Early Access: Scarlet Blade Pt 3 – Overall Impressions
By Darren Henderson (DizzyPW), OnRPG Editor-in-Chief
The graphics in Scarlet Blade are something I’ve probably put the most thought into prior to this write-up. It’s honestly a bit of a love-hate relationship. Do I love them? No I think they feel dated and the girls are a bit too doll-like as a result. Do I hate them? Can’t say that either as the environments are masterfully crafted and despite the slightly dated graphics, they did a fantastic job of creating an art style that distinguishes Scarlet Blade from just about any other MMORPG that comes to mind. They do a perfect job creating that feel that you’re on Earth, but it’s not our Earth anymore. Everything feels alien and you never know what might come at you next. The mob design seemed pretty creative and sometimes just plain odd but it was a good change of pace from trolls and goblins.
The characters’ costumes and overall body type also function not only as an awesome marketing tool to get you into the game, but also as perfectly distinguishable skeletons that let you identify what class your opponent is in roughly a second. The class skills are also plenty flashy but you won’t see too many repeated animations as each class has a fighting style all their own. A veteran player will see the way a Defender is swinging their sword and say ‘oh hey that’s a long range stun, I better do what I can to prepare for it and counter’ and in the end little touches that improve gameplay is what I feel matters the most when it comes to graphics. Well that and avoiding jerky movement and clipping, which I saw very little of amidst the chaos of the battlefield. Hopefully that remains the same on the live servers where ping is involved so people can experience the same fun I had at the event.
Scarlet Blade also presents an aesthetically pleasing UI. Fonts are clear and easy to read. Quests menus are organized and offer quick minimize features to help with sorting and quick navigation. The skills are laid out in compact rows of just the right size, though I was a little confused that the top skill bar didn’t have hotkeys so the devs need to get on that asap as the PvP in this game is far too fast to be relying on push to click controls. The mini-map can be increased and decreased in size as well as have its opacity adjusted. It’s easy to create and invite people to parties and I had no problem setting party rules on the fly. And the target HP bars were just the right size and I liked the addition of being able to see who your selected target was targeting, both from a PvE and PvP standpoint. Overall the UI doesn’t offer anything new but presents the level of UI that the industry should expect in this era.
Pedobear has met his match
And finally it would be a poor job on my part to talk about the graphics without bringing up the exosuits and mechs. I absolutely love the stylized mechs that Scarlet Blade brings to the table. For those not in the know, your character has a CP meter that allows you to summon exosuits (powerful PvP only suits you may have noticed in vids such as the new PvP trailer’s opening image) that boost your stats to allow you to engage against the intense damage opponents throw your way, as well as the mechs that basically act the same but with boosted HP, a massive hit-box, and new skills to engage your foes with to change the tides of battle. And call me a SciFi nerd if you must, be these mechs are sexy. They managed to make something both hot (by still showcasing your Arkana’s curves in most mech designs) while also having all the size, weight, weaponry, and firepower that a novice player will think twice before engaging you once you transform into one. And just like the class skeletons, each mech is easily distinguishable from each other so you will still know exactly what you’re up against when facing off in PvP.
Sorry if anyone is still reeling from Rosario + Vampire’s Season 2 editing. No actual bats will cover nipples in the Scarlet Blade!
Gameplay and Questing
While the majority of the time I spent on the title was in the PvP battlegrounds, I did check out the introduction to the game and can’t stress enough how well done the localization is on this game. No I don’t just mean they have good translators. I mean its clear that the localization team had a blast working with such a unique title and the mature rating let them really cut lose and throw some great comedy into the game’s dialogue. The addition of the Commander/Arkana relationship also adds a bit of flavor to the mix as your own character will comment on the situations you get into, keeping things entertaining the whole way through.
I was particularly fond of the tutorial girl telling me I’d get in trouble if I skipped her tutorial. And surprisingly her wearing a shirt 5 sizes too small helped me pay attention.
Unfortunately I can’t say if the questing system will be generic or not as I haven’t played enough of the game yet to know, but I will say that the dynamic way quests get delivered through dialogue keeps it more fun than the norm. The towns that do exist are pretty spectacular looking and the first one does an especially great job of showcasing some of the more advanced motorbikes and mechs to give new players that feeling of ‘oh wow I can become that one day?!’ (starry anime eyes included)
Remember if your Arkana isn’t intimately stroking your weapon, you’re doing it wrong.
Skill rotations seem well planned out and responsive. Having played my fair share of F2P MMORPGs from the east, having unresponsive skills or boring slow cast times is a bit of a pet peeve of mine. Thankfully every skill combo I tried seemed responsive with a fair mix of untargeted AoE skills and a fast smart tab targeting system that never gave me much trouble finding the target I needed on the fly. Hopping on my mount or jumping into my mech suit is just as fast-paced and the fact that you can save a separate skill bar of hotkeys for when you are in your mech suit is a nice touch. And while that might seem like a no-brainer feature to include, there’s quite a few developers I’ve had to deal with in recent months that just don’t get it yet.
