Scarlet Blade: Not what everyone says it is.

Disclaimers

  • This is not a review by a highly experienced MMO gamer with a lot of street cred. I study games, people, and game design. I am not a “gaming expert”.
  • This post is not going to attack this game for the offensive nature of this game in terms of human sexuality, representation of females, or any of the other “mature” shock value elements added to this game. It’s there.
  • I have invested more time in this game than the average reviewer. This may make me biased, or it may make my review more complete. You decide.

Today, I would like to right a wrong. Today, I’d like to give this game a fair hearing. Let’s take a non-inflammatory look at Scarlet Blade.

The Story

The Base at Encocia (lvl 1-20)
The Base at Encocia (lvl 1-20)

Yes, this game has a story! I know, right? Before I tell you what a good story this game has, just to get it out of the way, I will address the “mature” nature of the content briefly. There is ridiculous innuendo throughout what I would consider to be the “first chapter” of the game. Honestly, the game seems to be poking fun at the whole MMORPG genre in a big way. I think that anyone who doesn’t see the obvious satire here, just doesn’t “get” the game at all. Seriously, if this game’s graphics and and bad sex puns legitimately turn anyone on, that person is not “mature” by any stretch of the imagination.

I’ve heard this game criticized as having “basic theme-park questing”, though I do not agree. Someone clearly spent a lot of time on the the story line and the lore of this game. Not only is the story well developed and unique, particularly from the player-avatar relationship perspective, but there’s also a lot of hidden shout outs to secret societies and conspiracy theories from our own world. Some of these play a major underlying role in the plot, while others are just mentioned as a backdrop to the story.

The quests, although repetitive, fit into the game’s lore perfectly and the explanations actually made sense (whoa!) ~Crazy Apple

You can get a brief glimpse of the back story, the game prologue if you will, here. The game picks up the story nicely from this point. There are two factions you can choose from, but the story content is essentially identical for both. The factions don’t really come into play until later in the game. Honestly, I’ve grown to see Scarlet Blade as two different games. There’s the story line, which is highly individual, apart from team dungeons and the like. Then there’s the world of PvP, which really opens up around level 25, when you can enter Caergate, the level 25-29 PvP zone. I’ll get more into faction warfare in the PvP section. For now, let me address the whole player-avatar relationship piece, which relates to story but also relates to the basic mechanics of the game.

Mechanics

In most MMOs, indeed most games, the character on screen is assumed to be an independent entity as far the rest of the game world is concerned. The player does not exist, the player is the character.

In Scarlet Blade, however, the female character on screen is an Arkana: a genetically engineered or modified being designed for combat. The player is the Commander of the Arkana, the one who controls it. It’s sort of the equivalent of a drone being flown by a pilot back at base.

Except the drone is sentient. ~Coriel 

This is possibly the most ground-breaking element of the game, which, despite the hyperbolic nature of the characters themselves, brings about a host of moral and ethical questions for the player. In this game, you are you. Your Arkana (avatar) is your sentient drone. She talks back to you, often bringing up deep cutting topics, such as comparing mind control to rape, and questioning your power to end her life on a whim (delete your character).

From a game mechanics standpoint, this game is pretty straightforward. It is a tab targeting, hotkey combat MMORPG. That said, this is the most fluid tab targeting / hotkey combat system I’ve ever used, and the various skill builds you can make for each character class really provide a lot of variety in game play. I have read complaints that armor is all the same, but that is far from true. I have found that you not only need to pay attention to the overall rarity / quality of gear but also to the individual stats each piece has and whether or not those stats compliment your other gear, your skill set, and a number of other factors, such as jewels, accessories, and randomization. Seriously, there are a lot of moving parts to this game. For anyone who accused this game of being overly-simplistic, “theme-park” trash, I challenge them to level a character to at least level 35 and come to Viledon. This where the game really begins to get interesting from a social and PvP standpoint.

PvP

Janus... must be calle Yanus in Korea
Janus… must be called Yanus in Korea

I’m not a Killer by nature, so I may not be highly qualified to talk PvP. Nonetheless, this game has a PvP system that I even like. Sadly, no one gets to experience any real quality PvP until they reach level 25 (29 really) and are well geared for that bracket. The battle grounds are decent fun. The contested zones are awesome. This is where you’ll make friends, gain rivals, join guilds, and basically experience the social aspect of the game.

There are two factions in the game, the Royal Guards (RG) and the Free Knights (FK). These factions are basically at war in all shared zones, with the exception of the lounge. There are, of course, players on both sides that claim the ones on the other are all jerks. Honestly, just like real life there are jerks everywhere. I’ve only played RG, but I still get along really well with most FK I’ve talked to, even ones who slaughtered me mercilessly an hour earlier. The FK are my opponents in a game. They are not my real enemies. We have essentially entered into a contract to play and enjoy a game together. If you keep that firmly in mind and ignore the haters, PvP becomes crazy fun. Think of it as a pick up game of basketball with your friends. 

