An Underwhelming Showcase Saved By An Unexpected Banger, Phantom Blade 0
Phantom Blade 0 has been the talk of the town ever since its first-look trailer. The highly anticipated PlayStation Showcase held in May 2023, nearly 2 years after the last one, got off to a monotonous start.
Right when the event seemed doomed, developer S-GAME‘s hack-and-slash action RPG left onlookers speechless.
Marvel’s Spider-Man 2 might have been what viewers tuned in for, but it’s easy to acknowledge Phantom Blade 0 was the star of the show.
Its announcement trailer didn’t feature much information about the game’s aspirations nor an in-depth look at how it played, as expected, but what it did do was successfully plant a seed in innumerable players worldwide who’ll now be anxiously waiting for another glimpse.
That being said, I’m sure you’re just as curious as I am to know more about the project, so here is all you need to know about S-GAME’s latest.
When’s Phantom Blade 0 Releasing?
Before we talk more about the game and dive deeper into it, let’s get the release date out of the way since that’s what most of you are probably wondering about.
Unfortunately, Phantom Blade 0 does not have a release date as of yet. The announcement trailer, although great, appeared to be from a work-in-progress build, so it’s safe to assume the S-GAME isn’t planning on releasing it any time soon.
However, development on the game is likely much ahead than it was when the studio made the trailer, which could hopefully mean Phantom Blade 0 may launch somewhere between Fall 2024 and early 2025.
Though recent times have favored game delays (Suicide Squad) equally as they have the release of great games (Hogwarts: Legacy), so I wouldn’t call it surprising if Phantom Blade succumbs to a slight setback too.
A 2024 release date would also place it near the release of another upcoming Kung-Fu AAA title, Black Myth: Wukong, which releases in the Summer of 2024.
That would mean that Chinese developers are bringing out two major, high-budget projects in a short period of time.
Phantom Blade 0 Is Not A PlayStation Exclusive (Yet)
While we’re on the subject of Phantom Blade 0’s release, there are a couple of things you should know about its exclusivity.
Despite being shown during the PlayStation Showcase and the trailer not mentioning Xbox consoles as a supported platform, it isn’t a PlayStation exclusive or timed exclusive for that matter — yet anyways.
Developer S-GAME stated in a Discord Q&A session that they don’t have an exclusivity agreement with PlayStation.
Don’t get your hopes up just yet because this doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be able to get your hands on an Xbox or Nintendo version on release day either.
There wasn’t an explanation as to why they aren’t making an Xbox or Nintendo version, or maybe they are planning it for a later date. In any case, it’s miles better than the alternative we’re facing.
Phantom Blade 0 Story & Expectations
The eerie opening shot of Phantom Blade 0’s trailer almost had us convinced Bloodborne 2 was coming, but the setting felt too medieval for that to be the case.
However, as soon as the combat system kicked in, it felt remarkably reminiscent of Sekiro 2. Though it turned out to be neither of them, it’s hard not to acknowledge the similarities between the franchises.
Bloodborne’s aesthetics, Sekiro’s combat, Ghost of Tsushima‘s character design, and a morbidly fascinating original story are a few selling points that instantly come to mind when talking about Phantom Blade 0.
That’s surprising considering we’ve barely seen the tip of the iceberg and the game already shows so much promise.
You’ve Got 66 Days To Live
In Phantom Blade 0 you take control of the highly skilled assassin Soul who works for a secret organization, The Order.
Someone murders the leader of this occult group, but Soul is framed for doing the deed and is eventually killed.
But how is he alive you may wonder? Well, our protagonist is revived by a healer, likely using some unholy methods, but there’s a twist: Soul’s revival is only temporary.
66 days is all the time he has left, and being the unorthodox Chinese ninja that he is, he embarks on a mission to uncover the identity of those responsible for his death and the motives behind it. Now that’s a really killer story if you ask me.
Interestingly, Phantom Blade 0 is based on Rainblood: Town of Death, another one of S-GAME’s original IPs. Rainblood is far from a AAA game, but much of its lore and dark tone is being used in Phantom Blade as an inspiration, so a rich story should be awaiting us.
The Chinese martial arts combat, medieval steampunk environment, and dark art style do justice to the twisted world in Phantom Blade 0.
And we can only hope that what S-GAME is aiming to bring us gets better over time.
Phantom Blade 0 Is Not A Soulslike
Contrary to Phantom Blade 0’s initial impressions, it’s actually not a Soulslike but an action RPG. I guess it’s just that S-GAME’s take on the RPG genre is so dark that we assumed it was a Soulslike at first.
However, the menacing enemies in the trailer were nothing to laugh at, and albeit the enemies aren’t going to be tough as those you encounter in a Souls game, they’ll still pack a punch.
Judging from the trailer, Phantom Blade 0’s bread and butter seems to be its combat system. It’s fast-paced, snappy, and brutal, befitting the feel of the game.
But those aren’t the reasons why it’s so impressive. Despite the combat being up close and personal, it appears to be heavily reliant on the environment, which dare I say, I’ve never seen being done in this way before in my years as a gamer.
Apart from facing your foes head-on, your character can rapidly execute attacks by walking on walls. And it’s the environment again you need to use if you want to protect yourself from other unlockable attacks.
Either way, all this is based on the brief look at the shown gameplay. There’s a good chance that stealth may be a major component in Phantom Blade 0 but we’ll have to wait on that for now.
The main story campaign missions for Phantom Blade 0 are tentatively going to last around the 40-hour mark, as stated by the studio.
Series creator Soulframe Liang also commented on the size of their AAA hack-and-slasher, saying that it will take place in multiple large semi-open-world areas.
That’s a relief since I’m still washing away the abominably linear bad taste The Callisto Protocol left in my mouth, and who knows, S-GAME may take the expansiveness up a notch by the time the game is release-ready.
Chinese Developers Are Bringing Their AAA-Game
Black Myth: Wukong, Project: The Perceiver, and now Phantom Blade 0, Chinese developers sure seem to be getting into the AAA gaming biz as of late.
It’s a multibillion-dollar industry after all, and it was only a matter of time before other Chinese studios and companies followed in the footsteps of Tencent and miHoYo.
Unreal Engine 5 Is At The Heart Of It All
And it doesn’t stop there. Chinese developers are also among the first to utilize the Unreal Engine 5. There aren’t even that many games announced utilizing the Unreal Engine 5, a few that come to mind are Lords of the Fallen, and Hellblade 2, and that’s pretty much it.
But with the Chinese developers, all of the above-mentioned games, and dozens more, are being built on the Unreal Engine 5. Yes, Phantom Blade 0 too.
You’d think Chinese developers would be reluctant to take such big leaps, especially considering that this is uncharted territory even for established studios, but that isn’t so as you can tell judging from the stacked line-up they’ve promised us.
It’s fair to say that a golden age of Chinese AAA games might be on the horizon. In a couple of years, we might be anticipating their games with the same level of excitement and hype as we do for renowned studios with impeccable track records, such as Bethesda.
Phantom Blade 0 has put S-GAME on the radar of millions, and as the studio opens up more about the game in the coming months, excitement for it will keep on rising. The release date, whenever that is, is still far away, and it’s only natural if you end up a little disappointed. But not to worry as the latter half of the year is packed with titles that’ll blow you away including Starfield, Alan Wake 2, and Marvel’s Spider-Man 2.
Tayyab’s an anime & gaming enthusiast, and since he can’t make them (yet), he loves to write about why he finds them amazing.
Also, he’s a huge Hideo Kojima fan, and everything else that’s Japanese for that matter.