Unleashing the Fury: How Phantom Blade 0 Redefines Action Gameplay

If you’re looking at an arena where action gamefare luminaries such as Stellar Blade and Sekiro have set the tone for the action movie, PB0 (short for Phantom Blade 0) is a game that’s done so much more. It’s the kind of fighter that, at the 2022 Summer Games Fest, grabs your attention and makes you reconsider the entire brand. What follows is an analysis of how PB0 aspires to be a genre leader even in the face of the most improbable expectations and the challenge of delivering action gaming at its finest.

Switching Gears: The Core of PB0's Gameplay

The Art of the SWITCH

At the centre of the SWITCH mechanic in PB0’s gameplay is the addition of this quick-strike short sword to his repertoire. Soul starts the adventure with the standard ninja-type long katana. Right away, the swift SWITCH between these two weapons doesn’t imply a change of playing style, but is rather a recharge on his stamina bar, enabling him to do gymnastic, combo-based attacks on his foes.

Defense Turned Offense

And for defence, alongside its array of offensive manoeuvres, PB0 gives players two essential parries and dodges. As the action game ethos dictates, a well-timed parry not only stops the enemy barrage, but breaks an enemy’s defence and opens up an opportunity for a brutal counterattack. Dodging offers a way to step out of the way of attacks that are too quick or too powerful to block, or too impossible to time the block, let alone parry.

Beyond Souls: A Shift in Gameplay Strategy

Phantom Blade 0 invites comparisons with classic titles such as Ninja Gaiden Black (2005) over more patient, methodical action games that are more common today. Success requires boldness. A defensive, reactive playstyle leaves Soul exposed to enemy forces that are literally programmed to take the initiative. PB0 rewards those who take the fight to their opponents, dancing a subtle rhythm of attack and counter-attack.

A Visual Odyssey: China Punk Aesthetics

So far, S-Game, who are developing PB0, have nailed the aesthetic. The visuals are vibrant, the world lived-in, and character designs are reminiscent of other games such as Naraka: Bladepoint and Genshin Impact. S-Game’s so-called ‘China Punk’ aesthetic combines traditional influences from Chinese mythology with a dystopian, cyberpunk feel. And then there’s the game’s aesthetic gameplay.

Boss Battles: The Ultimate Test

The demo shows how PB0 handles boss battles, each of which is geared toward exposing different aspects of the player’s arsenal or adaptive abilities. The archery assault on the cliffside, the trials of the terrifying one-on-one duels with Tie Sha the Frenzy and Commander Cleave, ramp up the difficulty until the player must face Huangxing, the Sunken Pillar of Kunlun. Each encounter requires mastery of the move mechanics, expecting the player to experiment, improve and be quick on his feet.

Beyond the Battle

For a game all about shooting and killing, it raises more questions about level design and exploration — with each fight so directly leading to the next, where’s the room for the player to explore the world in-between fights? PB0 admittedly does a fantastic job with the fast pace of the combat. But how the world itself is designed and responds to that action remains to be seen.

Into the Fray: Moving Forward with Phantom Blade 0

But as PB0 gets ready for release, it’s abundantly clear that S-Game isn’t just going to participate in the action game genre, they want to change it. With a SWITCH mechanic unlike any other, an aggressive play strategy and a world that will blow your mind, PB0 is a title action game enthusiasts would do well to keep an eye on.

The Essence of the MOVE

Essentially, the MOVE mechanic is less an irritant or a gameplay gimmick, and more a conceptual restructuring around fundamental combat dynamics and pacing in action games. The idea that this MOVE must be executed in every single bout effects a fundamental shift in how players approach combat – an intrinsically new and exciting dynamic that moves away from the ‘one button every few seconds’ reflexive method of killing to a framework where every move counts, and the player must earn their wins.

Phantom Blade 0 is not only a sign of the evolution of action as a genre – it’s a controversial leap toward a future where innovations in gameplay match innovations in story. And while we wait impatiently for it to land on the market, we’re sure the MOVE is going to change the rules.

Jun 12, 2024
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