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First, what is Scalebound? First, a supremely clever title once you consider it carefully, this Xbox One exclusive, third-person role-playing game sees players take control of a character named Drew who has a dragon named Thuban. Now that might not seem like something new, but trust us, this one is. Thuban is an independent creature that is not simply a “vehicle” that responds to button presses and commands. The dragon and the human are bonded, meaning they suffer and experience as one, so if one dies, so does the other. Thuban cannot be ridden at first, and while Drew can offer commands in battle and such, Thuban is a creature that acts with its own agenda. Game writer and director Hideki Kamiya, who has been behind such popular games as Resident Evil and Devil May Cry, says that the dragons in Scalebound are nearly godlike in intelligence, something very special in the world.
Dragons are practically a staple in the fantasy genre of video games, making many memorable appearances, mostly as boss fights. From the Tiris Flame Dragon in Golden Axe to the Phalanx in Shadow of the Colossus to Alduin in Skyrim to Singe in Dragon’s Lair, they have made for some the best gaming moments. Few though do it right when it comes to having them on our side. Playstation exclusive LAIR was proof enough that it’s better to fight them than befriend them (Yoshi excluded). Scalebound is looking to change all that. Drew and Thuban will have adventures in the vast open world and Drew will have access to a number of weapons, but there is no crafting or upgrading. All new and more powerful weapons will be discovered on exploration. Drew, being bonded to Thuban, also has a “dragon arm” that allows him to scan environments, attack with a pulse beam, and even heal his companion. What’s more, Drew can shape-shift into a dragon-like creature, which multiplies his abilities. All of these will improve with skill points earned in battle and exploration. There will also be enormous creatures to fight, where Thuban will be vital, giving the dragon attacking opportunities with vicious swings and climbing.
The twist to all of this is that Drew comes from our modern world, a 20-year-old with headphones plopped into a land of Draconis, a world of fable and adventure. Here, a giant mushroom grows continuously, emanating a pulse energy that serves as the life foundation of every existing creature in the game. Kamiya claims that 80% of this world will be familiar, Earth-like even, while the remainder will be environments shaped by the Pulse energy. He wants to strike a balance between fantasy and reality and play with the conventions of both. Gameplay footage looks exciting and fresh, and has us really anticipating the release, even if it is delayed. That actually is encouraging and tells us that this project is in the right hands, especially as many games in the current gaming cycle are brought to public unfinished as developers rush to meet deadlines demanded by studios. Let’s hope Scalebound delivers big.
Now for more good news. Scalebound will be a four-player co-op game. That most definitely means online only. Probably. Rumors persist it might feature split-screen as well, though it seems unlikely given the epic size of the game and the current trend for online only, but there is an intriguing number currently on the Xbox Store that sparks curiosity. Make of if what you will.
We still have a long way to go before Scalebound gets released. There is no official date yet and there has been little in terms of news of late. Stay tuned.