Skip to main content

This is how Scalebound fills the open-world RPG gap in the Xbox One's first-party lineup

Scalebound

Scalebound (Image credit: Microsoft Studios)

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.

Scalebound

Scalebound (Image credit: Microsoft Studios)

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.

Jez Corden
Jez Corden

Jez Corden is a Senior Editor for Windows Central, focusing primarily on all things Xbox and gaming. Jez is known for breaking exclusive news and analysis as relates to the Microsoft ecosystem while being powered by caffeine. Follow on Twitter @JezCorden and listen to his Xbox Two podcast, all about, you guessed it, Xbox!

72 Comments
  • this seems like it may cover my need for a Panzer Dragoon Saga sequel....since Sega is NEVER gonna jump on that.
  • Sega is dumb for many reasons. Not taking advantage of that gem is one of the top reasons
  • Probably because Team Andromeda has been dissolved for like two decades now.
  • Nothing puts Cloud's Buster Sword to shame. NOTHING!
  • Seriously, it was like twice the size hahah
  • Gunblades and Terra's Ultima Sword put Cloud's sword to shame.
  • A guy with his bound-in animal tried to save the world..... Seems like I've seen these plots somewhere
  • Who cares if the game is good
  • Wait you mean to tell me that Japanese devs have run out of game tropes?  Sort of like the tired avatar you are using it's a tried and true design, would you like it better if it was from Sony?
  • I Hope, there is an option to choose different dragons and customize them!
  • There is!
  • Somewhat off topic, but the guy who presented this at the Gamescom briefing was almost painful to watch. Not in a bad way, but you can tell he didn't have a lot of experience speaking to crowds. The game itself looks pretty groovy!
  • He was, however, playing the game live on stage. The gameplay demo wasn't just a pre-cut video, he was there off camera with a controller showing it real time.
  • Hideki actually made the headlines a couple of days ago, bitching about Microsoft through twitter. Really great at his work, no professionalism. Apparently a bad speaker too. :)
  • Or, you know, he was presenting in his non-native language. Give the guy a break.
  • Speaking a non-native language and a live working demo while being live-streamed is going to be tough for anyone no matter who they are.
  • That was Hideki Kamiya, the games creator. He's responsible for devil may cry, bayonetta, RE2, viewtiful Joe, and many others. He's kind of an oddball though. He acts like a child on twitter, but it made sense to have him on stage for his masterpiece.
  • That's really good, because PS4 always had the higher ground with RPGs such as Bloodborne and No Man's Sky, among others.
  • Aye, I was worried Microsoft wouldn't have an answer to Horizon by the Killzone devs, but Scalebound looks to be it.
  • Kind of a weird pair of games to use as examples. Bloodborne's just a derivation of the Souls games, and DS2 is on both Xbox consoles. No Man's Sky isn't even out yet, nor is it necessarily an RPG (they claimg it to be an "everything game,"), so using it as proof of the past is strange. Sony HAS long done the third-person action/adventure and RPG genres better than Microsoft, though. Uncharted and God of War really drive home the point for the former genres, with the RPG part primarily (to me) exemplified by the no-longer-exlucive Final Fantasy and Kingdon Hearts games.
  • I said "among others". I was just too lazy to go research what they were ;)
  • No Man's Sky isn't PS4 exclusive. It's coming to PC at the same time. It was just demoed on the PS4.
  • I can't wait!!!
  • It's gonna be killer!
  • Oh, my comment was deleted? I knew it was off topic and about another game, but not that bad.
  • Still you know where the forums are.
  • I'm not sure where I stand on this game. It looks awesome, but the gameplay seemed a bit on the plain side. I kind of wish they'd gone deeper with the character customization, letting us choose our base creature/character from the get-go. Maybe that would just mean altering Drew physically by choosing the companion, but letting folks trick out the dragon from the getgo, or even letting us choose alternative animals (like a giant eagle of wyvern, for examples) woudl have been even better. Given the nature of adding online co-op, I think that really woudl have been a good idea, since it could have been done solely through more models, and without needing to change the core game at all.
  • I'm just a bit confused by the red headphones he wears. To me, it just doesn't fit in with the atmosphere. Otherwise, it looks like a fun game! There probably are different dragons/customizations because it has 4 player coop. Not everyone can have the same dragon, I assume it would get confusing, lol.
