The Creepiest "Monsters" From Blasphemous!
(Disturbing Imagery Warning?)
Written by Jonathan Wojcik
Blasphemous may be one of the darkest, strangest, and most beautiful games of the past decade, a Metroidvania set in a world twisted and transformed by a great "miracle" of ambiguous origin and meaning. Borrowing from the most grim and gruesome symbolism of Roman Catholicism, it's a setting in which the righteous have been rewarded and the sinful have been punished...but which one is which? From the outside looking in, they've all gone completely mad, and to varying degrees, no longer human as we know it.
Blasphemous II has released the very day I write this, with the help of my spouse who actually played through the original game and will likely be playing an awful lot of the sequel while I mostly watch and work on my artwork in the coming weeks.
I had always meant to review enemies and bosses from the original, too, but its setting presented at least a couple of challenges. Most enemies and bosses in this setting are completely human, for one thing, but their behavior is so bizarre that they still constitute some of the weirdest, most unnerving "creature designs" I've ever encountered. Trouble is, a great deal of that only truly comes across when you see them in action, and not all of them are available online as animated graphics. Most of the exceptions come courtesy their animator in just a single post, and worse, not all enemies and bosses have even been documented at all by the game's fandom, even across two entire wiki projects! This post will, therefore, end up mixing some incomplete PNG's and screenshots with animated gifs so graciously provided by their creator and some of the original concept art by Juan Miguel Lopez Barea, but will likely still have a couple of glaring holes.
And maybe that's appropriate, anyway, since half the people in the terrifying realm of Cvstodia have "glaring holes" of their own.
"I'm still inside the creature. I can hear its roar outside, I can hear the thunderous beating of its heart. I just wanted to sleep, but I saw the Miracle in my dreams. It spoke to me. That is why I lie down in the Lady's open arms. But the Miracle appeared to me again. It was more and more tangible. Then I woke up, but I was no longer myself. I was a prisoner trapped inside a rooted body. A body immersed in constant anger. In constant pain. I am awake in a sleeping body."
Ten Piedad is the first boss in the game as well as one of its more overtly "monstrous" beings, which actually makes it one of the most normal. He's a giant man with a head a little like a goat's skull and treelike roots for hands and feet, animated with a lot of personality as he rages around the arena. He even rips the head off the statue and throws it as he wakes up! The Miracle transformed his body into this beast, but his human mind is still intact, riding along as a prisoner. He only experiences freedom when the monster sleeps, allowing him to manifest within its dreams.
We can't neglect one of the most inhuman creatures of the game's regular enemies, though it's almost a little underwhelming for it. The Dirt Diver is a nude torso with a fanged, ghoulish face and a slug-like lower body of fleshy roots, sort of like a mermaid for soil. A tuberous earthmaid. It's a great creature concept and continues a motif of tree roots from that first boss, but it ends up one of the least disturbing figures in the setting, the kind of scary critter we can expect from just about any horror game. I like it on principle, but if you don't know what else is in Blasphemous, you can't even imagine.
See, this enemy is "just" a humanoid figure completely caked in mud, dragging itself through the muck, it takes notice of you and doesn't attack, but just does contact damage. That's a simple, common sort of enemy design, but it's no mere muck-encrusted zombie. It's first encountered in The Holy Line, one of the first areas in the game, a forest so dense that it's in perpetual darkness. The spiritually faithful of Cvstodia allegedly banish themselves to this dark, dank place when they feel lost, purposeless and unworthy of their deity, or whatever it is, which means the crawlers are most likely either fanatical human beings who simply wallow in the mud as a self-inflicted punishment, or began as such until they simply became one with the soil and ooze.
Both options are equally frightening, and even worse when a green-tinged variant is encountered in the sewers.
A creepy angel classic! A pale, human head with a crown of golden leaves and flapping bird wings. This as with many other entities may have begun as an inanimative carving or decorative bauble on a church, but was brought life by the miracle to just sort of show off. It also comes in a larger, four-faced version that can breathe fire!
