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This PlayStation exclusive blends Dark Souls challenge with Ghost Of Tsushima accessibility

This PlayStation exclusive blends Dark Souls challenge with Ghost Of Tsushima accessibility

PlayStation's Phantom Blade Zero delivers FromSoftware challenge with Ghost Of Tsushima accessibility, I'm also really good at it.

Summer Game Fest 2024 is officially underway, and as part of the Summer Play Days I went hands-on with the upcoming action-adventure game, Phantom Blade Zero, which I obliterated.

First shown during 2023’s PlayStation Showcase event, Phantom Blade Zero amazed audiences with its fluid, fast–paced action that honestly looked too good to be true, but it is true, and it is exceptionally good.

Check out the latest trailer for Phantom Blade Zero below if you haven’t seen it already.

As an enormous fan of Dark Souls, Elden Ring and Bloodborne, I was instantly attracted to the game believing it’d offer the same hardcore gaming experience that FromSoftware’s titles have granted me over the years. However, if I was to make one thing clear about Phantom Blade Zero, I’d say while its inspiration is obvious, it’s not your traditional soulslike experience, much to its benefit.

While plenty of Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice comparisons can be drawn, the title has more in common with Rise Of The Ronin and Ghost Of Tsushima than any FromSoftware game. Don’t be mistaken though, Phantom Blade Zero is tough, but it doesn’t fail to be accessible.

Developer S-Game has been clear on this since the game’s reveal, declaring that while the game won’t be a cake-walk, it’ll be slightly more forgiving in its gameplay loop and overall difficulty. After some time with the game I could see this design philosophy in practice, and was impressed with how balanced the game felt in terms of its challenge.

Phantom Blade Zero-
Sony Interactive Entertainment

During my play session I played through a brief tutorial, explored some linear areas filled with foes, and went head-to-head with three incredible bosses, each one more dangerous than the last.

Going into my time with the game I was curious to see how that flashy, expressive combat from the gameplay trailers could be achieved in-game, and I wasn’t disappointed in the slightest.

Combat was indeed fast-paced, with plenty of slashing, dodging and parrying, but with a few unique mechanics sprinkled in for some excellent variety. When an enemy becomes stunned or almost dead, you can finish them off with the press of a button, which initiates a gorgeous takedown animation that felt immensely satisfying, and didn't feel intrusive on the flow of battle. Every environmental backdrop, every explosive combo, and even the sparks flying off your sword from a successful parry made gameplay feel rewarding.

During that gameplay parrying is obviously your best friend, but players can also initiate a move could “ghost-step” where your character phases behind an enemy’s potentially fatal blow, chipping away a massive chunk of their stamina as well as giving you an opening for a deadly combo. This can be a series of button presses, or a kind of super move that deals an immense amount of damage against an enemy’s health bar. Ranged combat was also an option, with the player being equipped with a bow and arrow, or an enormous cannon that can be charged for a devastating explosive shot.

Phantom Blade Zero-
Sony Interactive Entertainment

Mastering the parries, sword slashes, ranged attacks and dodging was remarkable, and I was thoroughly impressed with how intuitive the game felt to play.

Speaking of mastery, I absolutely demolished the gameplay demo, hacking and slashing my way through the whole thing in a, frankly phenomenal, eight minutes, something I’m going to be proud of for a while. I only died once, during the final boss of the demo who had a one-shot kill move if you didn’t react in the right way to their attack. As I said before I’m no stranger to challenging games, and even though I was unphased by the flurry of powerful attacks my enemies were hurling at me, I still came away from my session with an enormous grin on my face, and desire to play it again.

Phantom Blade Zero feels like a game that’s been tailor made for those who want to experience the thrill and pride of clearing a soulslike, without inconsistent difficulty spikes that can often be a roadblock for players wanting to roll credits. While many would call it a skill issue, I do think games of the soulsike/action-adventure genre do sometimes forget difficulty for the sake of difficulty doesn’t mean success, and I think games like Phantom Blade Zero and Lies Of P are examples of titles understanding that idea.

Phantom Blade Zero-
Sony Interactive Entertainment

Phantom Blade Zero is yet to receive an official release date, though when it does drop it’ll be available exclusively for PlayStation 5 and PC. Whether you’re a longtime fan of soulslike and action-adventure games, or looking for a comfortable stepping stone into the challenging gameplay the genres offer, this is a release to keep an eye on (did I mention I’m really good at it?)

Featured Image Credit: Sony Interactive Entertainment

Topics: PlayStation, PlayStation 5, Sony, Fromsoftware, Ghost Of Tsushima, Dark Souls, Bloodborne