There are three functional PvP brackets in Scarlet Blade at the moment. There’s the level 29 bracket, including the contested zone Caergate, which has a very hi-tech, subterranean techno-punk vibe. There are two active hourly battlegrounds for this bracket as well, Turnpike and Janus. Players gearing for this level need Rare quality gear, which on average, costs the in-game cash equivalent of 50.00 USD, and probably closer to 100 or more to be OP, as it were. There is a cash shop, but one cannot just go there and buy $50.00 worth of equipment and be done. The cash shop sells some stuff you need in game, but you likely have no idea what to do with said stuff, until you spend time, in-game, getting to know the game. The rest of the stuff for sale is mostly cosmetic in nature, corrective (helps you reset crap you messed up), or provides other bonuses. You can use that stuff, or you can sell it in the in-game auction house and then buy the gear you actually need from the same auction house. This creates an interesting in-game economy that is slightly different than others I have experienced.

Escorting the hauler in Viledon
Escorting the hauler in Viledon

The level 30-39 peeps go to Viledon. This zone has a real Mad Max, post-apocalyptic wasteland feel. There are three active hourly battlegrounds for this bracket, including Turnpike, Janus, and Soccer Pitch. Players gearing for this level need Unique quality gear, which on average, costs the in-game cash equivalent of 100.00 USD, and probably closer to 1,000 or more to be OP, as it were. Again, this is not always real money. If you’re patient and poor, like me, you can do a lot in-game without dealing in real cash. It just takes much longer. If you are impatient and rich, you can drop a few hundred bucks in the cash shop, sell what is valuable in the Auction House, and buy your way to in-game awesomeness by playing the auction market or trading with other players.

Finally, there are those who “go end-game”, sometimes by accident and sometimes on purpose. I don’t even want to consider the cost of gearing for this level. It is insane right now, which is why I believe Aeria is losing players. End game players experience PvP action in Nemesis and Ellis and the following battlegrounds: Soccer Pitch, SirenSecond ArkAtomic Bunker, and Alkasava*.

Surprises & Community

Killing monsters in sensible heels...
Killing monsters in sensible heels…

The biggest surprise of this game is the community I have found here. Considering the coverage this game has gotten on various review sites, I half expected to find a bunch of emotionally stunted, immature men and boys running around making sex jokes in shout chat and hitting on each other’s avatars (creepy). The shout chats do happen occasionally, and I’m sure that the emotionally stunted immature pervs are here. What I have encountered on a personal level, though, has been surprising to say the least.

First of all, having grown men play with dolls has an undeniable softening effect. Even though the game dynamic assumes that the player is not the character on screen, a certain amount of role playing does naturally happen. There’s something about standing around in not-so-sensible heels that makes most everyone I have interacted with considerably friendly, congenial, and emotionally open. I have learned more about people’s real-life emotional hurts in this game than I have in my church, my workplace, or in any other game, for that matter. Either there is an inordinate amount of broken hurting people in this game, or the nature of the game makes people more comfortable sharing their hurt. I guess there’s something disarming about standing around as a half-naked female. On a side note, those playing the one recently-introduced male character class, the Cyber Blade, tend to be far less emotionally open and in some cases, generally arrogant and rude.

Second, I have met more empowered, self-assured and downright “normal” women in this game than I expected. They’re, for the most part, no more degenerate or “pervy” than women in any other game. They, perhaps more than anyone, tend to get the obvious satire. One woman, a captain in my guild, who is far younger than me and whom I would never have even crossed paths with in real life, despite facing the issues and insecurities of any young woman, has gained our total respect. Also, I should mention that she is a complete bad ass and can whoop most all of us.

Management

The only complaint I have about Scarlet Blade is it’s management (or mismanagement) by Aeria. It seems almost like they don’t even “get” the game they are managing. Their advertising and promotion have totally built into the stereotype of the game with little to no attempt at lightheartedness or being tongue in cheek. If they realize a large portion of this is a goof, then they haven’t done a good job of letting us know that. Their advertising and promotion of the game says little to nothing about the strong story, the amazing PvP elements, or the amazing landscapes, dungeons, and battlegrounds.

They are trying, somewhat haphazardly, to improve drops and incentives for people to go end-game, but the cost of gearing for levels 40-54 is prohibitively high at this point. I have a friend who accidentally leveled to 40 in a battleground one night with his main character. That character has pretty much become a farmer that funds his other characters at this point. It may take him years to gear for end game, unless he hits the lottery big time and is willing to spend the proceeds on this game.

Final thoughts

I feel awful for liking this game, but it is so good. I’m actually really sad when I hear people saying that it is dying. I wish I could say I loved League of Legends or WoW or Neverwinter or Blade & Soul or even Kabod. I’m not sure how it happened, but I love Scarlet Blade. So, if you’re looking for a game to play, you’re at least 18, and you don’t mind being sucked into a game with ridiculous hyperbolic innuendo and mildly offensive graphics, then come join us! I bet if you try it, you’ll love it too. Let’s keep SB alive. We need some new players. Message me if you need help getting started. I have character on almost every level (and friends on the rest), and I would love to help you get started. On a side note, the game now uses Gameguard, and the pervasive hacking and bots that many bloggers have flamed about are completely gone.

Notes:

*Note: I have not gone end-game, so I may have some inaccurate info here about the PvP experience. Please correct me if I am wrong.

Refrences:

Here are some articles referred to above or used in the writing of this post. Enjoy.