This is someone almost completely covered in drips of molten gold, with bits of charred flesh showing through in a few places; the victim of a hideous execution method, or possibly a sacrificial ritual? Like the mud crawlers however, this isn't necessarily one of the living dead. Not in the sense that we usually define it. The Miracle causes some people to just keep living no matter what gruesome fate they suffer, while some things simply move around under its influence whether they're alive, dead or inorganic and inanimate. For all we know, the gold itself is what's been given a semblance of life, and there's simply still a corpse inside. A corpse if they're lucky, anyway.
This appears to be an elderly bishop sitting on a throne that hovers high in the air. The tip of his scepter is a spear he'll try to impale you with, and that alone is a hauntingly absurd visual. He never looks aggressive or even all that purposeful about it; just a withered, tired looking little old man riding around his special chair and skewering everyone who crosses his path, for reasons that I'm sure make perfect sense to him. It's like if the pope started shooting people in the head from his popemobile and neither he nor the church ever acted like anything was surprising about this behavior.
SPEAR OF THE CATHEDRA
What's more unsettling is the long, tattered cloth that hangs down from the chair, and is confirmed by some text in the artbook to be hiding another being. It's floating a few inches off the floor with no visible feet, but you do get the impression there's something else under there, carrying the old man around.
I love this guy! He's a hunchbacked man with an iron cage hiding his face, holding a weird little root critter in one hand, a wriggling mandrake! More mandrakes are piled into the cage on his back, and rather than fighting, he just runs away from you and drops his little friends in your path. They sprout into nothing but featureless tangles of poisonous, pulsing roots, which nobody bothered to rip any sprites for.
Scattered throughout Blasphemous are 38 "Children of Moonlight;" tiny, floating babies trapped in glass prisons who exist to protect people in penance, like the player character. You're implored to rescue them by a mysterious voice emanating from a mural of a bull, and once you free 20 of his "brothers," Jocinero manifests physically as a giant-size baby with a golden head, freshly emerged from the bisected corpse of a gigantic bull. Neat!
Jocinero is apparently the original moonchild, and says he's the offspring of the moon and a bull. He also seems to be an enemy of the Miracle, since he says it's what imprisoned his little brothers, and you find the bull mural among "The Sleeping Canvases;" a collection of artworks that are apparently heretical.
These three beings appear as huge, floating heads with molten gold faces splattered upon their otherwise fleshless, blackened skulls! Each can be visited within The Dream, a desolate plane that may be some form of purgatory or the literal subconsciousness of dreaming mortals. They were supposedly created from three saints, and they're the keepers of three "holy wounds" you can collect. Essentially, these are three golden marks the guardians can burn into someone, and if you have all three, you can enter the church known as Mother of Mothers.
THE HOLY GUARDIAN VISAGES
There's also a fourth visage, referred to as "The Traitor," imprisoned in the roots of a tree with his golden eyeballs missing. Retrieving the two eyes is part of a major DLC quest that leads to the true, canon ending of the first game's story.
This is one of those rectangular, stone sarcophagi with a carved human figure normally resting on top, but this one is animate, the statue laboriously dragging the rest of the casket around as it plods along. One thing I've neglected to mention is that your character has a unique killing animation, basically a fatality maneuver, for each and every enemy in this game. I mention this here because as you slaughter the tomb, you actually pull a skeletal human corpse out of it and smash its head in, at which point the entire wandering tomb finally crumbles!
The Lady of the Charred Visage is a figure of worship we'll get to eventually, but in the meantime here's one of her devoted FREAKS. The sister is a nun with a bloodied looking mask armed with one of several possible objects depending on her subtype, and the "jailer" variety is the most distressing. She drags a large metal urn on the end of a chain, and there are three long human arms hanging out of it, as if she's got multiple people stuffed in there. She's also strong enough that she swings the entire thing around like a flail!
SISTER OF THE CHARRED VISAGE
Another totally inhuman monster, which again feels strangely "out of place" in this game, but it's still so cool looking; a stretched out, doglike, gnarled quadruped whose only facial feature is a gaping mouth with blood red gums and big, white, horselike teeth. The rest of its face and most of its body are draped in dark, dirty tattered cloth, though you can see it "nude" in animator Andrey Gogiya's aforementioned blog post, confirming that there's actually nothing more to see. Its head really is just the mouth!
