Scarlet Blade | Hands on Preview
If you are here you've no doubt had at least a brief taste of what Scarlet Blade has to offer, Aeria Games does not shy away from the fact that there newest game is a mature MMO, and everything from the posters and trailers help in letting you know just that. If you are looking for scantily clad super-women with incredible powers and an even more incredible back-story then you've found the right place. Scarlet Blade is rated M for mature, but does the rating only apply to the avatars? Or does Aeria Games newest MMO offer a mature gameplay that's more than skin deep?
The lore behind the Arkana
In my interview with the Associate Producer of Scarlet Blade, Diana Hsu, I asked whether or not players will have to read through the pre-game lore in order to understand their Arkana's journey. She mentioned that while you don't necessarily need to understand the lore to enjoy the game, players can jump right in and still enjoy themselves, the story behind the Arkana and how they came to be, along with their role in the world will definitely make your stay in the game that much better.
You can find the complete story from the Narak Invasion to The Schism via the Scarlet Blade website, but I thought i'd give a quick overview that way you can understand some of the key players. Feel free to skip this brief 'lamens terms' introduction if you'd like to jump right in to the preview.
The earth has been invaded by the Narak, an alien race that has struck without warning, and has caused every nation on earth to unite to face this alien threat. As a last ditch effort the humans dropped nukes on their own planet in an attempt to finally turn the tide, but it did not go as planned. Humans had been building the Ark, a way for humanity to recover from even the worst catastrophe, even before the Narak invaded. The Ark would activate on its own, years after humans had been obliterated and be a way to re-start the population from scratch. The Ark would breed new humans along with a super-human race called the Arkana which were built to protect humans while they re-built the world. The Arkana are controlled by a human counterpart to make sure that they do not take on a life of their own and destroy the humans they are meant to protect. Now, a hundred years after the Narak obliterated all humans, the Ark has started to build up the earth's population. The only problem is that a rogue army of humans and Arkana are not happy with how things are going and have created their own cities and a war has broke loose between the two populations.
OK, now you know everything you need to know. Let's get in to the game.
In Scarlet Blade you begin by choosing which faction you want to belong to. You have the Free Knights and the Royal Guards. Each faction has the option of choosing between one of six different classes. You have healing and support classes, ranged and melee DPS classes as well as a tank/defense class. I don't want to bore you with the details of the factions and classes, you can look that up on your own as there is plenty of information found on the web.
Character customization is fairly simple, you can only really change the appearance of your avatar's face and hair. But there is good reason for that. Being that there is only one race in the game, players have to use strong visual clues from the appearance of the different classes to differentiate them in combat. There's a reason that the defender is so large, so that you know they are the tank class and can plan accordingly with your attacks. If players were able to change the height and width of their avatars it would defeat the purpose.
One key point that the publishers wanted us to know is that although it is an MMO and there is obviously a focus on playing with other players via groups and parties, that any of the classes can play the game solo. Obviously group dynamics play a huge role in a game like this, but it is great to know that if you don't feel like playing with a party or just want to do some quests alone that you are able to do so without too much of a problem.
The starting area in Scarlet Blade serves as a great introduction to both your character and the story ahead. You begin as a naked, lingerie-wearing, Arkana who has just been created by The Mother. Your first steps take you through a few NPCs as you gather bits and pieces of why you are here and what your goals are. After a brief tutorial in using your chosen Arkana's weapon it is time to be sent to the surface of a war-torn earth.
When your Arkana enters the earth you are on the continent of Chromia. Chromia has been battered and beaten by the years and years of war between the Narak and the humans. Whether you begin as the Free Knights or the Royal Guards, your world will be separate but look and feel exactly the same. The starting zone in Chromia is called Enocia. In Enocia you will begin with your journey with some fairly standard MMORPG questing including killing X amount of Y and collecting Y amount of X. The town of Enocia itself is located in the center of the zone which is surrounded by many areas like camps, lakes, marshes and canyons. Questing in Enocia will take you up to around level 20 before you head to the next zone, Mereholt.
Enocia itself has a lot of character with some fairly interesting monsters that take some trial and error to figure out their strengths and weaknesses. The first monsters we faced were some sort of beetle colony that had several different variations. I do recall facing a reddish beetle that after a few attacks blew up in my face and killed my character. I probably should have guessed by the name of it, something like a volcano beetle, that this was not a monster that I should face at level 1 with no idea how to control my character yet.
The UI in Scarlet Blade is fairly standard and is very customizable. You can move around any of the windows at any time to your exact specifications. You will find a map of the zone you are in, a list of all your skills, your characters current quests and anything else that you might need at a moments notice. There are different ways you can find your way along in your quests. There is an auto-run method that will take you to the next part of your quest, or you can use your own motor skills and the maps provided to journey your way through the environment.
Speaking of the environment, from the little that we were able to explore during our time in Scarlet Blade the world did offer some interesting takes on how the earth might look if it was ravished by aliens for hundreds of years. The developers did a great job with building creative and unique landscapes with some pretty intense detail given that the game can be downloaded at under 2GB (don't quote me on the size of the download, it may change). We've seen from prior press releases that Scarlet Blade will feature different biomes like mushroom forests, haunted mines, abandoned laboratories, maga-filled caverns and frozen wastelands.
