Scarlet Blade Hands-On Preview
ByDate: 03-04-2013 Views:
Chances are you've heard of an MMO called Queens Blade by now. Developed by Liveplex, news for the original game filtered into North American consciousness based on some very obvious surface elements. Namely, Queens Blade features a cast of all-female playable characters in various states of undress. A quick image search* will return plenty of pixelated nudity; a key component of the way marketing for the original game has been perceived here in the west.
*User discretion is advised: lots of promo images for Queens Blade would fall squarely in the NSFW category
When I first discovered that Queens Blade would be localized for North America, I considered it a fairly bold move for publisher Aeria Games. While their current lineup of free-to-play games is already somewhat eclectic, I found it interesting that their next release would be one that falls squarely in the M for Mature category based on plenty of in-game nudity.
Rebranded as Scarlet Blade for the western market, the game itself has been changed very little. One massive difference I’ve noted, however, is that a lot of the marketing around Scarlet Blade focuses on the actual gameplay, while being a heck of a lot more tactful about the obvious sexiness of the female cast.
Last week I had the opportunity to sit down and get an early look at Scarlet Blade before it heads into closed beta. My primary mission was to discover how rich the gameplay is, and whether or not the game is worthy of people’s MMO gaming time based on the combined merits of gameplay richness and the overall fun factor.
Beauty Isn't Only Pixel Deep
I've heard the sentiment time and time again that MMO gamers don’t really care about graphics. That fancy particle effects, environments, and depth of field sliders don’t really matter at the end of the day if the core game isn’t any fun. I’m going to ask those of you who fall into that camp to assume for a moment that should apply to the overt sexiness of Scarlet Blade.
Sure, there will absolutely be people who choose to play (or run away from) Scarlet Blade based on the nudity and super girly aspects alone, but it would be a shame to assume that any beauty the game has to offer is only pixel deep. For what it’s worth, you should also be aware of the fact that there is actually a perfectly viable reason why all playable characters are female. I’m going to avoid any major plot spoilers here, but there is actually a solid storyline and lore reasoning behind this decision.
Getting Into the Game
When you first jump into the game, you’ll be asked to choose from one of the two main factions: The Royal Guards or the Free Knights. A quick summary of the two can be seen in the handily placed image below:
A big component of the factional split is due to the massive PvP system. Unlike the relatively small team sizes found in most MMO PvP matches, Scarlet Blade features battles on the scale of 80 vs. 80. While I didn’t get to play any battles on that scale during my hands-on time, our roughly 4v4 match was plenty hectic and fun once you factor in the difficult NPC enemies you’ll either be fighting against or defending.
Once your faction is selected, you’ll be able to do the usual class selection and character customization. In terms of the available classes, these are:
Defender: This is the main tanking class, featuring high defense and moderate melee damage
Shadow Walker: This is the main rogue style class
Whipper: This is an interesting melee DPS class that focuses on AoE damage
Punisher: The punisher is the ranged equivalent of the whipper, dishing out primarily ranged AoE damage
Sentinel: This is more of a pure range class that does decent single-target damage
Medic: As the name suggests, this is Scarlet Blade’s primary healing class
As you can tell from the basic descriptions above, Scarlet Blade largely conforms to the tried-and-true holy trinity approach to classes and group combat. Group dynamics and roles took a little bit of time to get used to during my hands-on time, but then again I did attempt to run through a dungeon on my defender with only a medic in my group.
The defender does a decent job of area taunts, and wasn’t all that bad in terms of damage output. I’ve been pretty spoiled by the more active combat systems seen in MMOs over the past couple of years, but at the same time that helped me appreciate the relatively slower pace of combat in Scarlet Blade. It wasn’t as slow as something like taking a full two minutes to solo a single mob on my necro in EQ, but on my defender I also wasn’t killing mobs in under 5 seconds which has become more of the norm in recent games.
While there is a dedicated healing class, you’ll also be making prolific use of consumables to quickly replenish health or energy to use your active skills. A third resource allows you to temporarily use a giant mech that tends to be even more badass than your base class, and also has a suite of unique skills that can help change up combat quite a bit.
Hurray for Sci-Fi
For what it’s worth, I still think sci-fi is underrepresented when it comes to MMOs. Of those that do exist, there’s a bit too much of a tendency towards the gritty industrialized Battlestar Galactica vibe, or else it devolves into laser beams and robots.
Scarlet Blade dances somewhere between those two extremes, blending more realistic outdoor environments with high-tech interior spaces complete with plenty of neon. For a good example of the latter, below you can see a quick view of the interior of a faction-neutral club where players will be able to hang out and socialize:
Some other interesting systems worthy of note include things like unlockable images. In the example below, you can see that new images will unlock every few levels. At that point, you can spend gold to clear individual tiles, eventually revealing the full image. This almost reminds me of console game ‘extras’ where you can unlock things like concept art to view from the main game menu. A key difference in Scarlet Blade is that unlocking the full image will grant you a flat amount of XP, so they’re more than just a basic cosmetic unlock.
While my hands-on time was relatively brief, it provided a nice little shapshot of what the game is all about. For a game that has such an obvious graphical presence, I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Scarlet Blade offers a lot of depth. For all intents and purposes, it’s a free-to-play game that attempts to offer a sizable slice of what you can find in AAA subscription games, and a fun one at that.
Closed beta will be kicking off soon, so if you're interested in checking the game out for yourself, you can sign up for the beta on the official Scarlet Blade site.