Scarlet Nexus Xbox Series X Review

June 24, 2021

Scarlet Nexus feature

Scarlet Nexus was one of the first Xbox Series X games we saw, when it was announced in May last year. The debut trailer introduced us to the game’s anime-esque art style, its focus on psychokinetic (think telekinetic) abilities and also its action-RPG combat. It presented both art and combat styles we were already used to but promised some unique aspects with its story told from two sides and focus on character’s psycho abilities abilities. In the end, Scarlet Nexus combines an interesting story and style, with combat that feels lacking and mission design that borders on terrible.

Scarlet Nexus centres around one of two protagonists: Yuito Sumeragi and Kasane Randall, with the specific protagonist focused on being chosen at the beginning of the game. Who you choose will determine the party you have throughout the game and has large impacts on where you go and many of the story moments you’ll experience; two playthroughs are absolutely necessary if you want to get the full narrative experience from the game. Both Yuito and Kasane are cadets in the Other Suppression Force (OSF). The OSF is charged with protecting the city of New Himuka and its inhabitants from the mysterious Others. Not much is known about the others, beyond that they’re horrific beings that descend from something in the sky called the Extinction Belt, love to eat human brains and must be annihilated to keep people safe. While that sounds pretty straightforward, and it is early on, the story quickly devolves into conspiracy, political intrigue, and choice and consequence. There are some interesting twists and turns, and it’s relatively well paced, creating a story that I was eager to continue.

While I say the story is relatively well paced, that begins to fall apart later in the game due to its structure. The game is basically told in two parts: First you complete a story chapter and then you complete an intermission where you can grind, complete some additional quests and talk to your party members. Talking to your party, along with using them in combat or giving them presents, causes your relationship level to increase, giving you bonuses in combat and triggering new Bond story episodes to see. These are a lovely way to pass the time early on, but once the party grew to its full size I found myself spending an hour plus just sitting through conversations if I wanted to hit everything available in a standby phase. These went from being an interesting interlude to being an active deterrence due to the time required.

Another area the story in Scarlet Nexus falls short in somewhat is in its presentation. The vast majority of the game’s story is presented using comic-style panels with characters and small bits of animation. It’s not terrible by any means, but it’s made worse by the very infrequent cutscenes that are occasionally present through the more action-oriented sequences. Those cutscenes themselves are great, with some well-done action choreography and character models that look fantastic. The problem is that they present the highest points of the story’s presentation and therefore highlight just how lacking its presentation is most of the time. I just wish those cutscenes instead formed the majority of the story presentation, as opposed to the minority.

Scarlet Nexus story

Much like its story, Scarlet Nexus’s combat is another combination of highs and lows. Where its combat differs from other action-RPGs is how your different abilities work. Characters in the world of Scarlet Nexus connect to each other through the use of SAS, a combination digital-telepathic network that links them together. Through this connection, your protagonist is able to borrow the abilities of their party for short periods of time, effectively augmenting themselves. This is where the game’s combat truly excels. Enemy types are built around requiring the usage of different party members abilities to take them down. This means pulling in clairvoyance once an enemy shrouds the battlefield in smoke or turning invisible to sneak up on an enemy that hides behind a shield when you approach it. This brings a great layer of strategy to combat, as you utilise your party members abilities to more effectively pick enemies off and work your way through combat.

Unfortunately, there are a couple of issues with the game’s combat that harm the experience. The first of these is the game’s targeting system, which feels both too restrictive and loose at the same time. Locking on will centre the camera on an enemy, but it won’t stop your character from going in a completely different direction when you actually launch your attack. It lead to plenty of situations where my character simply flung themselves past an enemy with a sword swing, despite the enemy being right in the middle of the screen thanks to the lock on. The other big issue is how the game increases its difficulty/stakes in combat later in the game: simply throwing multiple big spongey-enemies that soak up the damage at you at the same time. Early on, the introduction of new enemies helps keep the game feeling fresh, but the later you get in the game, the more frequently the same enemy types are repeated. It gets particularly bad in the last couple of dungeons in the game, where you have to clear multiple floors, each with multiple encounters featuring multiple of the game’s bigger enemies. I found myself running through 10-30 seconds of empty environment, before spending minutes clearing out the two to three waves of damage-sponge enemies the game threw at me. Rinse and repeat 3-5 times per floor, over 3-6 floors. It felt like the game was being padded out to increase its length and actively harmed my enjoyment of it.

On a more upbeat note, Scarlet Nexus looks absolutely fantastic. Anime-styled action-RPGs aren’t exactly a unique experience nowadays, with many of them not stacking up on the technical side. This is where Scarlet Nexus definitely has one up on the competition. Characters look fantastic and well detailed, environments have plenty of clutter and props (although this definitely decreases later in the game) and there is hardly a jagged-line in sight. Combined with some good animation, and the game looks absolutely fantastic in motion and in stills. The game’s voice acting is also relatively well done, with only a few moments where I found the quality lacking.

Overall, Scarlet Nexus is a game that could be great, but is held back from that by its worse aspects. It looks great, and its combat and story are both intriguing, but held back by content bloat and design decisions that actively lessen the experience. The game is definitely better than your average anime-styled action RPG, but it’s not quite the home run I’d hoped for.

Scarlet Nexus was reviewed on an Xbox Series X with a review copy provided by the publisher. The game will also be available on PC, PlayStation 4 and PlayStation5 when it releases on June 25th. For more information, check the official website.


- Interesting combat mechanics
- Game looks great
- Characters and story are intriguing


- Too much bloat towards the end
- Not enough cutscenes
- Lock-on is frustrating

Overall Score: