The sheer scale of Gamescom is hard to describe.
Almost every single events hall is packed out. Ubisoft were rocking a huge stage to show off the latest Just Dance, EA's gigantic video walls blazed their 2015 line-up, and Blizzard had built up a mock-castle for their Hearthstone tournament, flanked by statues from all their famed franchises. All of the heavy hitters were there, Fallout 4, Deus Ex Human Revolution, Final Fantasy XV, Metal Gear Solid V. You name it, it was either playable or had exclusive footage to show.
As an Xbox writer, I hit first-party as a priority. The queue to attend Scalebound's presentation didn't boast the sheer volume of Fallout 4 or FIFA 2016, but I don't think anything I saw at Gamescom 2015 left an impression as strong as Scalebound.
Scalebound takes place on Draconis, a magical world bound to a force known as the pulse. The pulse is what gives Drew - Scalebound's hero - his powers, and it's what gives Draconis its unique appearance. Floating islands, gigantic twisting roots splitting the earth, and the huge warped creatures that served as the trailer's finale.
Gamescom attendees were treated to the same gameplay footage shown in the Xbox briefing yesterday, in addition to some extra content and developer commentary.
Drew is bound to a gigantic scaly companion known as Thuban. Drew and Thuban are on a mission to save Draconis from an evil empire. Details on the game's story were scant, but we know that Drew is a 20-year-old from modern-day Earth - which explains the headphones.
Thuban is the last dragon of his kind, and together with Drew, these lone adventurers form a unique bond. As seen in the trailer, Thuban kicks Drew from his back in a belligerent gesture. Our Platinum Games rep noted that the two don't always get along.
Combat wise, the dev was keen to emphasise that Drew is squishy. Unlike other Platinum titles such as Metal Gear Rising, Drew isn't always capable of jumping into danger, and this is where Thuban comes in. You can command your dragon to head to a location, but what Thuban actually does is anyone's guess. Thuban retains a mind of his own, and may not always use the same attacks or follow specific commands - this serves to make him feel like a character instead of just a combat tool.
Drew can jump into combat, however, even with the largest foes in certain conditions. The rep noted that Drew can fight against other human enemies quite adequately, and we can see that from the trailer above. When the gigantic mantis beast joins the party, though, the dynamic changes. Drew sports a dragon arm that provides the player with various tools. You can use the arms energy to heal Thuban - who can become incapacitated if he takes too much damage. The dragon arm can also scan enemies to find weak spots. You can then use the arm to hook onto larger enemies to take advantage of this, which reminded me of the grappling tool in Just Cause. After using a stun mine on the beast, combined with a well-placed arrow, Drew was able to jump on the mantis and rip off one of its claws.
As Drew deals damage, he gains energy. The mantis' claw dissolved and provided Drew with a large boost of energy, allowing the player to transform into a Dragon Lord. The Platinum spokesman noted that in this mode, Drew can go toe-to-toe with the largest creatures, and it provides players with a breather during some of the more intense fights. The boost is temporary, though, as it's not long before Drew is back to his hip-self again, firing arrows from afar.
The combat appeared fluid, responsive and explosive, all the things you'd expect of Platinum Games. The combat dynamics between Drew and Thuban really help Scalebound stand apart from your typical hack n' slash, but it's what came next in the presentation that really set my wallet buzzing.
Scalebound is an RPG
Platinum Games are known for titles like Metal Gear Rising and Bayonetta, which set most of my assumptions last year. The rep from Platinum Games was keen to point out that Scalebound represents something different for the studio, and really emphasised that it was thanks to Microsoft that the team has been able to "go to the next level."
After a guided tour of the Xbox briefing video, we were treated to a show-reel of other Scalebound features that are still in development. Scalebound isn't just a hack n' slash; it's a full-blown action RPG with an inventory, loot, non-linear exploration, NPC cities, weapon durability, currency, in-game economies and more.
The first part of the show-reel discussed dragon customization. Thuban is heavily customizable. You can swap his default model out for others, or just customise his skin. We saw a tiger patterned Thuban, along with other dragon types entirely. You can also give Thuban armor. We were told that the more armor he has, the more defensive he can be - at the cost of speed. You don't need to deck him out in a full set either. Armor is modular, and it all factors into how he works in combat. Platinum is also going to let you customize his breath element; we saw one Thuban spraying a blizzard of ice on his foes.
After that, Platinum showed us some more of the game's locations, emphasising exploration and dungeon crawling. Scalebound takes place in a non-linear world, as you'd usually hope from an RPG. After Drew had defeated the mantis monster in the trailer above, he reduced the corpse into gems - these serve as the game's currency. You can spend them on a vast array of upgrades for yourself and Thuban, adding power to attacks, or enhancing specific stats and so on. That "a-ha" moment landed when Platinum showed Drew traversing an NPC city populated by humanoids in tribal gear.
They showed off Drew's inventory and some of the weapons he can wield - which can also break over time. They showed Drew wielding the sword from the trailer, a Final Fantasy Dragoon-like spear, and a ridiculously large two-handed claymore that puts Cloud's Buster Sword to shame. As an RPG fan, Scalebound ticked all the right boxes.
Scalebound closes a gap in the Xbox One line-up
In closing, Platinum Games said that director Hideki Kamiya had wanted to make a game like Scalebound for a long time, and thanked Microsoft for making it a reality. The rep noted that Kamiya found inspiration in text-based RPGs of the 80s, where the gigantic dragon battles took place in the imagination.
The rep hailed the Xbox One, saying that it was thanks to modern technology that "we can now take those imaginary battles and put them up on-screen."
As an RPG fan, what I saw of Scalebound put the game near the top of my most anticipated, flanked only by the likes of Fallout 4. I've criticised Xbox in the past for not having a full non-linear RPG in their line-up, and Scalebound represents the closing of that gap. There's still so much to look forward to in 2015, and after Gamescom, 2016 is looking positively insane.
Scalebound is an Xbox One exclusive set to arrive in 2016.