Holy Hell - Blasphemous Discussion Thread

Blasphemous

(CW for a lot of blood and Christian imagery)

Blasphemous is the new game from developer Game Kitchen. It’s set in the sinister interconnected world of Cvstodia, laden with blood and holy iconography. You play as the Penitent One, a masked wanderer with a broadsword called Mea Culpa, and venture out to seek the Cradle of Affliction.

Yes, it’s overbearing, but who doesn’t love some overbearing art from time to time? I’m curious how many others have been putting time into this, and how they’ve been feeling about!

I’m also a decidedly nonreligious person, so I’d love to hear from people who have a better working understanding of a lot of this symbolism and subject.

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The imagery is what attracted me to this game because I was raised christian, yet have zero familiarity with this flavour of symbolism because my parents are australian baptists. The closest I’ve ever gotten to a proper, iconography-laden church was the deeply racist American church my parents attended while we lived overseas for during my teens.

Blasphemous looks bad ass because it feels like it’s getting to the cool mythic shit about the faith, because who doesn’t love some metal ass looking art design?

When they make a metroidvania that looks like a mid-80s red brick community centre, that’ll be where my religious upbringing will come in handy.

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Before Blasphemous, The Game Kitchen made two seasons of a cosmic-horror adventure series called The Last Door, which I remember being rather good when I played it years ago. It’s a Lovecraft-ish Victorian story about awful things in a nearby reality. The point-and-click puzzles are mostly very sensible, and it makes great use of its extremely low resolution to suggest things instead of show them. It also touches on some religious themes, though not as pervasively as Blasphemous, making that seem like a bit of a thing for the studio.

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Ha I’m downloading this right now and am very excited. I’m not religious now but I grew up in a mega-Catholic this wine is the actual for real blood of Christ at the moment you drink it every week household and community so a lot of game’s imagery is just normal to me lol

I’m interested to see how it handles its imagery though. Like in the earlier footage from a couple of years ago a couple of bosses they showed seemed like, EXTREMELY similar to bosses from some older games. That’s not bad, just I hope that the designs actually hit something consistent that they’re going for and aren’t just a riff on a riff on a riff or whatever.

Finally got a copy of this and played up to where the demo ended (defeating Ten Piedad) which took me about 90 minutes to do in the full game vs the ~30 minutes that took in the demo.

Still not a fan of the combat, tried out the other initial set of abilities that I didn’t use in the demo and it still just feels so incredibly flimsy.

I will say, however, that seeing the game’s lore and world outside of that isolated demo definitely has me more interested in what it’s going for thematically.

The way that pretty much every character I’ve met (including those that I’ve learned about through item descriptions) and seeing how some of the mechanics (like the bone collecting) all tie into someone’s unique form of sinful repentance is fascinating and lends a bit more credence to the idea that the seemingly secular use of symbolism and theming because it Looks Gnarly And Sick might culminate into something more meaningful. But I wouldn’t be surprised if by the end it hewed towards the latter because y’know, video games.

I’ll also drop this piece from Ian Walker on Kotaku that touches on the game’s vision of a Christian-influenced apocalypse in relation to his upbringing as a Seventh-day Adventist:
(CW: Religious violence and descriptions of violence).

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That Kotaku article is really good. This game’s visuals didn’t really interest me from what I had seen previously, but the gif of the character running in the snow looks great. Kind of reminds me how Dead Cells looks bland from screenshots but looks great in motion. Are any of y’all playing on Switch? How does it look/can the hardware handle the game ok?

Thanks, edited the OP!

I got it for switch and have played probably an hour or two? (Beat the first real boss, which I think is the demo end?). I’ve been playing undocked the whole time and it’s ran perfect with zero issues so far.

I’m really liking this game so far. Gameplay wise it’s almost like a more low to the ground, visceral version of Hollow Knight? And as also someone who was the “church every weekend for 18 years” growing up (though I’m am not very religious now). I find the theming fascinating

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The amount of instant kill spikes and pits seems like a weird choice to me. I’m not necessarily against such things in platformers, but it doesn’t feel like it meshes with the rest of the game. Maybe I’ve just played too much Hollow Knight though.