The poor thing only seemingly exists to carry things on its back, with a couple of variations, but usually what it carries is a cage of prisoners all holding candles in their free arms.
"Yes, brother, it's been a long time since I stopped officiating nuptials. Since the day those three sisters embraced each other, praying, since the day they asked the Miracle itself to help them to avoid such a holy bond."
This harmless NPC is said to have once been three sisters who were arranged against their will to be married on the same day. They prayed together to the miracle, and what exactly they asked for isn't known, but they suddenly sprouted black beards that wove together into a gigantic "egg" of human hair, and needless to say, the weddings were called off. By the events of the game, they've finished their incubation into their new form as a three-faced giant. The complexity of the animation is incredible, but may also make you a little ill as each face slurps up drool from the first. AUGH. Despite how miserable they look, they're apparently more or less content with how things have turned out.
Jibrael is a servant of the Miracle who can grant you access to a series of DLC bosses, but he's eager to one day be freed from his duty and allowed to die. He's been distorted into a withered, emaciated giant whose arms are bound together by a winding, coiling golden bugle that he blows on to begin the aforementioned battles. I've said this a few times, but there's still something more unsettling to me about impossibly huge humans than a lot of other, more inhuman monsters. Even when they're nonmalicious, there's just something terribly wrong about it. Wronger than the simple fact that it's not natural or possible. It feels like a horrible state to be in.
This enemy is inspired by the prophet Isaiah, who was tortured and executed by being sawn in half. Who knows why this guy was bisected, but now he's up and walking again, split all the way to his crotch, and throws a giant shuriken-like weapon formed from two saws. I'm glad he and the saws could make up and be friends again.
This is expressly a living human with no supernatural alteration, but one who has spent most of their life praying in such a way that their body has been permanently locked in a quadrupedal hunch, and they can only move by leaping around like a frog. That's by far stranger and more alarming than the majority of possible monsters. That's some kind of Junji Ito manga insanity. They even wear strange headgear, either these red tassles or a faceless muzzle, based on ways horses are dressed up in various real-world traditions. Eugh. I do not like the half naked horse frog man. I mean, I love it, as a terrifying concept in a story, but I would not want him to touch me.
This appears at first to just be a big, burly woman carrying a huge sword and using a stone relief as a shield; a statue of a praying woman on a rectangular panel of stone. Notice the coloration of her head, though, and the fact that the statue doesn't have one. The shieldmaiden is headless, and using the statue's as her own!
This was apparently one of the first enemies ever designed, and certainly does set the tone for the game. It's a figure completely hidden by black robes, bound and shackled to a large golden bell that inexplicably floats through the air. They're able to pass through solid barriers when they want to, glowing green and phasing in and out of corporeality, but by the time they slam into you it's clear they're too solid to be disembodied spirits.
Another ghost-like enemy is a legless, floating woman coated completely in drips of either pale wax or blackish ink, depending on whether you encounter them in the church of the charred lady or in the Library of Negated Words, where sacrilegous texts are held. Both of them fire laser beams, which feels like an odd thing for them to do, but sure, fine, the soggy flying ladies can shoot lasers. It's a miracle!
This is a follower of the Lady of the Charred Visage who just slowly wanders around and breathes fire, with a golden mask and a regal red robe. Nothing remarkable for a Video Game weirdo, but there's this big, ungainly golden cage thing around their shoulders, almost like a portable shrine. The ceremonial garb in this game is what really pushes a lot of its enemies into dreamlike eeriness, sometimes remixing or exaggerating traditions from our world, sometimes inventing whole new ones whose logic we can't begin to guess.
This weirdo resembles an enlarged man carrying a huge, broken church bell like a "turtle shell," which conceals his face. An early concept for this enemy had multiple limbs, but I actually love that they went with just a guy. A strange monster behaving like a hermit crab is one thing. A PERSON behaving like a hermit crab, as part of his religious faith, is positively nuts.