  • Did you even read the article? 1. They state Drew is from modern-day Earth, which explains his appearance, headphones included. 2. They stated there is physical customization for the dragon. My statement was to mean more than just re-skinned changes, like having different flight-capable animals serve as the companion.
  • There are alternate dragon models I believe, but aye, no griffons. The fact he's a dragon is integral to the plot I believe.
  • Hey, gotta save something for the sequel, right? If it sells well, I bet you'll get your wish.
  • lol
  • This game is gorgeous!  its a step up from skyrim.  U can ride a fucking dragon!! And not like Panzer Dragoon, this is like GTA: DRAGONS.  U can get off the dragon and be on your own!!
  • You can ride dragons in one of the Skyrim DLCs.
  • But to be fair, dragon riding in Skyrim is terrible. You really can't control where you are heading. Not free roam in the least.
  • I see. I never got the DLC for Skyrim othe 360 (overpriced) and though I've since gotten The Elder Scrolls Anthology on PC, I've never fired any of the games up.
  • You ride a dragon a little bit in the main plot for Skyrim (no DLC needed). But no real control over the dragon, other than through dialog. It's really just a fancy cut-scene.
  • This game looks awesome.
  • Xbox exclusive?
  • 100%
  • microsoft is funding it, so yea.  there's a slim chance itll go on PC.  It's like 50/50.
  • Yeah, that's what I'm hoping. Xbox and PC. I'm a proud owner of the 360 but I'm more of a PC gamer. Posted via the Windows Central App
  • did anyone notice the end?  Did it have some sort of co-op cuz two players showed up to help him.
  • Yep it has online co-op, no details on how it works yet (:
  • id love to have a Destiny-like lobby. 
  • Oh, please. ANYTHING but Destiny influences.
  • stop down voting me.                            
  • Don't say things I disagree with, then. I mean, are your feelings THAT hurt that I disagree with you? Because if so, I'll make sure I downvote everything of yours I can until you're no longer so incredibly worried about a stranger's opinion of your opinion.
  • Wow you're a tool.
  • I know, I'm some kind of low-life to express my disagreement with someone. Luckily, being called such a name won't hurt my feelings.
  • You guys' frienemy bromance is adorbale.
  • You're taking your online handle a little too seriously, mate.
  • I wish there was some info on coop... =/
  • ooooooh so sexy!! *throws wallet*
  • I still don't get why he has a Beats headset
  • It's explained in the article. P:
  • But I don't get why they are doing it. Unless its to justify his having a wisecracking modern attitude that the kids can relate to which I'm afraid might get old pretty quick.
  • Ah, well I read that Hideki is basing the character somewhat on his 20 year old self, thinking he's invincible, arrogant etc. Sounds like a coming of age sorta plot, maybe?
  • Game looks great once its done, gameplay in alpha
  • I think this game looks very interesting and Sunset Overdrive-ish.  It seems fresh and will fill the RPG-void often found these days on modern consoles.  I dig it!
  • The combat looked kinda generic, but then again there was only a minute of it so not really indicative of the full open world experience. Currently I'm at slightly excited on the level of want meter.
  • Played and it was meh
  • I think Platinum Games must produce new fps fames like Vanquish in addition to rpg's
  • Is this How to train my dragon game remastered? :)
  • That dragon? Really impressive. Flame effects are great too. Wonder if there will be ways to "train" him that work like the system in "Black and White". I always thought that was pretty imaginative design, even if it was a bit crudely executed. But a dynamic, evolving relationship with a dragon could overcome the lack of appeal the human protagonist has for me.
  • They showed us a screenshot of the dragon evolution screen where you upgrade his skills and attacks, I'm not sure if you'll be able to tailor his behaviors specifically though. He's almost like charizard from the old pokemon toons.
  • One of my biggst issues with the advent of open world rpgs as opposed to classic turn based rpgs, is the feeling of loneliness. No longer do ppl join your party
  • Well, in Fallout 3 I had a dog and a super mutant on my party following me everywhere :)
  • Deus Ex Human Revolution? Shirley Mankind Divided?
  • Very well written article, informative and to the point. I agree Scalebound fills a void, and it looks damn good too.
  • Kinda sounds like 'How to Train Your Dragon', and those movies are great.  I hope it's going to be playable on Windows 10 also.
  • Unfortunately not my kind of RPG.