As soon as I knew that I was going to be covering Scarlet Blade, the new title published by Aeria Games, I decided that I was not going to dedicate 1,000 words or so to discussing just how stupidly offensive the game is. I'll cover the issue of sexism in gaming through other avenues because I know that there are generally two types of players in MMOs: those who think this is a sexist industry and those who don't care. I will, however, concentrate on the gameplay. I am always ready to volunteer and cover weird or icky games like Scarlet Blade. After all, I can't comment on a game I haven't played. What I found wasn't really surprising, but it was relatively confusing.
Warning: Don't read the rest of this article if your boss is over your shoulder. Unless your boss is my boss, in which case it's OK.
If you've played any one of the dozens... no, scores... no, hundreds of games that mostly consist of a light grind followed by a heavier grind followed by an eventual payoff (usually around the 3,000-hour mark), then you won't find much that is surprising in Scarlet Blade. Of course, most of those other titles do not market themselves as adult MMOs or feature barely clothed women and children, so there's something sort of new that this game offers. The truth is that if I took the time to list off the MMOs that feature some sort of ridiculously clad female warriors and barely there armor sets for female characters, I would run out of room in this post. Gaming is treated as one big boys' play room, and most games feature development teams that are mostly male. Whether we like it or not, it's simply the unfortunate truth.
The troubling part of the adult MMO is not the inclusion of naked people. Heck, I adore Second Life, and it features more... unique players than most any other gameworld. I can avoid those leather-wearing swingers in Second Life, however. In Scarlet Blade, characters are literally half-naked from the beginning. And as I mentioned earlier, one of the coquettish character models is obviously a child. That's right: One of the character models is intended to be a 12 or 13-year-old child (the others appear to be in their 20s). It's gross, but I wanted to see how far it went. I know, I know... that sounds like a convenient excuse to check out more digital booty, but do you want the scoop in this article or not?
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Here's the weirdest part: If the designers decided to, they could patch the game and allow players to cover up all of the naked people and the game would appear to be just another run-of-the-mill grinder MMO. Heck, I'll go so far as to say that the sci-fantasy is pretty unique; the monster design is kind of cool. There are some nice sights and sounds in the world of Scarlet Blade, and the game even has mechs! Yes, giant robots are yours to control at level 17 even though much of their cool appeal is lost as soon as you notice the placement of holes in the armor that leave key body parts and the associated jiggle-physics open for all to see. The mechs quickly went from "Hey, that's pretty cool!" to "Hey, that looks like Giger designed it!" That isn't a compliment.
There's also some relatively fun PvP action in the game. I joined a queue, found myself surrounded by other players, and then fought against an opposing force of 20 or so. We squared off for a while, some of the players using those previously mentioned mechs to gain a short-lived upper hand. The mechs only last for a short while, basically like a buff, and seem to do only a bit more damage than usual. Group-play in general is a lot more fun that solo play, and I had no run-ins with crappy players or trolls while I played. The chat was mostly polite and friendly, actually. It was as though the collective hormone-choked air was hypnotizing every player, but I'm sure the trolls do exist.
The quests are literally so kill-ten-ratsian that I skipped every bit of quest text. I do this in order to test games that seem to be nothing but offer a grind, and almost every time I come to the same conclusion: I can play a game like Scarlet Blade without ever reading a single line of text.
I clicked on the admittedly convenient pop-up quest givers (that saved me a lot of walking) and accepted a quest, took an auto-route to my destination, hit tab to target the monsters, and literally tapped the 1, 2, and 3 keys over and over in no particular pattern and then clicked on the complete button.
Another quest would pop up and I would do the same. And then I would do it again. And again. I literally played this way until I stopped playing to write this article. If you watch the embedded livestream, you can hear the clickity-clickity-click on those three keys.
Look, I have no problems with games that are nothing but a series of kill-ten-rats quests. Heck, most MMOs are. The key is to appreciate the details, and Scarlet Blade actually has some nice details. Grinding isn't half-bad when you are in a decent group or when you are chilling with some friends. The mech suits and PvP fights in Scarlet Blade aren't as bad as they could be. The graphics are pretty good, the players seem relatively nice and the quest text is at least barely more than several lines. I hate mountains of quest text anyway.
The real issue with Scarlet Blade is the overwhelming, insistent, incongruous presence of half-naked women and children in a game about questing and fighting. Minus the obvious and incredibly sexist design, it's just illogical and immature to strip all your characters of their clothes and advertise a game as a virtual strip tease. It doesn't make me feel genuinely sexy; it makes me feel like a 12-year-old who just found Mom's new lingerie catalogue. This type of fanservice design is offensively useless. And just to add insult to injury, Aeria recently unveiled the male character models from the foreign version of Scarlet Blade, called Queen's Blade Online. Shocker -- the men appear to be fully clothed.
Do yourself a favor: Download Scarlet Blade right now. Drag the file onto a thumb drive. Take the thumb drive out back and smash it with a hammer. Then go play something else.
Next week I am checking out Dino Storm, a cool game that features dinosaurs and cowboys! You can watch me stream the game live on Monday, the 8th of April, at 5:00 p.m. EDT, right here on our livestream channel!
Each week on Rise and Shiny, Beau chooses a different free-to-play, indie, or browser-based game and jumps in head-first. It might be amazing or it might be a dud, but either way, he'll deliver his new-player impressions to you. Drop him an email, comment, or tweet!