During our short stint in game we didn't have enough time to really level up and get a feel for our characters. We were however given access to a much higher level character to try out for a bit in both PvP and in the normal game world. The highest level area in the continent of Chromia is called Barbiron. Barbiron will be for players at the higher end of the game, from about level 30-39. There is such a huge difference between the lower level characters that we started with to our higher level characters that it was difficult to get the hang of all the new skills, weapons, gear and powers that we had.
Our action bars suddenly had complete rows of skills that normally we would have hours of time invested in to know what everything does. Action bars can be accessed by both clicking of the mouse and by hitting the 1-0 keys and F1-F12. Each class has a set of skills that they will spend time leveling up as they progress. Some of the more interesting parts of the action bar are your very new Mech and Cyber skins as well as pets and bikes.
Your new skills
At level 10 you will have access to your very first pet. Each pet has their own personality and come in many different varieties and forms. Pets are free and they do not fight, but they do give your player certain boosts through both leveling up and attaching beta chips. Pets level up as you do in battle and as they do, you can add certain boosts to them. Beta chips are attached to pets as well and provide different levels of utility like being able to pick up items automatically rather than having to click every time.
Also at level 10 you are treated to your bike. The bike makes travel throughout the world a lot quicker and more stylish. I'm not sure if all bikes are the same, but my character had a tron looking bike that hovered just above the ground.
The Mech suit is a special skill that you get at level 15. Mech suits can be used in both PvP and in the game world. The suits offer the players a significant increase in both health and power. Mech suits can only be used for a short amount of time as they take your characters CP down as they are in use. The suits have their own special skills and are very useful in PvP battles when you are in a world of hurt and are trying to turn the tide on your opponent.
The Cyber skin is much like the Mech suit in that it raises both your HP and your attack power only just not as much. The Cyber skin is kind of like a halfway between your normal self and the Mech suit. While in your cyber skin your CP will decrease, only at a lower rate, but you can move much quicker than you could as a Mech. Again, the Cyber skin is very useful when partaking in PvP.
A Focus on PvP
From my interview with Diana Hsu, the Associate Producer of Scarlet Blade, it is apparent that the publisher and developer are spending a lot of effort on the game's PvP aspects. The world is split equally in two with both the Free Knights and the Royal Guards having identical zones and similar quests which helps keep the factions separate and the PvP balanced. In the middle of the world there are three zones that count as the PvP areas. Each area has a different purpose, one is for 1v1 battles, one is a dynamic open PvP zone and the last is for large scale PvP combat with up to 80v80 players battling it out in the enormous battlegrounds.
The PvP tournaments in Scarlet Blade are instanced with players opting to take part in PvP battles and queuing up through a simple in-game interface. The game will automatically que players up who are in a similar level for these tournaments which balance the teams and send players to the special zone where your faction has a base. The tournaments last around 15 minutes and feature players from both teams battling it out while the system keeps track of kills and deaths for each faction. At the end of the time limit ranks are given to players and points are given based on how well you did during the tournament. Players can then use these points to use on gear and other items to help them in-game and for PvP. From what I remember there are 4 different maps available for the battlefields.
The open PvP world is more of a free for all with a massive zone and unending, objective-based PvP. In this zone opposing factions will battle over control of certain locations while also taking part in key objectives to help get an advantage. Key objectives can be anything from boss mobs that drop epic loot to daily quests. During the open PvP or for tournaments players will drop medals and/or dog tags when they die which can be picked up by the enemy and spent in a vending machine for additional items and gear.
Mini Games and More
Scarlet Blade features many different mini-games and extra content that we weren't able to see anything during our short time with the game. There were some things that I was able to experience and can tell you about here.
Lounge / Nightclub
One of the more interesting parts of the game, and one that may cause a bit of a stir for some is the lounge/nightclub area. The purpose of this nightclub zone is to hang out and relax while showing off your Arkana's lingerie. The club can be accessed once you are level 25 and costs a certain amount of in-game gold. The club features NPCs where you can buy any of the items and gear that you need as well as a dance floor where your character will perform a special dance while hanging out with other players without the fear of monsters taking you down. Players in the lounge will get extra EXP bonuses for their pets as well as show off their avatar's lingerie while listening to an ever-changing selection of music. There is also a special VIP club that costs additional gold and has special added bonuses not found in the nightclub.
The puzzle system is a not so much of a mini-game but something worth mentioning here. When you gain levels through the game you are able to go to the puzzle section where there are about 15 or so different puzzles to unlock. Pieces are unlocked either via leveling up or paying some of your in-game gold for more pieces. The puzzles have 24 different pieces that when unlocked will reveal an often-times risque image that you can either use for your own viewing pleasure in-game or exporting it to your computer and using it as a background. A bit of a warning, or incentive, the puzzles do contain nudity.
The cards mini-game is played by finding random cards throughout the world as loot or by trading with other players and matching them up using standards poker style hands. Once you've matched up a certain poker hand you can turn it in for prizes which may include rare items and/or consumables for use in-game or during PvP.
The rest of the storyAs with all preview events we never get enough time to really dig in to the game and give it an honest review. What I do hope is that this article gave you a bit more information on what to expect when you finally get to try out Scarlet Blade for yourself. Aeria Games has told us that the closed beta will be starting very shortly so we will all get a lot more information on this game soon.
Visit the Scarlet Blade homepage for more details about the game and to sign up for the closed beta for this free MMORPG game.