Of 25 trailers shown during Wednesday’s PlayStation Showcase, the one most fans seem to be talking about the next morning also was the one most out-of-the-blue. It’s Phantom Blade Zero, from S-Game, and its genre/style/features are also kitchen-sink difficult to describe.
We’ll do our best to bring you up to speed on this intriguing adventure, which at the very least appears to present players with stylish, sword-and-melee combat set in a world based on feudal China.
What is Phantom Blade Zero all about?
It is an action role-playing game that should delight fans of recent action role-playing games like Ghost of Tsushima, Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and Wo Long: Fallen Dynasty, especially as they share themes from Asian culture.
But Phantom Blade Zero layers on a lot of its own lore with a striking blend of martial arts and steampunk. “Be the Dark Raider exiled by ‘The Order,’ embark on the path of vengeance, and uncover the darkest secrets of Wulin!” says its official YouTube listing.
A PlayStation Blog post from S-Game founder Soulframe Liang after the Showcase said, “‘Phantom World’, the universe that the game is set in, is a universe where many kinds of powers converge. You’ll find Chinese Kungfu, intricate machines reminiscent of steampunk, arts of the occult, and intriguing stuff that doesn’t quite fit into any of these categories.”
The player-protagonist, called Soul, is an assassin who is framed for the murder of the leader of The Order. After being mortally wounded, Soul’s life was saved by a magic healer, but only for 66 days. So, there’s a race against time through the game’s narrative to defeat the enemies of The Order and bring justice to those responsible.
As for the game’s visual presentation, Liang said, “The dark/bleak visual style that you’ll see a lot in the game is a deliberate decision. A bleak world makes characters with hearts of gold really stand out.”
Otherwise, S-Game’s website is mum, leaving things to teasers and screenshots. A good place to look for more is a newly created subreddit, where fans have pulled out parts of the trailer and highlighted what they think Phantom Blade Zero will deliver whenever it launches.
Is Phantom Blade Zero a Soulslike game?
That’s a question a lot of fans are asking, given its comparisons to Sekiro and Wo Long, but Liang says Phantom Blade Zero isn’t necessarily a Soulslike game.
“We are huge fans of the hack and slash genre,” Liang said. “What’s more popular today is ‘strategic action game’, such as Soulslikes and Monster Hunter. They choose to slow things down a notch or two, giving players more time for strategic thinking.
“But that approach doesn’t convey the kind of action fest we have in mind,” Liang added, “namely, the sleek, breathtaking moves in Kungfu movies back in the 1990s.”
Who is S-Game, the developer of Phantom Blade Zero?
S-Game is a studio based in Beijing. Phantom Blade Zero (and Executioners) seems to be its first Western release.
If this is Phantom Blade Zero, is there another Phantom Blade game, too?
S-Game also the developer of Phantom Blade: Executioners, a side-scrolling “dark Kungfupunk action game” for Android, iOS, and Windows PC. That game has been playable in multiple closed beta tests and is listed as “coming soon” on Steam.
You can watch gameplay of Phantom Blade: Executioners below for a taste of S-Game’s 2D action chops.
Liang said that the Phantom Blade canon his studio created consisted largely of games launched on mobile devices in China, not the West. The Phantom Blade series evolved out of another game called Rainblood: Town of Death, an indie game developed by Liang in RPG Maker and released in 2010.
When is Phantom Blade Zero’s release date?
The game does not have one yet. Wednesday’s trailer was the first anyone ever heard of Phantom Blade Zero, and the trailer did not give a launch date or window.
Is Phantom Blade Zero a PlayStation exclusive?
The game’s official website lists PlayStation 5, Steam, and the Epic Games Store as platforms, so yes, it appears to be a console-exclusive title for PlayStation.