After the sudden and brutal cancellation of Microsoft’s would-be exclusive Scalebound and the company scrubbing all trailers from its Xbox YouTube page, I am left wondering why. Should we be mourning the loss of what might have been a decent Xbox exclusive? The why has been answered in part, as according to Eurogamer, “the relationship between Microsoft and Osaka-based developer Platinum Games dramatically soured” after Gamescom 2016. Work on the game became seriously delayed when “several senior members of the development team were forced to take a month away from the pressure of the project's heavy workload.” They of course returned later, but the game was already way behind schedule, especially with “continuing issues surrounding the game's engine and overdue deadlines.”
That said, I think the more important question here is whether Scalebound is worth mourning. Did Microsoft simply kill it before grew into an ugly duckling or was it going to be the prodigal swan of gaming? I admit, I thought it looked awful at E3 2016. I was prepared for an epic mythology around dragons and humans until the main character pulled on his headphones. After that, it just looked like what could have been all right multiplayer like Monster Hunter, focused on defeating huge bosses with a team. Even then, the monster design was very Zelda-like, and simplistic in that way. Here's the big shiny jewel, guess where you should hit? I could predict what the players in the trailer were going to do and it didn't even have the decency to look as detailed as I have come to expect from Xbox One games.
That said, Scalebound had a lot of potential. To hear Director Hideki Kamiya talk about the game, it certainly sounds like that glimpse of mythology I was hoping for was there. It was to be an “action RPG... in a very large non-linear world” where a “dragon who is bonded to you” and who behaves as an independent creature alongside Drew (the headphone-wearing character), rather than a strictly responsive vessel for your button prompts. Kamiya is certainly not shy about sharing his love of Scalebound, as this game was not intended to be a “typical, expected fantasy world. So to put a twist to that, this human, Drew, comes from our modern world, which would allow us to tell a story that has maybe not been told before, but yet is still believable.” If only the trailers and gameplay videos had told this story, at least enough to hint at its existence! I saw no RPG elements at all, much less a twist on a typical fantasy world.
This game looked like a twist on a Monster Hunter game more than anything else. The similarities are too strong to ignore in my opinion. However, that doesn't mean it couldn't have been a fun game. I have no way of knowing if the gameplay feels better than what was being shown. As with most multiplayer titles, the fun is in playing, not watching. Even if the game lacked in story, I would have been just as happy with a great sense of gameplay.
So on one hand, I might be wrong, Scalebound was a great game all along, and my view is obscured by the lack of personal experience playing it. On the other hand, maybe there really was nothing more to Scalebound than what might have been a decent multiplayer monster slayer. The game certainly didn't capture our attention as much as For Honor did, and that game doesn't have any dragons at all. I don't think Scalebound is worth mourning too much, but I can understand why others would like to have seen it come to its full fruition before it was brutally cancelled.