This week I worked my full-time job, attended a Pediatrician appointment for my daughter (with my ex wife), helped my girlfriend decorate the house for the holidays, attended co-parenting counseling, scheduled days off of work next week for court appearances (because my ex has too much time and money on her hands), did some engagement ring shopping, took my kids to practices, took my son to get a haircut, had my future in-laws over for dinner, and built some bad-ass Lego creations with the kiddos. Tonight, I will attend a viewing, take the boys to basketball practice, and hopefully spend some time with my girlfriend. When I began seriously gaming two years ago, I rarely saw my kids, I had no girlfriend, I rented a small place in the middle of nowhere, and I essentially had no life. Gaming filled a serious void, gave me something to do at night when the loneliness was at its worst, and I made some great friends online, as crazy as that may sound to some. My life is now full and awesome (at least barring all the crap with my ex).
So, why did I spend so much time this week going through the frustration of trying to install Windows 10 in Bootcamp in High Sierra, which is a complete PIA process, not to mention being scary as eff? I’m getting itchy… I really really want to play a game. I miss it. Don’t get me wrong, I play plenty of games. First our home is like a board game wonderland. Second, I teach game design at my job and play a ton of student games made in everything from Construct 2 to Unity. Third, I recently revisited 1998 by putting FFVII on my iPhone and Baldur’s Gate on my iPad. Finally, I play games with my kids anytime I can. From Lego Marvel Superheroes to Rocket League, my kids play some fun games. Still, I’m not satisfied. Can I help it if I’m playing Rocket League with my 10-year-old and thinking of how much it looks like Soccer Pitch in Scarlet Blade? Playing these pithy little games feels like eating Oreos for dessert every night for months on end while all along I’ve been craving a chocolate mousse cheesecake.
Here’s the rub. I can no longer commit to being a gamer, at least not like I want to. It’s not that I can’t have boundaries and manage my life. The real issue is that I can’t keep up. Gaming is like a second career if you want to play with friends, which is what I want. I’m a social gamer. I really really miss Joe, Donnie, Chris, and Manjengaa. I really miss talking to them on Discord about weapons and bosses food and family and dungeons and pub crawls and arts and crafts to do with our kids. If I came back to Blade and Soul (the game I really want to return to) today, I would have to commit a good 80 + hours of pretty hardcore solid play to try to even reach an area where I could hang out with my friends in-game. Not to mention, I don’t know when I can play and when I can’t. My “free-time” (what is that?) schedule is so sporadic that I don’t know when I will be available or for how long. Also, no matter what, my family and my girl are going to take precedent.
So here I am, it’s 2017. I have a house full of commotion, family, love, and holiday decorative awesomeness. I also do not own a single PC. I have an XBox One, a Switch, A WiiU, 3 iPads, and 2 Macs. In the past 3 weeks, I’ve installed DDO, Runescape, and Guildwars 2 (the only non-WoW MMO’s that work on Mac) to my Mac, but I haven’t even set up a character yet. I doubt these games are going to scratch my itch any more that FFVII or BG. I miss Old Man Cho and visiting Yehara’s Mirage. Probably more, I miss Joe, Donnie, Chris, and Manjengaa. So, I installed Windows 10, and I’ve spent 3 days trying to get BnS to completely install (a process made futile by the ever present EO2014 error). Honestly, though, I don’t know what I’m going to do once I get it. I have 2 court appearances next week and the holidays are upon us.
Awhile back, I tried to establish a community of teachers to play games together, but that never really amounted to much. Either teachers don’t game, or they have no desire to do so socially. Perhaps I need to just work on a community of Adults with lives who also want to go on an occasional game binge.
I don’t know whether I will ultimately make it back. Maybe this intense craving will pass as I gorge myself on holiday food, make love to my girlfriend or play some new games with my kids. Maybe I will never get BnS to install and I’ll give up, a defeated and broken man… Either way, I just want my gaming peeps, Joe, Donnie, Chris, and Manjengaa, to know that I miss you, I really do value and cherish (hopefully that’s not too mushy) the times we spent hanging out when I was at my lowest. Thank you for everything, and I hope to hang with you again sometime soon. We’ll see what 2018 brings.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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, Siren, Second Ark, Atomic Bunker, and Alkasava*.
Surprises & Community
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 notthe 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.
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.
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.
*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.
Here are some articles referred to above or used in the writing of this post. Enjoy.
So, a lot has happened since I last posted here. I remember talking about my struggles with Scarlet Blade. I have not deleted this game three or four times since my last post or even repented of liking it. I have dived in with both feet. I have made a lot of progress in the game, which feels like the opposite of progress in my life, my social / emotional health, my physical condition, and even my spiritual walk. I still love the game. I feel awful for liking this game, but it is so good. I’m actually really sad when I hear people saying it is dying.
Side note: 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, come join us! 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 I would love to help you get started.
