Blasphemous transforms, DLC through, into the game that failed to be released
When Blasphemous went on sale, it did so with enough hype behind it to generate perhaps exaggerated expectations. To finish the game, the procession of banshees went out to a very peculiar Easter: that of the metroidvania after Hollow Knight, now that we can talk about Team Cherry’s game as a new milestone for the genre. Supported by an artistic aspect that stood as the true starting point, Blasphemous exhibited the conditions to aim for the highest. In fact, it fulfilled what it promised on a few fronts, with a lot of punch in the visual, a charisma beyond any doubt and a very attractive design in almost all its areas. The least good thing was that it smelled from the league – and we said so then in these same pages – that it was a project that was launched on the market with some haste. A game that needed more time in the oven to become what it really had to be, if we take into account the good feelings it left, being -as it was- unfinished. The Stir of Dawn, the DLC that now returns us to the land of Cvstodia, is not an expansion of the campaign to maintain interest and seduce new players: it is more about the confirmation of a process of receiving feedback by part of the study, which has taken the form of downloadable content but is actually something else: a relaunch in which, finally, everything makes more sense.
The sins of the indie video game
What has happened to Blasphemous is by no means uncommon these days. Titles with a high level fail because they are not able to exploit their virtues in time, while others manage to develop their full potential when no one really cares. The case of Blasphemous -a last bull- has been somewhat different, since it is a game that has sold a lot despite the abundant number of imperfections with which it was released. Some gaps detectable by anyone who has played a metroidvania from the post Hollow Knight era, we insist on this because it is important to be clear about it.
It is almost certain that whoever completed it on his way out will remember Blasphemous as a game with a mysterious point that made him great, endowed at the same time with a somewhat simplistic combat that did not encourage the use of the character’s abilities. It will also remember things to improve: certain jumps, spikes and other details that were not secondary, spoiled part of the experience. To give a couple of examples: the last boss could kill you with rays that hit three times in a row with no real possibility of avoiding the second and third impact, and the healing was completely insufficient at the end of the adventure because the vials (sorry, bile flasks) were not progressing throughout the game with the energy bar. The point is that, despite those things, the adventure of the penitent was interesting and the game ended up hooking, especially because of how well it created its own atmosphere and how it maintained it throughout the campaign.
More fix than expansion
The Stir of Dawn is right to not focus, as a downloadable content, on increasing the size of the adventure: out of the box, the game was well measured in terms of its expansive mapping. On the other hand, in The Game Kitchen they have taken good note of all the feedback received, this time getting it right in what can really hook the player to the controls. Gone are the majority of wrongful deaths, the spikes that forced you to kick a good section of the mapping unfairly, and the feeling that combat didn’t encourage the player to try to combine dodges, blocks, and prayers. It has also been included (in the style of Blasphemous: through an NPC who makes an effort to speak mysteriously) the possibility of improving the healing, adapting it to the progress of the adventure according to our preferences. The result is obvious and has two heads: the first is that now everything makes more sense at the playable level. The second is much more important: thanks to this coat of paint, it is much more interesting to let yourself be carried away by everything else the game offers: the lore, the side missions and the hidden points of the mapping.
Metroidvania-Souls in the Sevillian Baroque
It is pleasant to see that now that the gameplay accompanies more, the player can stop to contemplate the insane artistic ideology proposed by Blasphemous, which is recreated by offering irredentist players a unique fusion of trends: a look at the most variegated of Andalusian baroque imagery who also dominates the desolate worlds of Hidetaka Miyazaki. This quirk of Blasphemous was already the life of the party in its own right, but it’s delicious after The Stir of Dawn, especially when we compare the before and after of many corners of Cvstodia. Although the spines to be polished were not so obvious visually, the work on some areas and, above all, the presentation of some NPCs has given a little more to the entire graphic section that also adds to the whole set. Fortunately, to achieve this, what already worked perfectly has not been touched, so the development of the game has not suffered alterations.
Blasphemous has the same structure after the expansion: from the beginning we know what to do and the adventure is divided into two parts delimited by a huge door, but the result is not exactly the same, especially because of how well it challenges us to complete it several times. The game is now much more accessible in the first instance, while it is much more fair to whoever is in control. Nobody thinks, far from it, that the penance that this title always displayed has been left behind: it is just that it has opted for replayability, in which it has also learned -for good- from the Souls saga.
We commented at the beginning that now everything seems to make more sense. The combination of dodges and parries with the effects of the rosary beads is much more attractive now and, in general, everything in the inventory feels much more integrated with the combat. Aware of this reality, the new New Game Plus mode emerges as the most stellar addition, and in fact the exclusive content of The Stir of Dawn has been saved for it. Now that it is much more pleasant to fight in Blasphemous, it seems as if the penitent wants to confess their sins to those who have already completed the adventure by offering them a greater challenge and five optional combats, which require a thorough mastery of the skills – and this time also the builds – of the Penitent. Fighting with Las Amanezados del Milagrono increases the duration of the game much, since none of them poses a really huge challenge, but their objective is rather to breathe some extra life into a second round of the game that now seems little less than mandatory. They pose a good challenge and are fun to defeat, but the most fascinating content of the successive replayed games is actually different: they are the different penances that we can select at the beginning of the adventure and that revolutionize both the way of playing and the level of challenge. An opening of the trunk of replayability that, in addition, that can vary from the typical barbarity of hours to the attempt of a speedrun depending on whether we want to stop along the way or we know the mapping.
Blasphemous is much more fun on the second and even the third try, but the truth is that once we know the mapping, none of the replay is as absorbing. In fact, much of the sense of mystery is lost during the exploration that accompanies us so well throughout the first game, which is inevitable as well as regrettable. But the truth is that these new conditions give the game a spicy flavor that suits you very well.
Among the best of a genre
Blasphemous has always been a metroidvania with a unique atmosphere. The dialogues of the NPCs – now dubbed into Spanish -, the different questlines and the general tone of the game – together with that artistic section so much ours – were already exceptionally well raised a few months ago. In addition, the design of some areas (Jondo, Altos de la Archcathedral …) and how well they intertwine with each other already shaped one of the best applications of the teachings of Dark Souls to two dimensions. The problem was those jumps, spikes and rays that were impossible to avoid, which surely took the most impatient out of the game. Many – very many – thousands of copies sold later, this relaunch in the form of DLC places Blasphemous among the best metroidvania of the moment, and it no longer does so only for its motley aesthetic or for its tone of a neo-baroque nightmare, but also because it amuses the same level at the controls and is interesting enough to complete multiple times. We would not say that all the drawbacks have disappeared: we have found a bug over three consecutive laps of the game, and we would still put some drawback to the displacement of the penitent when he begins to walk, but it is very clear that what is now offered to us is the game that should have been released in 2019. A pity that the time in the oven that we asked for then proved so necessary, but the same popular Spanish wisdom that permeates the entire title has the answer in the form of a saying: “It is never late … if happiness is good. “