And last but (to some people) not least is you can acquire nifty pets to accompany you in your journeys. Sure they don’t fight your battles for you as in some unbalanced MMORPGs out there, but they do offer witty commentary and can do nifty things like pick up your loot for you. And who doesn’t want a hentai-bot of their own to keep you company on the occasional lonely solo grind nights? Of course if the PvE gameplay ever starts to get dull, Scarlet Blade has you covered with a few PvP options.
Back in my day MMORPG avatars were seen and not heard
PvP Benefits and Faction Rivalry
The primary form of PvP functions through a queue system similar to titles like Warhammer and The Secret World so you don’t have to go too far out of your way to get into the action. What’s more, you can even earn gold, experience, and other rewards from fighting in PvP so you power levelers don’t have to curve your playstyle just to be the most efficient out there. You can even earn rank points and dog tags dropped from defeated players that can be turned in to unlock must have end-game goods like skills, better exosuits, and other goodies I’m too novice to understand. Also there is the ever important bragging rights and faction pride. The end of each match shows your kills, deaths, and assists in battle and you are rewarded contribution points based on your performance.
Reporting the other press members for getting owned by Aeria’s GMs. Reporting Aeria’s GMs for God-Mode hacking!
But what if you’re an open world pk enthusiast like myself and want to specifically go out of your way to force the opposite faction to pay attention to you? There are some open world PvP maps (I believe most are end-game but I it needs to be confirmed). These maps are huge and designed to have perfect balance between the two factions, meaning expect symmetrical layouts for the most part. These maps also tend to house the most powerful fighters of the Narek invasion and drop some of the best gear and crafting materials you’re going to find from killing monsters so don’t think this zone is purely for pkers. In the end you’re going to need to overlook faction rivalries and learn to work together if you want to make sure the best mats are backing your side in the never-ending feud between Royal Guards and Free Knights. Oh there’s one other little piece of the PvP puzzle that sets this game above most faction-based PvP titles in my book.
Don’t look at me like I’m crazy. Clubbing is so key to the rivalry between the two factions! The club not only offers a stylish location for you to strip your Arkana down into her sexiest lingerie and shake your ass with unique club only emotes (whether cash shopped or learned through difficult in-game content), but it’s also the only neutral zone in the server where you can actually talk directly to members of the opposing faction. And that in my opinion, is a vital component to the success of any faction PvP title. Your enemies need to know your personality and vice-versa. Stories must be shared. Rivalries must be made. And break dancing battles must be fought (ok I might be dreaming a little too big now. A guy can hope!).
The club actually acts as a type of hub town as well since all the major crafters are here (but in appropriate dress-code approved attire) to make sure that your time at the club isn’t wasted. You can even buy your way into the VIP room where additional crafters stand along with strip-club quality dancers on a central stage and even a mixologist offering unique powerful potions that are only obtainable in the VIP room. Each faction has their own VIP room as well so it offers a charming little location for political plotting while giving your pets an experience boost. Though be ready as anyone that’s been to Vegas will tell you, VIP rooms don’t come cheap.
One final note on this game before I wrap things up is my appreciation for how seriously the developers are about creating a balanced economy that doesn’t result in too much inflation. Gold Sinks are to be found everywhere in this game and players will have to choose their purchases wisely. Need a skill? Want that bike?
Going to cost you. The club doesn’t run on charity my friends. Oh and don’t forget about the crafting materials you’ll likely be purchasing from the auction house. I guarantee there will be an auction house tax. Guild formation? Yup that’s gold. Earned enough dog tags and faction rank from pvping? Don’t expect to make your sweet purchase without including a little bit of gold as well. And of course my personal favorite:
You still have too much gold on your hands? Pay to unlock sexy wallpapers of the Scarlet Blade girls block by block. You know you want to see the whole thing!
I haven’t been impressed with very many titles being released in the last few months. Many press events lately have me watching the clock like a kid waiting to get out at the end of a boring session of school. Scarlet Blade on the other hand left me wanting more, with plenty of questions that still bother me as I sit reminiscing about my time playing a week later. I learned almost nothing about their guild system other than that it exists. Their crafting system seemed to have a bit more depth to it than the average game but alas I didn’t get to fiddle with it much either. And the PvP was addicting and made me mad that I didn’t get to test out the various styles of exosuits to test out how CP balancing impacts PvP tactics. I went into this press event thinking it was nothing more than a mediocre title riding on its skimpy ladies to carry an audience and ended up surprised that I was playing a rather bug-free, witty, and fun title.
Hopefully I’ve answered most of your questions regarding what it’s like to play Scarlet Blade but if not feel free to shoot them over in our Disqus comment section below or on our dedicated forums. JamesBl0nde will be hopping onto the beta servers shortly and can get the rest of your questions answered in his upcoming First Look video on MMOHuts!