So, there’s a bunch of things I wanna talk about in regards to Blasphemous, but I have some thoughts as to why the combat feels so lacking. I’ve been having the same feeling, but it sounds like you’re feeling more like the character of the Penitent One themselves feels weak to play as.

When I look at the options I have available as a player in combat, there’s actually plenty of options. You’ve got a parry, a dodge, and you can jump alongside your basic sword slash. And once you have all of the Mea Culpa abilities, you can double that list of options. It’s not a combo system, sure, but it seems like enough to make an interesting combat system out of it. But the problem is… the game never really needs you to use any of those options. Because combat only ever really consists of two things: either evading or parrying and then slashing. Pretty much every enemy has only one attack pattern, and they repeat it on loop. This turns combat into a memorization game, one where you just wait to parry. You always know exactly what an enemy is going to do, so it’s just a matter of timing. This removes all potential for dynamism in combat because you’re never reacting to new information or trying to read what’s coming next.

When I played the demo, I was hoping this simplicity would expand on itself. But I’m something like 9 hours in, and this has been true for most of the enemies I’ve encountered, not counting bosses. And even the bosses could be criticized for their attack pattern stuff. I can think of one or two enemies that don’t follow this rule (the weird furniture monsters you meet around the Mother of Mothers). The most fun I’ve had with combat in this game is the boss fight with Esdras on the bridge, who has a complex attack pattern which requires careful reaction and timing. But the vast majority of the time, I can get away without ever using most of my abilities. And that’s a shame because I really do like how the Penitent One feels.

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From the trailer and the descriptions here, this game sounds like another attempt to make The 2D Dark Souls Game. It’s interesting to hear the Hollow Knight comparisons too, because to me that always felt like far and away the best version of The 2D Dark Souls Game. The imagery and music in the trailer are actually giving me super heavy Salt & Sanctuary vibes, which is another game I really, really love (and also I think maybe the first attempt at The 2D Dark Souls Game?).

I’m on the fence about getting it. Hollow Knight’s combat was exactly what I like in an action-platformer, and if it’s slower/heavier (even more “Souls-y”), I’m probably not going to get as much out of it. But if it’s narratively interesting and is using hyperreligious imagery for something other than the inherent spookiness thereof (which, absolutely fair, I too was raised Catholic I know the drill), I could still see myself really appreciating it in the end. Would anyone who’s gotten further in be able to give a non-spoilery answer to that question?

I’m not saying you are wrong in the slightest, but I can’t thing of a single Metroidvania style game that have regular enemies who demand pattern recognition? Like even in Hollow Knight you don’t really have to do anything but jump and slash either. (Again not saying it isn’t valid critique, what feels off to us indivdually can be strange even within genres that we like)

I think this is a great summary of my major issue with the game. The enemy design and enemy variety in general is just extremely lacking. I also just used my slash attack 95% of the time, and forgot about my other abilities most of the time. I think the enemy placement in general is bland too, most of the time you can just fight regular enemies 1 on 1 without aggro’ing others, which isn’t very demanding at all. The small rooms where they block the exits and spawn a bunch of enemies are probably where I had the most fun with the combat (not counting a few bosses), and there’s not that many of them.

@diglett
I’m at the last boss and in my experience the narrative is leaning much more towards using the hyper-religious imagery just for its inherent spookiness / metal-ness. I could see someone more patient / willing / smart than me getting more out of it, especially if they dig into the dozens and dozens of item lore descriptions. To me it felt like a whole lot of Proper Nouns got said by characters without much context, but some of that is definitely the way everything is written. I honestly didn’t really understand the goal of the Penitent One until I reached the final boss. Definitely curious if anyone here feels differently though!

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A lot of the critiques you’ve outlined about the combat design are things I can agree with but I wouldn’t quite say that I find the Penitent One to be feel weak. Maybe I would have said so initially but definitely not now that I’m about 13 hours and most enemies die within a few hits or in a single hit with the upgraded dash attack.

Similar to you, though, I’ve also had the most fun with the combat and utilizing the various tools (Mea Culpa abilities & hearts, prayers, rosary loadouts) in the boss fights.
My favorites have occurred in the back half of the game (after opening the bronze door) and my absolute favorite one so far is an encounter that occurs at a similar scale as the Esdras fight (which I have come to appreciate less as the game goes on because there are enemies with the same moveset that appear very frequently later) that was a total surprise when I first encountered it.

