Blasphemous — A Dark Melancholy of Spanish Folklore
The story is vague, so bear with me
Some two years ago, this game caught my attention. How? I don’t know, really… but it happened. But it was probably lovely since it ended up being a fun game, albeit an underrated one. That game is Blasphemous.
The game is Metroidvania, which is a genre that bases itself around level design and constant backtracking. It’s not exactly my cup of tea to repeatedly and repetitively go 20 levels back just to collect a treasure I forgot for whatever reason. But for this game, I made an exception. It ended up being pretty enjoyable, especially with the eerie and melancholic design, which bases itself around Spanish folklore, from what I understood. And speaking of that, the story isn’t even trying to ignore how vague it is.
So get this: There’s this plague of sorts which is called “The Miracle” (for whatever reason), and it’s turning people into all kinds of monsters, some too freaky even to describe here (which reminds me, I should’ve said that this game is VERY dark). And this religious warrior of sorts, known only as “The Penitent One” (or “The Pointy One” as I like to call him), is on some sort of one-man crusade, the culmination of which I never really understood, nor did I ever get what the protagonist’s goal this whole time was. As confusing as it was, the design kind of made up for that fault. But since this is based on Spanish legends, it’s only natural that there would be many Spanish names… and there was.
I actually thought it was Latin…
So as I play the game, while the characters speak English (terrible voice acting, by the way), a lot of the terminology is, in fact, Spanish, which for some reason I initially thought was a branch of Spanish of some sort, but never mind that mistake. But there were all kinds of phrases like “Ten Piedad” and… other stuff… that I can’t remember right now. I vaguely recall that the phrase above has an ominous context to it. Of course, not speaking Spanish (there are many languages I don’t speak), I can’t be too sure of it. This is precisely the problem I’m getting at.
Since there was a lot of Spanish stuff, it made things harder for me to understand. The plot was already convoluted, but seeing way too many of the same kind, phrases such as… as… “Ten Piedad” (you’ll have to forgive me since it’s the only Spanish name I recall right now). I had no idea where I was going or what I was doing, and for what purpose. I suppose there is some beauty to the enigma, that is… whatever is happening in the game. But for those who want to play the game for the plot, or maybe for some knowledge, then they’ll find it hard to get through unless they know Spanish.
And that’s not only to it, since the writings are also Latinate, since I couldn’t tell if I was looking at an archaic form of English, a pidgin language of sorts originating from Spain or whatever. If I recall correctly, the setting of the game, the land, is named Cvstodia. That’s right! That’s a lower-case “V”, not a “u”. But I have no idea if it’s supposed to be pronounced “Custodia” or the more ridiculous “Svisstodia”. Is that like an Anglicization of Spanish? Because it still baffles me even as I write this article.
Someone should take the “Custody” out of “Cvstodia”
Personally, I don’t mind how vague the narrative is or even how poorly the narrator (or whoever was talking) explains the situations. If anything, it just added another layer of intrigue to the game. But for those who care, that’s a different story.
The answer is very simple: either learn Spanish or don’t play the game at all. Spanish is part of the lore, based on Spanish folklore (how many times have I said that already?). Telling it to go to America is like rewriting the Constitution. You’re removing something from its foundation, ultimately turning it into something that it wasn’t originally.
Although I don’t really know what to do with the writings, especially with something as confusing as “Cvstodia”. At the very least, spellings like these should be fewer and vague and more proper, just that people know how to pronounce it correctly. But since I don’t know Spanish…
How about we ask Spanish speakers?
I know that there are different regions where the dominant tongue is Spanish, with Mexico and Spain (not necessarily in that order) being the first countries that come to mind. Still, I have no idea if they have different dialects. Regardless, maybe from the perspective of Spanish speakers, especially those that call the language their mother tongue, someone could say how well this affects the experience of the game.
More so, those who also need to be asked about the situation are game developers themselves. Especially those who worked on games where the base was that of a language other than English would give their opinion on how well they think foreign settings in video games affect the player’s experience.
The most important group: The Committee for Proper Spellings. I want to ask them how to pronounce “Cvstodia” (this whole paragraph is a joke, by the way).
I don’t know who would have a problem with something as measly as the number of foreign words in a game, but a game is something that demands to be played and not have the player ponder what these words mean. The language issue is more of a nuisance than an issue. But if it means so much, I can’t help get rid of “Ten Piedad” and all the others. It’s not my task; it’s not my duty.
As for the game itself, the game was good enough that I completed it. It was the only Metroidvania I ever played from start to finish, I don’t know how it stands out compared to other games in the genre, but it probably won’t be for everyone considering the dark tone. But I can’t lie. The voice acting is a red flag (I was told that they updated it in future patches). But if you don’t mind really dark environments, then this is worth a try. However, you might not find it spectacular.
At least the soundtrack was fantastic!