"Even though Scarlet Blade isn't yet ready for release, nearly everything we played through was already translated to English, and the localization was one of my favorite parts of the game."
One look at Scarlet Blade – something, by the way, you should not do if you're at work – and you think you know what you're in for. We all know that sex sells, and it's easy to assume scantily-clad women is the entire point of this game. After all, if you know there's a subset of players out there willing to look at your game for a cheap thrill, why invest the time in making a compelling experience? The people at Aeria Games certainly had similar questions when evaluating Scarlet Blade as a potential localization. (Side note: The game is known as Queens Blade in its native Korea, and if you're familiar with the series, you know what you're getting into here.) They learned what I did in my brief hands-on time with the game: That while titillating visuals can bring people in, most people won't stick around unless there's actual substance to the game. I and other industry members were invited to a press event for Scarlet Blade last week, and, as it turns out, this title's looks might be deceiving.
Let's get the obvious out of the way: Yes, the outfits on the all-female cast are ridiculous and illogical. Meanwhile, the design of the game's mechs, enemies, and locales are delightfully detailed and gorgeous. The setting – a post-post-apocalyptic Earth – is not unlike something you'd see in Phantasy Star Online. Environments are a mix of futuristic backdrops and remains of once-great cities, now overgrown with vegetation. It makes for areas that are often beautiful, and sometimes even haunting.
Scarlet Blade is set on Earth in the far future, after an alien invasion has decimated the planet (they can never just stop by for tea, can they?). As a last resort to save humanity and end the threat of these Narak, a plan is put into place: The Ark. A vessel buried deep within the earth, the Ark is essentially a cloning facility. When the planet is habitable again decades into the future, the Ark will activate and humanity can start again. As this plan is being put into place, it's clear mankind can't defeat the Narak on their own, which is where the Arkana come in. Humanity places its hope on these genetically engineered super soldiers to restore order to Earth.
As the story goes, female subjects responded better to implants and modifications, which is why all Arkana are female. Six archetypes were created, which make up the game's classes: The Defender is your tank class, with high defense and HP. Shadow Walkers are designed for stealthy, close-range combat, and are the most lethal of the bunch. There's no getting around the clear dominatrix influence of the Whipper, though her use of whips makes her the go-to AOE melee class. And, frankly, there are not enough whips in games that don't also feature a Belmont. The Punisher and Sentinel classes both wield forms of firearms, though while the former blasts multiple targets at once, the latter focuses on speed and single enemies. Finally, there's the all-important Medic, who also can defend herself when needed. Aeria says that generally, single-player content in Scarlet Blade can be soloed with any class, Medic included. The classes are intended to be as balanced as possible, which is ideal given the game's emphasis on PVP.
While PVP isn't the only focus of the game, Aeria feels it will prove to be one of the most popular aspects, with a variety of modes available. In our time with the game, we tested one of the PVP battlegrounds, in a 4v4 match. The area was a little large for such a battle, but we learned it was a zone meant for 80v80 matches (!), which seems like it could get frantic, and fast. In addition to these 50v50 and 80v80 configurations, there will also be one-on-one duels. Aside from these closed-off battlegrounds, Scarlet Blade will also feature a dynamic, wide open PVP zone which will have players constantly vying for control for their faction of choice: the Free Knights or Royal Guards. Outside PVP, there's a special cross-faction zone where players can hang out and communicate with one another, as well.
Combat is, to a point, what you'd expect in an action-centric MMORPG. Choose your target, unleash your wide variety of attacks, and claim victory. That's over-simplifying it, of course, but you get the idea. I tested both a level 1 Whipper, and a pre-built high-level Defender. While the Whipper had only the most basic of moves, the Defender was armed with so much that I couldn't keep track of everything. The most important thing here is that the controls are super responsive. Any lag in a system like this could kill the whole thing, but what I played was fluid and effortless. Animations are well-done, and like the design of the game in general, quite stylish.
Characters have three types of bars: The requisite HP and SP (skill points, spent when, you guessed it, using skills), and CP. CP is the "fun" one – this bar fills up as you defeat enemies, and with a full bar, you can summon your very own Mech. Each class has a unique Mech, in essence an amplified version of the class itself. As you battle in Mech form, you're given access to a unique skill set and drastically-improved stats, though the CP gauge is used up the longer you stay in this form, so it's best used only when necessary.
Even though Scarlet Blade isn't yet ready for release, nearly everything we played through was already translated to English, and the localization was one of my favorite parts of the game. While you control your choice of Arkana, you the player are actually that Arkana's Commander, and she'll talk to you during the game about her mission and thoughts on other characters. The Arkana can be flirty at times, and delightfully sarcastic at others. Every piece of text I came across was well-written, and often humorous. I dare say if other MMORPGs had such engaging dialogue on quests and missions, more people might read it (I read all quest text in games anyway, but I feel like I'm in the minority).
There's even more to say that I couldn't fit in this preview. There's the nightclub, a zone where players can relax, socialize, and dance, that also features all the trappings of a city. This is where you go to store items, upgrade, craft, and more. There's even vending machines where you can spend a variety of currency (gold, points, and more) to buy anything from equipment to new emotes. I may have bought a few such as 'Shy' and 'Greeting,' and can confirm many emotes are just as flirtatious as you'd imagine. And yes, the nightclub does feature a VIP room. I'll let you use your imagination for that one.
They say you can't judge a book by its cover. An old adage, but a true one, and I admit I was guilty of breaking it in this case. While it remains to be seen if Scarlet Blade truly has the substance to keep players engaged, I sit here surprisingly optimistic about its chances.