This DLC boss is one of the few enemies in the original Blasphemous to be any sort of animal, a gigantic pale snake! It became a monstrous sea serpent when it took one of the two golden eyes of the Fourth Visage, so he sends you after the monster to get it back. Sierpes is vulnerable only in its weird, weird tongue, which ends in a fleshy basket-like orb of connected tissue, kind of like a lattice stinkhorn fungus, and from the surface of this structure sprouts a number of humanlike faces on stretchy necks. Even more grotesque is the fact that the snake can burst parts of its own skeleton out through its flesh, messily, to try and impale anyone foolish enough to, say, run around on its giant coils like they constitute some kind of boss arena. Even those bones have a strange and unnatural design to them; they seem to be the creature's "ribs," but each "rib" consists of vertebrae with ribs of its own!
This boss initially consists of three hovering women dressed head to toe in dark grey-black cloth, with flowing dresses and long, pointed, conical hats. They apparently represent the three women who fused into Altasgracias, since associated text seems to reference their story, but the specific relationship between them all is unknown. And these, too, can merge into a single entity, but it's quite a bit different:
When Tres Angustias forms one body, the arms become unusually long and curved, the pointed hat becomes a longer spire with two others coiling around it, and branching black tree roots extend down out of the dress! This is one of the coolest looking and most ominous beings in the game, with some Flatwoods Monster vibes that might be accidental but impossible to unsee.
"I have witnessed the exhumation of the Archbishop. I have witnessed how they cleansed his bones in wine to then dress him in silk and gold. I saw them place the most beautiful jewels on his face and kiss his forehead. I watched as they placed rings on his fingers and kissed his hands. They lifted him up, calling his name, and swayed him to make it look as if he was walking again."
This a huge skeleton dressed in robes and jewels, held up by a whole lot of giant human arms and hands. SPOOKY, but the most demented thing here is that it's based on a real, actual practice in 15th century Catholicism in which the rotten old skeletons of alleged martyrs were recovered from Roman catacombs, encrusted with jewels and put on public display. It was thought that these "catacomb saints" would inspire more people to convert, but by the 19th century, many of them were locked away or destroyed by the church out of embarrassment. Is Melquiades the real deal or just another gaudy, tricked out carcass? That kind of sums up the whole setting, really, and by extension the whole nature of religious fanaticism. Death and decay with a glamorous veneer; a desperate attempt to contextualize human suffering as something illustrious.
This feels like one of the most badass enemies, by far; it's a nude woman tied to a gigantic, angel statue by barbed wires, but she not giving a SHIT about it. Or maybe she is, I don't know. I don't know what she's thinking, but she just drags the whole huge thing around like it doesn't weigh over a ton, and when you get close enough, she just swings it around and smacks you with it like a hammer! Animator Raul Vivar has said that he felt a solidarity with this character after just how grueling and tedious it was to get this animation right. I'm not entirely sure if she'd agree that they have comparable problems, but yes, having to keep the statue's dimensions consistent across these frames sounds extremely not fun.
Is this is the weirdest, most unsettling "human" monster in this game, packed full of weird and unsettling human monsters? What we have here is a giant whose face is hidden completely by the exceedingly long dress of the tiny little girl that rides perched on his back, giving him his attack orders. This is an absurd and disquieting enough arrangement, but the giant fights by using an entire dead deer as a melee weapon.
The lack of explanation behind so many of these enemies can get a little maddening, but I wouldn't want them to lose all their mystique, either. This is a case in which any official backstory would only suck the fun out of how goddamn confusing this is; what relationship did they have before the Miracle did whatever the hell it did to them? Is there a dark and disturbing or entirely wholesome reason for how they're now living? Are they even separate beings at all, or are they fused together? I don't think I really want to know. Even if it's actually a nice story and nothing terrifying, disgusting or saddening, I just don't want to know. Don't need to. It's their business. Their nonsense is between them and the Miracle. Not my problem!
