Skip to main content
If you click on a link and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. Read our editorial policy.

Phantom Blade Zero is a kung-fu punk Soulslike with surprising mobile origins

And lightning fast combat

The protagonist "Soul" looks backwards at something in a screenshot from Phantom Blade Zero.
Image credit: S-Game

I see a game that looks anything remotely Soulslikey and I perk up, it's like a fight or flight response only I'm not fighting or flying, I'm just staring at a video game trailer in some sweatpants with my fingers curled into a Cadbury's Milk Tray. Hence why Phantom Blade Zero has perked me up to no end, as it's an action RPG announced at last night's PlayStation Showcase which marries Chinese martial arts with a steampunk aesthetic. I'm on board, if cautious! The action seems rad, but it's so fast, it's hard to tell how it actually plays.

Watch on YouTube

Phantom Blade Zero comes courtesy of S-Game, a Chinese studio which started with mobile games like Rainblood and Phantom Blade: Executioners, all of which were never released outside of China. In a blog post, S-Game's founder and CEO "Soulframe" Liang introduces Phantom Blade Zero as the "spiritual rebirth of the original Rainblood", a 2010 turn-based RPG with a hand-drawn look.

Liang says the game "unfolds in a semi-open world" composed of maps of reasonable size, "populated by diverse activities". And as you'd expect, we can look forward to the usual suite of things called "artifacts" and "skills" to customise your boy Soul with. I hope they aren't too heavy on small percentage increases, you know?

Going off the trailer, the game looks mighty fine. It's dark and stylish, with stunning boss designs and twirly kung-fu combat. Except it's hard to tell whether what you're watching is actual gameplay or finely tuned camera work, to the point where I'm a bit cautious as to whether it will end up being fun in the hands.

A screenshot from Phantom Blade Zero which shows Soul, a samurai, come face to face with an armoured, Chinese lion boss.
Image credit: S-Game

What's most interesting, perhaps, is how the studio's mobile game history might feed into the Phantom Blade Zero's speedy combat. "We learned to simplify things in favour of touch screens, giving players a way to execute elaborate chains of moves with a minimum amount of button-mashing", Liang says. "As it turns out, with some tweaks, this mechanism works just as well on controllers".

Huh. I'm all for a hack and slash, but I like to have full control of my character at every input. Is Liang hinting at automation, or a simplified control scheme ala Street Fighter 6? I'd prefer the latter!

Anyway, it looks like we'll be waiting a while to find out, as there's no release date for Phantom Blade Zero just yet.

Read this next