The moment-to-moment combat, as you mention, doesn’t compel or demand you to utilize the full potential, or even a partial potential, of the moveset and is kinda dull as a result. I’ve been avoiding parrying (because I don’t actually like parrying against AI in games) and abstaining from using Bile Flasks by using that one Mea Culpa heart and it’s purely just something I do to get Tears and I’m almost at the point where I won’t actually need anymore Tears too…

I suppose when I said the combat felt “flimsy” earlier I was mostly referring to how, less than two hours into the game at the time, I was struggling to discern how certain properties worked in the game. Things like invincibility frames on attacks, whether or not you can dodge-through enemies or attacks, which attacks are parry-able vs blockable, how knockback affects you; I’ve got a better feel for it now but occasionally it feels like any of those things seem to arbitrarily change depending on which enemies I’m fighting or how big the platform I’m fighting on is.

That being said, I’ve probably died more during the platforming (mostly via accidentally walking into pits) than during the combat. Not that dying is a huge issue either since the only actual penalty for dying is that you have to walk back to where you died to collect your Guilt. I could see myself having such a worse time with the game if it were more punishing than it already is.

@Diglett
So, I have to be real: I’ve gotten really exhausted by the Hollow Knight and Dark Souls comparisons, specifically because I think there’s this really easy trap to fall into where you’re not asking “What’s good about Blasphemous?” and instead asking “How much is it like Hollow Knight?” Which is kind of a frustrating metric to put this game against.

Here’s what I will say independent of those comparisons: the combat feels a little flimsy, as others have said too, and the platforming right now has hit detection problems. Repetition can get annoying, too. However, it passes the bar in playability and is fun to play. There’s some nice level design, and it doesn’t hurt that the art is incredible. It also has some of the most brilliant and eerie lore I’ve encountered in a good while.

@Terranova
You’re 100% right. Usually, these kinds of games don’t require pattern recognition. HOWEVER, Blasphemous has a heavy emphasis on parries in its combat, and that parrying isn’t that engaging without more varied attack patterns.

@blzzzrrttt @UnInvincible
Yeah. It really sucks because I can see potential in this combat. The character feels great to me and the animation and sound design is absolute excellence. It just doesn’t have the polish or complexity to make it work. I could easily see a game where this combat really shines, or hey, maybe even takes a backseat to focus on other elements of gameplay!

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One thing I hope I’m not alone in. These bone descriptions are great. My favorite flavor text in the game I think

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For as much grousing I’ve done about the combat on here, I just wrapped up the game (100% completion at ~18 hours on the clock) and I’m kinda sad that I’ve exhausted all there is to do and see in the blessed lands of Cvstodia…

Like, half the games I’ve finished this year are of this games’ ilk and despite disliking the things you do for most of the game I’d still rank fairly high among them.

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Can I ask, did you get multiple of the endings? I understand that there’s at least more than one, and I’m curious if you can go reboot the save file to get them all. I’m pretty close to wrapping up and I’m curious to know in advance.

Yep!

There are two endings in the game. One of which requires a somewhat esoteric series of tasks to be completed in order to trigger. If you get the ending that doesn’t require those tasks (the bad/common ending) first, you can get both endings on one save file.

I only consulted a guide once I knew I was at the end and I was quite surprised at how much of the game I technically missed (due to doing things out of sequence) but was still able to get 100% completion. I was even so close to figuring out how to get to the true ending on my own too!

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Thanks for telling me this, by the way! I went and got both endings. :slight_smile: Also, you are so right, the fight with Christana is probably the best the combat ever gets in this game. That’s a genuinely fantastic fight.

I kind of had a double-edged realization that I accidentally locked myself out of 100% completion. Apparently, if you enter the room with Gemino, the man inside the tree, without talking to him, his quest still activates anyway, meaning you never get to speak to him, meaning you can’t get the object required to fill out his request. It sucks, as I was at about 95% completion, but on the bright side, it means I can give up the ghost now and not have to bother doing that goddamn chalice side-quest.

EDIT: Apparently, with the recent update, they’ve fixed the bug with the Gemino quest! I just checked my game, and it looks like the item I needed was there… which means… Damn it, I might have to go through with 100% :sob: