Developer: The Game Kitchen | Publisher: Team17 | Genre: Metroidvania/Souls-like | Platforms: Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Windows, Xbox One | Reviewed On: PlayStation 4
Souls-likes have become more and more ubiquitous over the last decade, with each one attempting (with varying success) to bring something new to the table. One of the best was last year’s Blasphemous, a brutally violent 2D crossover of the souls-like and metroidvania genres. This astounding take on religious iconography, the concept of martyrdom, and the meaning of suffering has only further cemented its place among the best souls-likes with its new piece of free DLC The Stir of Dawn.
Less a full campaign and more of set of upgrades to the core game, along with some fresh new material, Blasphemous: The Stir of Dawn may not be as robust as some fans might have been hoping for but, at the nonexistent price point of $0, it’s pretty tough to complain about.
The most notable addition, as seen in the key art, is the addition of 5 new boss battles and a short new set of quests to unlock them. Akin to the valkyrie from God of War, the Amanecidas all look and fight similarly but each one packs in plenty of their own unique moves to make all of them a worthwhile challenge. They also have their own lore, story and origin, all of which is completely new to the game.
The next most noteworthy improvement comes in the long sought after New Game + mode: True Torment. While fans have long clamored for NG+ in Blasphemous, The Stir of Dawn offers players a big bite, and maybe more than they can chew. While key traversal items are kept, the player loses virtually all upgrades in this new mode, as well as most of their collectibles. Further, the enemies hit harder, pack bigger health bars, and take way more damage to overcome.
For players who are a bit rusty, this will be the biggest hurdle to overcome in order to access the majority of the new material. This is because much of it is strictly locked away in Blasphemous‘ True Torment mode. While the player will eventually be able to move much faster through the game on this second playthrough, the initial challenge of reentering this world with such an increase in difficulty can be a bit daunting.
Still, there are more basic quality of life improvements to enjoy for players on either mode. The travel system has been improved with an unlockable method of travelling to any save point in the game, rather than just the warp rooms the player initially unlocks. This makes finding secrets and gathering collectibles much less tedious. Also helping in this area is an improved map system that allows a close up view and the ability to mark spots for later exploration.
Overall these additions and fixes make Blasphemous: The Stir of Dawn a wonderful, and greatly appreciated, set of upgrades on what was already a magnificent game. Players who have held off on taking the plunge until now will get even more bang for their buck with these free new additions, while gamers who have already paid their penance will have a few good reasons to come back for more pain.
In the end, even if The Stir of Dawn doesn’t quite add as much as some players might have hoped for, it is unequivocally the definitive version of the game, and well worth returning to Blasphemous to experience.