Phantom Blade Zero’s Mindblowing Combat And Ultra-Fast Parries Stole My Heart

The fluidity despite the blazing speed and chaotic onslaught is genuinely commendable.

Story Highlights

  • The Summer Game Fest provided an in-depth look into Phantom Blade Zero’s exquisite gameplay.
  • With fast-paced, flashy combat that looks straight out of a movie, the game’s visual appeal is insane.
  • Blinking-fast blocks, last-minute dodges, and the nerve-wracking parry intervals were mind-boggling.

What started as a peculiar, “masochistic” game design has now grown so large that it has an entire genre dedicated to it. I still remember playing Demon’s Souls for the first time, and thinking “What the hell is this game?” Dying constantly and pulling my hair over the frustrating design philosophy, never did I imagine it’d become my favorite kind of game in a few years.

After following the genre and its growth for years, it’s safe to say that I hold it dear more than anything else. And while it was only FromSoftware’s turf back then (and even now, truth be told), Souls-like spring up like mushrooms these days. Not that I’m complaining, it means I get to enjoy more of this formula. Today, let’s take a look at Phantom Blade Zero.

YouTube video

Fast-Paced Action Like You’re In A Movie

Ever since Phantom Blaze Zero was announced a year ago, I’ve been keeping an eye on it. A game with Souls-like elements but blazing-fast combat, who wouldn’t love that? Now, the Summer Game Fest and subsequent previews have provided an in-depth look into the core gameplay mechanics, and I must say that I fell in love from the first second.

First of all, I’d like to applaud the devs for showing an accurate representation of the gameplay in a trailer. Usually, you find later that the trailer was exaggerated, but not in this case. The hands-on gameplay preview that came not too long after confirmed the gameplay is as smooth and fast-paced as it looked.

As I’ve mentioned, Phantom Blade Zero has Souls-like elements, but its combat is more akin to something like Devil May Cry, with slick combos shredding the hell out of enemies. In addition, your character has access to multiple weapons that can be switched on the fly, like multiple melee options, as well as a bow and arrow and even a full-blown hand canon

The slick and flashy combat is to die for | PlayStation (YouTube)
The slick and flashy combat is to die for | PlayStation (YouTube)

Above all, Phantom Blade Zero prioritizes the cinematic appeal of its combat. The different moves you execute are so flashy and intense that it’s a cathartic feeling, being in control of what plays very much like a high-adrenaline sword fight in an action flick. 

If you also got a movie feeling from all these cinematic, “sparks flying” combat, then it’s because the choreographer of the Rurouni Kenshin films, Kenji Tanigaki, is flexing his muscles here. The fact that the sound design and fast-paced animations of clashing swords feel so mindblowing is proof that he has done a splendid job.

Phantom Blade Zero — Parries And Counters Galore

Next, let’s take a look at some of the combat mechanics. One thing’s perfectly clear though. The devs saw Sekiro, and thought, “What if there was more speed?” You’ll need lightning-fast reflexes to keep up with the crazy assault of your opponents.

Phantom Blade Zero's Sekiro inspiration is clear as daylight | Source: Steam
Phantom Blade Zero’s Sekiro inspiration is clear as daylight | Source: Steam

The core gameplay of Phantom Blade Zero revolves entirely around parries, counters, and quick dodges. You see the character blocking and parrying 10 attacks in, like, a second. I was getting tense just by watching that. Give the guy a break, sheesh.

Similar to Sekiro, enemies and your character have a posture meter. Attacking and parrying attacks seems to deplete that posture, after which a “death blow” can be executed. Similarly, you can do a precise dodge to essentially teleport behind the enemy in a burst of smoke and do a back attack. Certain attacks cannot be blocked/parried and thus require this tactic.

One thing that I found pretty exciting in Phantom Blade Zero was how enemies blocked your blazing-fast assault with equal finesse. When you continuously hit away at an opponent, they’ll start blocking your attacks, and continue to do so until you make them stumble. This means you can’t blindly start hacking away, the consequences will be grave.

Oh, man, the parries are insane | Source: PlayStation(YouTube)
Oh, man, the parries are insane | Source: PlayStation(YouTube)

All in all, super-fast parries that require nerves of steel will be the core of your experience. And it’s not like these fast parries just get lost in the speed when it comes to impact. You feel each and every hit pretty heavily, despite the blinking speed. Every hit you land and every strike you parry looks and feels brilliant and authentic.

This game is NUTS!
byu/RGisOnlineis16 inPhantomBladeZero

My Wallet’s Not Feeling So Good

In a nutshell, if you ever thought “What if I put Sekiro and Devil May Cry together?” you have the answer now. The difficulty and learning curve of a Souls-like, combined with lightning-fast combat requiring quick reflexes and impulse control, Phantom Blade Zero is shaping up to be a game you should never miss.

There’s one little problem though. Phantom Blade Zero is among the multiple Souls-like that look great and are right around the corner. Ballad of Antara, Where Winds Meet, Black Myth: Wukong, Elden Ring SoTE, and now this. As excited as I am to see all this as a Souls-like fan, my wallet is probably cursing at me this very moment.

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Hanzala is a dedicated writer who expresses his views as opinion pieces at eXputer. He's always been fascinated by gaming and has been an avid consumer of many different genres for over a decade. His passion for games has him eager to encounter the latest RPGs and actively look for new Soulslike to challenge. He puts forth his experience and knowledge of gaming into captivating opinion pieces.

Experience: 8+ months || Education: Bachelors in Chemistry.

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