|Pardon the dust!
This page includes some jargon that hasn't been added to the site's glossary yet. I'll be around to fix this later, but sorry for the inconvenience in the meantime.
At a Glance
|ESRB Rating:||NR - Not Rated|
|My Rating:||Adults - 18+|
|Review Published On:||February 17th, 2021|
You have three save slots* to choose between, however there is no autosave* feature. Instead, you must find a Prie Dieu (looks like a roadside shrine) and interact with it to save* your game. This also has the benefit of completely healing you and filling your bile containers, but comes at the cost of respawning* all non-boss* enemies* you've killed.
This game is not for the faint of heart, as it depicts gruesome violence, disturbingly detailed gore, twisted deformations of the human body, and a very distorted adaptation of Catholicism in which there is no real Salvation.
Nearly all of the events in this game revolve around what is known as The Miracle. This is the name given to whatever power or entity is behind a large number of supernatural things, including the origin of the player character. Judging from the way everything has been distorted or corrupted, The Miracle seems to be a form of hideous divine wrath, and humanity has suffered greatly since The Miracle's influence was first felt. Somewhat bizarrely, people treat The Miracle with reverence, assuming that whatever horrors it performs were manifestations of divine will.
The player character, a being known as the Penitent One, is yet another example of the sort of things the Miracle does. After the Brotherhood of Silent Sorrow was massacred by a monster, the Miracle resurrected one of their number and saw to it that he was armed with the Mea Culpa, a barbed sword made from the essence of guilt itself. The Miracle will not allow the Penitent One to remain dead, so every time you're defeated, you're brought back to life at the last Prie Dieu you visited.
Gameplay wise, things generally revolve around a pause/parry/attack combat system. You can't just run around swinging your sword like a loon; you need to wait for the right moment, parry the enemy's* attack, and then strike while they're stunned. The trick to this is that every enemy* type in the game has their own unique pattern, and the only way to progress is to learn how to respond to the enemies* that live in the new area. The downside to this is that you'll find yourself dying a lot every time you meet a new enemy*. It only gets worse when you face a group of enemies*, as you need to respond to everybody's patterns correctly or get juggled to death.
The other major problem players encounter when playing this game is that a lot of things, such as how to use various items, are left for the player to figure out on their own. This was fairly common back in the day, but now that games can contain pages of lore in their item descriptions, players expect at least a hint that an item needs to be taken somewhere, shown to someone, or activated in some way in order for it to be useful. As it is, if you haven't visited the right places or met the right NPCs*, you'll end up carrying around stuff that seems important but can't be used for anything. Worse, some items even have more than one possible use, so if you've discovered only one possibility and use them up, you can be left without something you needed later on.
Most of the time, this lack of information is just annoying, as you should eventually find everything if you explore enough, but there's a particularly grating example with one of the items required to unlock* the best ending*. First you'll find an item with no obvious use, and then follow a series of steps in order to transform it into another item. This second item is the one you needed all along, however, there aren't any in-game clues about this process. You're left to either discover it by accident or learn about it via a walkthrough* or something.
Frustrating points aside, this is a fairly well made game. It's not for the causal gamer, and it's clearly not for people with a weak stomach, but there's a niche audience for this sort of grotesque fantasy game out there.
Points of Interest
On rare occasions, your counterattack may leave an enemy* open to a special attack known as an "execution". The exact nature of an execution varies by enemy* type, but you'll gain extra fervor (this game's equivalent of mana*) by performing them.
The majority of the items you can collect are a type of relic; ie, fragments of bone that were once part of a holy person. These don't actually do anything, but you'll unlock* a new color palette for the Penitent One and earn an achievement* if you find them all and deliver them to the Ossuary.
Other stuff you can find include special rosary beads, prayers, ingredients, and additional bile jars. When added to the Penitent One's personal rosary, these special beads give you different buffs* or abilities. Ingredients are either used by an NPC* to give you something useful (more space on your rosary, improved healing from bile jars, etc), or they are simply donated to specific NPCs* in return for Tears of Atonement, the game's currency.
Concerns and Issues
Quite a few of the monsters resemble zombies and decaying corpses, such as the lepers in the sewers or the acolytes in the ruined church. A special nod goes out to the nuns from the Convent of Our Lady of the Charred Visage; the flesh has been seared off of their faces, giving you a good view of the muscle and bone. Actual undead* do appear from time to time, though they tend to be less gruesome than the living.
In case things aren't already graphic enough, the player's execution ability often takes things much further. The Penitent One may slowly decapitate a struggling victim, crush them under their own shields, or impale the victim with the Mea Culpa.
The other point I'd like to especially point out happens after the first boss battle*. In a detailed cutscene*, the Penitent One makes a deep cut in the side of the monster's corpse, fills their hat with the blood that pours out, and then puts the hat back on, blood and all. It's more than a bit gross.
You have rosaries being treated like magical charm bracelets, prayers that work like magic spells, more gothic architecture than Gotham City, and some of the common enemies* are designed after various types of angels. Key locations in the game also include the tombs of important fictional Saints, cloisters, and churches.
There is also a Virgin Mary knockoff, the Lady of the Six Sorrows. In real life, Our Lady of Sorrows is a title held by the Virgin Mary. When this is referenced in artwork, the Seven Sorrows of Mary are usually depicted as seven swords piercing Mary's heart. In Blasphemous, the Lady of the Six Sorrows is clearly based on this artwork, as she has six swords piercing her heart and a seventh piercing her right hand.
However, while there are Saints, monks, clergy, a Mary, and even a Pope in Blasphemous' universe, there does not appear to be a Jesus. The Twisted One comes close, but falls short in that while Jesus was a guiltless man who paid for others, the Twisted One was full of guilt and begged for his due punishment. This lack of a Jesus analogue is also reflected in the way the game depicts a Christianity without forgiveness or hope.
What happens after his death depends on whether or not you were able to complete the steps required to unlock* the good ending*. If so, then you can climb to the Cradle of Affliction, take your rightful seat, and die to become yet another relic of the Miracle. Otherwise, you'll just sink into the ashes surrounding the Cradle, leaving only your helmet behind as evidence of your attempt.
Either way, the world is still ruined and the people's misery will continue on.