God, this poor guy. When first encountered, he's cursed not just with a huge size, but his face is aging "backwards," while an old man's face is growing on his chest. Soon there's an entire elderly body reaching out from his torso, which he says shows no sign of intelligence, but eventually you'll find his original body dead, the old man curled up on the ground breathing. Another of the Miracle's great ideas I guess.
One of my favorites and definitely one of the creepiest, this big giant gangly-limbed guy has a big white fabric ruff around his neck, but no head, sitting hunched over in such a way that the ruff and its neckhole, to me at least, almost looks like a huge eye staring forward. One arm clutched a sack canonically full of heads, and the other holds up a pillow with a severed head on it, but whether any of these are his originally head is uncertain at best. They look like child heads, though each is about the size of a beach volleyball, sentient and able to fly. Every so often, the Chamberlain also tosses out a flying, burning, explosive skull!
"I can feel Our Lady between these walls. I can feel her warmth, for her face still burns, a reminder of her sacrifice and ours. The pain, the cold and the burn are our Rules."
OUR LADY OF THE CHARRED VISAGE
The most hideous boss in the game was once a normal young woman named Aurea, who was so beautiful that she became an object of worship. When she couldn't bear the obsession of her cult followers, she destroyed her own face in boiling oil, but due to the will of the Miracle, her face continued bubbling and smoldering forever. She became a devoted follower who wore a golden mask for the rest of her life, eventually attained sainthood and became a worshipped figure once more. Now, she's an immense monstrous guardian, manifesting as a floating giant head and hand.
The idea of a huge, horrendously scarred and burned face looming out of the darkness to kill you is definitely one of the nastiest ideas in Blasphemous, almost cheapened a little by how "video gamey" the battle actually is, since she basically just floats around and lets loose waves of fireballs. Still, it's a truly horrid image, especially the glistening flap of missing flesh in the middle of her forehead. Again, why did you do this, Miracle? It's unclear whether the permanently burning face was supposed to be a reward or a punishment, and maybe the Miracle doesn't know either. Maybe it just does stuff, you know? Maybe it does what it thinks people want, and that's why sometimes it seems like some kind of ironic torture?
"The little one stopped crying as soon as we placed him in the arms of that wicker woman, as if it were his mother. Sometimes I can't help but think there's something living in that wicker. Sometimes it seems to be rocking him in the darkness."
Ha ha, look at him rip you in half! That's adorable! Exposito is the boss of the Sleeping Canvases, so another "false idol," in the form of an abnormally huge infant with blood dripping from beneath a blindfold, and he's constantly held in the arms of a gigantic wicker humanoid.
We've now seen so many horrible, grisly, dystopian, bleak things from this world, I thought perhaps you'd like to end on a slightly lighter note. No dribbling gore, no disfiguring torture, just the good clean wholesome fun of a naked lady with big hair who flies around with a sword.
...But that's still scary as hell, isn't it? Perhaps it wouldn't be if we knew she was simply a ghost, or some kind of witch, or demonically possessed, or telekinetic, but we don't know at all. We don't know anything really. All we know is that her ability to fly around and her habit of doing so naked with a sword has some kind of logic to it in the eyes of an abstract entity that's sort of maybe the biblical God, but maybe it's just kind of a thing. You know, the thing that does stuff.
Some of our questions are answered by some of the game's endings and dialog, which I shouldn't spoil, but I personally don't feel that they completely demistefy the Miracle at all. What is it? What is its reasoning behind the stuff it does? What IS this, Miracle? What is any of this? This stuff isn't really necessarily what people want. Maybe some of them think so but that doesn't really make it a good idea. I don't think most people would even really understand what any of this stuff is. I don't think even think that you do, either.
I mean, come on Miracle, that the hell is this, now? Who is that. Did you do that? Oh, you didn't? He was imprisoned in a statue in a tree by other people? Well he should certainly be a whole lot deader and also smaller, so who did THAT? Yeah, I thought so. Just stop it already. Knock it off, Miracle! We don't need this! Nobody needs this! Nobody needs any of this! No one benefits from an infinite burnt face or a giant beard egg or to give birth to themselves as an old man or for naked ladies to just be flying all over the damn place with sharp implements! Are you stupid?!
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