It should be no surprise to see a return of these sorts of detours in Blasphemous 2. While my time with the game has only scratched the surface, I feel that much more lore lies in wait as I carve through the rest of the adventure.

Cvstodia’s tragic, grotesque, and all-around disquieting inhabitants clearly have more to say. If what I’ve uncovered so far is any indication, unraveling their secrets is going to be an even bigger blast this time around. Having it all organically fit into the 2D Metroidvania genre is a welcome bonus.

The storytelling is still more cryptic and vague than outwardly profound. But that only serves the game better. Phrases and concepts continue to linger in my mind long after I’ve turned the game off. How much of the events that transpire are literal, metaphorical, or strange for the sake of strangeness will only be revealed with time — if at all.

The new and the familiar

Blasphemous 2 saddles us with a new Penitent One, but this mysterious figure plays similarly to the previous protagonist. Combat is slightly leaner and meaner this time around, with less focus on anticipating incoming attacks. But make no mistake; this is still a dodge-heavy experience that will test your mettle in every diabolical way.

That said, the slightly more tuned feel of Blasphemous 2 lends itself better to this sort of experience than not. With more ways to unleash divine punishment on the wicked comes a more digestible feel to the combat itself. It’s a bonus that the game contextualizes this improvement in the form of a new protagonist.

Divine arts

The first game was no slouch with its colossal boss battles and finely detailed environments. Blasphemous 2 clearly read the room and doubles down with more nightmarish artistry than we deserve. The pixel art style returns, but with more variety in the nightmarish creatures we’ll face as well as the disenchanting, dreary environments I loved in the original.

Still, while the art style of the original is timeless, I can’t help but wonder what the game would look like had they stuck with the sharper, more modern 2D animation in the game’s cutscenes. Perhaps this was an opportunity missed on purpose, but it’s still an intriguing idea we’ll never get to see.

That’s not to say the atmosphere isn’t expanded upon, though. Levels seem bigger and more logically laid out, but retain the all-important moody tone and foreboding, sinister appeal the original nailed so well. With this look, scouring these lands and overpowering their many dangers remains an extremely appealing prospect. And it only seems to be getting better the deeper I go.

Blasphemous 2 is a refined atrocity

While I do my best to withhold judgment as long as I possibly can, Blasphemous 2 is making it difficult. This is clearly a game intended not just for those who enjoyed the first. It is also determined not to lose any of the magic of the original either. This is a fine line to walk for any game developer.

Expanding your audience is a worthy goal, but doing so without betraying your initial appeal can be a tall order. Blasphemous 2 makes wading into those treacherous waters look easy, as it gracefully and logically expands on the best ideas of its predecessor. The beautiful atrocity is back, and clearly better than ever.

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