Friday, April 12, 2013

Scarlet Blade: The Strip Club of MMO's

Scarlet Blade… wow.

Okay, I’ll deal with the female avatars later.  First let’s just do a quick once-over of the game ignoring the models.  The TL/DR version is Free 2 Play MMO, classed level advancement, targeted combat, grind questing, with auction house, microtransaction store, limited crafting, limited gear options, skill trees, and giant robots.

SB shows the finesse of an Asian game engine with high detail and a huge portion of pleasing ascetics.  I love a good sci-fi game and this one has a great girl-merges-with-robot feel.  The start zone is a nudge big and can take (IMO) too long to travel from quest to quest even with the monocycle you get for free at 10th level.  The game contains a “good” feature whereby you can just click on the quest object linked in your quest log and your avatar will auto-run to it.  Most of the critters in the start zone are passive so you don’t get a lot of agro.  While convenient, it gets boring as you don’t even need to look at the map.  The map is also pretty crap—being too small and non-intuitive about where you are in relation to your objectives.  It’s functional, but I’d call it below average.

There are 6 classes and 2 sides.  The two sides have no differences—one is “good” and the other is “evil”.  On my server there were a lot more evils than goods.  The 6 classes are totally predictable with a sliding scale of DPS, tank, and healer.  I played Punisher (ranged DPS), Sentinel (faster ranged DPS), and Medic (healer?).  The Medic is, of course, a healer class, but as far as I could tell you never need it… so what’s the point?  Class selection seem mostly a choice of which avatar you find prettiest and combat style (big guns, pistols, whips, or melee).

The quests are 100% “go here and kill X bad things”.  The quest dialog banter is laughable and sexist without even being intelligently flirty which I suspect as the Producers intent.  However, you don’t need to read any of the text as you just need to accept the quest and then click on the auto-run to zone link.  Thinking is not required.  While grindy, it wasn't heavy grinding.  The scenery is pretty and mobs are interesting.  Nobody I fought had any unusual traps or tricks in combat.  Fighting was all just button-smash all your powers in a timed sequence.

There is an auction house, but with no alternate gear options, the AH is pointless.  All your gear is presented from questing.  You can’t use the gear or get the quests until specific levels so there was initially no variation between characters (up to 20th level).  It takes a few days of casual play to get to 20.  The same limits apply to the skill tree.  There are not a lot of options in the skill tree.  There doesn't seem to be any way to create meaningful variety in builds.

The coolest feature so far has been the robot form you gain at 15th level.  At first I was like “YES THIS ROCKS” and then my energy ran out.  You see the robot form drains “CP” as a resource at a constant rate.  CP isn’t used for anything else except robot form.  It depleted in about a minute and took about 10 minutes to slowly restore.  In robot form I gained access to a number of untargeted AoE attacks which were fun.  But the extremely short duration of the form and the really long recharge time detracted from the experience.

Overall, I’d rate the game as nothing special.  It’s okay, but nothing about the game play was unique, the writing was annoying, and most of the options were on rails.

Okay, time to deal with the giant 44 DDD’s in the room.  SB has no male avatars.  Each class as a static female form.  You can change the face and hair, but nothing else.  Every model is dressed in a thong one-piece swimsuit and all of them are impossibly endowed *except* the Sentinel model who is child sized… Nipples are barely covered *sometimes*.  Other times they are not covered or are clearly visible through translucent costumes.  A great deal of CPU is given to independent breast physics.

On one level, SB is a male gamer fantasy come true.  We have skin movies, skin magazines, skin websites so why not skin video games with giant guns and robots?  It’s not high-brow.  It is pandering to the same audience that might also like visiting a strip club.  It isn’t good for you.  It’s fattening as all hell, but curiosity draws you in.

From a feminist perspective, the game is yet another ridiculously biased title squarely aimed at the teen male market.  The only unique bit to SB is its complete sell out nature.  It doesn’t even attempt to hide the focus on naked women as robot pilots where those women are pretty sexual objects.  It is a naked anime game.  Typical of the sex and titillation industry the game makers hope you’ll spend extra money to see your avatar completely naked and dressed up in a small variety of sexier outfits.  Scarlet Blade isn’t trying to be a forward thinking title or an innovative game.  It isn’t going for good writing or an awesome story.  It is going straight up for sexy women/objects as a hook.  Playing feels a lot like visiting that strip club on the really bad side of town.  1 part sexy fun and 2 parts uncomfortable adjustment.  You know instinctively this isn’t “right”, but I guess we all make a trip to the Adult Bookstore at least once.

I'm not defending Scarlet Blade or the gaming industries wide-spread problems with inclusion and diversity.  SB is just another sexist title on a heap of sexist titles.  

1 comment:

Vince Tangcalagan said...

Indeed, Scarlet Blade is definitely a softporn MMORPG. The characters in the game are just to show. In fact, there is a Scarlet Blade Hack that allows you to make everything in-game completely nude!