Last week I was invited to get an early look at Aeria Games' upcoming fantasy MMORPG Scarlet Blade. According to the publisher, Scarlet Blade is looking to be the company's largest MMO launch to date. The company is putting all of its muscle and money behind the project and clearly believes there is a strong audience for it. So the real question is, what sets Scarlet Blade apart from the already crowded Free-to-Play MMO crowd?
The first and most obvious thing that sets apart Scarlet Blade is its visuals, namely its character models. Aeria Games is very upfront about this being a mature rated title and it intends to limit its player base to people who are over the age of 18. In fact, there is nudity in the game, your PC and various NPCs are often wearing revealing or see through clothing or are downright topless. Due to a rather convenient story contrivance, Earth's only hope against an invading alien army is a bevy of beautiful and buxom female genetically engineered super soldiers. As such, there are no male player characters in the game. Each class choice and customization option results in a beautiful and busty woman, with the exception of the Sentinel, for those who are a bit more into loli-style characters.
As you can tell from the screen shots, the women are also very scantily clad. Armor often consists of nothing but a bra and thong. Each class also has access to a mech suit mode which heightens their abilities for a short time. Yet, the funny thing is that when your PC enters this mech suit mode, their torso and breasts are somehow the only thing not covered by the mech's armor and are protruding from the front of these large machines. There is also a full lingerie system in the game, special undergarments that PCs wear underneath their already barely there outfits that confer some special bonuses when worn, but they are mostly cosmetic. In fact when you warp into the Delilah club, a special area where players can gather to talk, buy items, or just dance the night away in a swanky night club, your PC will instantly change into her undergarments.
It may seem as though I'm down on the games visuals, and to be honest it's not really my thing. I do, however, think there is a place and audience for a game like this. I constantly hear from people who love to pick the sexy female character when starting any new game with character customization. I'm also familiar with the common argument, that "if I'm going to stare at someone's butt in-game for the next 40 hours, I'd rather it be a cute girl's than a guy's." There is an audience for this game in the same way that there is an audience for Hooters. Of course, if Hooters didn't have good chicken wings you'd probably only go once.
So does Scarlet Blade have good chicken wings? If you like PvP then yeah, you might be satisfied. The game has a large PvP focus with large open world PvP zones, team matches, and all of the usual tropes that you'd expect from a modern MMO.
There are six classes in the game, each a fulfilling a standard MMO role. I got some hands-on time with the Shadow Walker, the game's Rogue class. I did have some fun in the press event team PvP match, but to be honest, we were thrown in with such high level classes with so many skills and abilities it was a bit hard to get your head around it all. But suffice it to say, the game part of Scarlet Blade seems solid.
As far as monetization goes, you can pay for convenience items like experience boosters or cosmetic items like new lingerie or skins for your pet. Basically, it follows the current standards found in modern F2P MMOs that don't adhere to pay-to-win gameplay models.
I think there is genuine potential to the game. Just like how Second Life had a large audience of people who wanted to inhabit and be around beautiful female avatars in a mature environment, Scarlet Blade will offer those same social hooks and a solid MMO at its core. In fact I find it a bit strange that while Aeria Games is putting so much effort behind the game, it seemed to dance around the most obvious and immediate differentiator Scarlet Blade has, the character models. I mean, if you choose to play this MMO over an other, one of the biggest reasons is because you love its visuals. I say revel in it, and be proud that you are creating a mature MMORPG. After all, it is what makes this game unique in this already crowded MMO space.
Scarlet Blade should be entering closed beta soon, and will launch sometime in 2013. You can catch the first story trailer below and find more general info on Scarlet BladeHere.