So, I’ve mentioned before that I am a Socializer (This refers to the Bartle Test. I am all about interacting, helping folks out, and making new friends. I have made some solid social connections in this game. Somehow, I got invited to one of the most bad ass, OP, PvP guilds in my faction, by the guild master no less, because I like talking to people and helping out. That, to me, a total n00b, is cray cray, as they say. I mentioned in an earlier post that finding other folks in-game that understand single-parenthood is difficult. Well, these folks are totally cool with my consistent in consistency. They get it because many of them have been there. I also have made some very OP friends in other guilds as well. I feel so humbled by the people I get to hang out with. Oddly, along this path I have found that there is a little bit of a Killer in me. Since my guild is so known for PvP, I have a bit of a target floating over my head, and the other faction tends to gank me to the exclusion of others in contested zones. This has me really focusing on my PvP game and working to become as OP as I can be on my meager budget.
Again, luckily I have friends, and I have my guild. I have found that OP friends not only help with acquiring gear, but often they have the best advice on what gear to acquire. 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. This is way more complex than the D&D I played as a kid.
Finally, I have to note that ultimately it is nice to go “where everybody knows your name”, as Gary Portnoy once said, even if it’s your character name. Yesterday afternoon, I logged on and bought a new weapon. I went to Viledon, a pvp zone, to try it out. When I arrived, I was immediately greeted with hellos all around and invited to a team. The screenshot above is from yesterday afternoon. I had so much fun, mainly because I was there with a group of friends. Over the last six months here in this imaginary world I’ve come to know and to care deeply about a number of people I will likely never meet in real life. I know their hurts, their struggles, and their dreams. I look forward to hearing about their lives. I pray for them when they are hurting. Say what you will about this, but I have found deep and profound community in this least likely of places.
I have to say, that I still can’t really talk about this game to my real-life friends. I feel ashamed for liking it so much. I feel like I’ve experienced a downward spiral into complete depravity for being so desensitized that I don’t even notice the overtones and graphics anymore. So what, I kill monsters in sensible heels… that’s not awkward at all…
So, have you ever just woken up one day and asked yourself, “How did I get here? Did I take a wrong turn one day? How did I let things go this far?” No, I’m not talking about my miserable divorce or any kind of chemical or physical addiction. Somehow, I ended up finding my game; the one I like… the one I can’t stop playing… the one I’m willing to spend money on… The problem is, it’s not a game you tell your friends about… or anyone for that matter. It is really embarrassing. I’m not even sure I want to tell you, my detached anonymous reader.
I wish I could say I loved WoW or Neverwinter or Blade & Soul or even Kabod. I’m not sure how it happened. I think someone recommended that if I like Blade and Soul, I should try Scarlet Blade. I think they thought I must have liked Blade and Soul for the character design rather than the game… One way or another, I ended up installing one of the most universally offensive games in the history of MMO’s on my computer. I had my doubts when it loaded for the first time, but I was feeling rejected and somewhat rebellious toward God so I played the introductory quest with a Punisher (PU) and a Whipper (WH). It’s a bit of a blur what happened between that and level 25, but suffice to say, I was having a good time. I love Scarlet Blade.
For one thing, the game runs smoothly on my crappy hardware and bad connection. I only lag or crash when in a huge multi-player event, like a monster spawn or pvp arena.
Second, the game is well made… surprisingly so. The story is really good. The NPC’s are voice acted well. The Arkana – Commander relationship the game is based on is unique and well conceived. The soundtrack is good. The tab targeting / hotkey combat system is probably the best I’ve experienced yet. The game is good.
Third, I have made social connections in the game. I have been included in guilds, team dungeon runs, and more. I have had players who possess way more in-game bad-assery than I do come to my aid when I was being spawn-camped by the opposing faction. Folks are generally nice and helpful in this game, which is more than I can say for any of the other games I tried, including WoW, Runescape, D&D Online, Neverwinter, Celtic Heroes, and Blade & Soul.
Finally, this game has one thing that no other game seems to have, at least that I can find, and I’ve Googled this a lot trying to find an alternative. This game boasts a character class that specializes in Melee AOE (Area of Effect) attacks. I can find classes in other games that might allow you to cleave more than one enemy every now and then, but we’re talking consistent AOE throw down on packs of mobs… by a melee, tankish character… not a wizard. That, in itself is worth the price of admission… which is free, unless you want to survive in pvp for more than five seconds.
The only thing that is bad about this game is the insane, over-the-top player character models. Saying you like this game for the game itself is similar to claiming you like Playboy for the articles. It may be true, but it sounds really fake, shallow, and ridiculous to anyone you try to explain it to.
I have struggled with this… a lot. I have deleted this game three or four times and repented of even liking it. I have given it up, reinstalled it, and gone whole weekends doing nothing else. My friends want to know what game I’m playing. My students ask what my favorite game is. I either lie or mumble some cagey answer. I feel awful for liking this game, but it is so good.
So, there it is. My guilty pleasure. It’s embarrassing, but it is what it is… Expect more posts about this amazing game.