Does Scarlet Nexus Have What it Takes to be the Next Big Action RPG Series?
Launching a new IP in this day and age seems terrifying. The task of establishing a new world on a new name and the hope that gamers want to devote time to playing is becoming less common in the AAA scene. As publishers opt to just build off the backs of already established franchises, Bandai Namco is taking a chance on their upcoming action-RPG Scarlet Nexus. After spending some time playing the most recent demo, I really wanted to take a look at what this title offers to compare it to the publisher’s established licenses and see if has what it takes to become a series.
Scarlet Nexus seems to take a few gameplay ques from the God Eater series, without the mission structure of returning to an arena to hunt a set of creatures. Visually, I feel like this experience will resonate well with those wanting a new God Eater experience, but as you play, you’ll discover subtle nuances with the flow of action.
For starters, the gameplay is built off of your squad, who can provide abilities to the two protagonists, Kasane Randall and Yuito Sumeragi. These four characters are tied to the face buttons of the control and can be called upon during a battle to cause damage to an enemy’s weakness. Even in the demo, there was quite a variety of ways to utilize the party members. A few characters provided elemental attacks, but others allowed you to see invisible enemies. However, some didn’t always work, such as the teleportation ability, which I would have loved to utilize more in a fight. Still, it seemed to only benefit environmental means by getting onto the other side of a gate.
This, along with your psychokinetic abilities to pick up objects and slamming them into enemies, is wrapped up in your combos to provide a pretty interesting action experience. You’re constantly kept on your toes as you adjust to the enemies your fighting against while using abilities that affect their weakness. Perfect dodges can slow downtime, but I found it really difficult to dodge out of a combo, which I found annoying.
The environments are a step up from the gothic world of Code Vein because the walls and building have added detail and flair. However, I wouldn’t say I liked how the stages flowed. The characters can feel light on their toes, so one push on the analog stick causes them to run a few steps in the direction. This works in moments of action, but stages also have small platforming sections for hidden items that will test your patience when it comes to jumping over precision gaps.
You’d want to compare action games with Devil May Cry being the base, but Scarlet Nexus leans more into the RPG aspects of its design and not some much comboing for years. This is found in the level-up system, where you can customize your character’s skill set based on how you like to play. Not everything is straight action-oriented, though, as you can also enhance passives. While combat is kept fast and rewards long combos, I didn’t feel that Devil May Cry was a significant influence in these systems. Instead, I felt more like I was playing a sped-up God Eater, which was fine because the additional abilities and mechanics differentiated it from that experience altogether.
The character models in Scarlet Nexus are some of the best I’ve seen from the development team. They look amazing in contrast to the level design. The flashy animations are enhanced if you take advantage of the various options, but you can fall into a repetitive cycle of button presses. Breaking an enemy’s guard allows you to execute a finishing move, and there are even QTEs when throwing certain objects. Still, it’s the character growth and how that affects the battle system in late-game sections that will truly set this adventure apart from others in the genre.
Scarlet Nexus shares similarities to games such as Code Vein and Got Eater, with a few RPG skills trees found in the Sword Art Online titles, but there’s something unique here that I hope doesn’t fall flat in later portions of the game. Further, I hope the level design and enemies grow with the character, and we see a significant variety throughout the narrative. Speaking of narrative. I’m not a huge fan of static images, but I’m interested to see how these characters interact and what forces aim to hinder their goals. There’s a lot of potential here, but right now, I need to see more to know if this is something that can spawn into a series.
Scarlet Nexus is coming to PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X, and PC-via Steam on June 25, 2021.
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