When Bethesda announced Blades at the E3 of last year, the game was approved by a surprising amount of gamers. Maybe it has been so long since the last Elder Scrolls game that people just want a new game, even if it is on mobile. On the other hand, when Blizzard announced Diablo Immortal on mobile, it turned into a meme and literally everyone criticised them for making a mobile game. This just shows how much of a reputation for making good games Bethesda has. However, with blunders like Fallout 76, the opinions of people have started to shift slightly.
The Elder Scrolls: Blades came out this week on mobile early access. This is actually Bethesda’s third attempt at making a handheld Elder Scrolls experience. Remember The Elder Scrolls Travel Oblivion on the PSP? It’s okay if you don’t, because no one does. The game was canned by Bethesda even though it showed a lot of potential. The second handheld Elder Scrolls game was Skyrim on the Switch. Technically speaking, the game was not a new experience but it was still really cool to be able to play Skyrim on the go. Anyway, I was lucky enough to get early access to The Elder Scrolls: Blades and this is what I found out.
How to get The Elder Scrolls: Blades?
The Elder Scrolls: Blades is out on early access for both Android and iOS devices. You’re probably going to need a fairly capable phone to run the game. However, even 3-year-old phones seem to be running the game perfectly fine. The game can be downloaded via the Play Store or the App Store but you won’t be able to play it instantly. The game would ask you to sign into your Bethesda account or register. Since this is limited early access, you’d probably have to wait for an email from Bethesda giving you access to the game.
This is a pretty normal procedure for games in their early access or beta phases. However, another frustration would await you. If you weren’t one of the people who got whitelisted into the early access program, you’d get a single fight and that’s it. Players have shown frustration over how Bethesda just teased them without giving access to the full game. However, this is just an early access phase of the game and Bethesda not wanting their servers to flood with new players just yet makes perfect sense. If you weren’t able to get into the game, you’d probably have to wait until full release to play it. Don’t worry though, we’ve got you covered on everything the game has to offer right here.
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The Elder Scrolls: Blades, as the name suggests revolves around the famous group of agents, the Blades. The Blades are the katana-wielding elite protectors of the Emperor. After the disastrous great war with the Elves, the Empire had to sign a peace treaty. This treaty, however, results in the agents of the Blades to be forced into exile. You start the game outside of your hometown, in beautiful greenery with the sun shining bright over your head. The city can be seen in ruins in the distance. You fight your way through to your town and find Junius who welcomes you back and sets you up on your quest of helping the townsfolk and rebuilding the city.
The city building elements remind us of the latest entries in the Fallout franchise. You collect resources like wood and complete missions. The building process itself has been simplified for mobile with just a tap on a spot in town required to erect the building there.
The character creation screen is one of the most iconic parts of any Bethesda RPG game. In similar fashion, Blades also throws you into character creation when you reach your hometown. The whole process of creating your character feels very familiar and reminded me of the Skyrim character creation screen a lot. You can choose from the usual races of Tamriel with their respective perks. The usual face and body sliders have been simplified, understandably, for mobile. However, that doesn’t mean a lack of options as there are plenty of things to choose from. Honestly, the character creation in Blades was a very good hit of nostalgia and really set me in the mood to play an actual Elder Scrolls game on a phone.
Probably the most important part of a mobile game is the intuitiveness of the UI. Mobile games can never be as good as console games just because of the lack of screen real estate and control options. However, this time, Bethesda has pretty much nailed the UI for the game with a few little kinks. The game can be played in both Portrait and Landscape modes. This means that you can still attend that company meeting and not look like you’re actually secretly playing a game. In portrait mode, you tap on the ground where you want to go, much like a VR game. This system works seamlessly and allows you to play the game with a single hand.
In landscape mode, you get a wider field of view. You can tap the ground to move to that location, or, just use your left thumb as an analogue stick. The left side of the screen then works as a stick with the right being used to move the camera. This leads to a much more traditional The Elder Scrolls experience and feels very natural. The inventory management system could be improved as it is just slightly sluggish. However, overall, the UI of Blades is one of the best I’ve seen from a mobile game.
The dungeons of the game remind me of The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion. They are grey and tiled underground areas, much like in Oblivion. Meanwhile, the areas up top are styled much like the forests of Skyrim. As you navigate through these dungeons, you stumble upon a variety of classic TES mobs. You’ll have to fight your way through goblins, soldiers, skeevers, skeletons and most other familiar enemies from the franchise. The combat instances, however, are separate from the usual exploration and it’s not free-flowing.
The combat system is very simple and intuitive as well. You hold on the enemies and release just as the circle fills up to stab the enemy with your sword. To perform a spell, you tap the spell icon that also consumes your magicka. For power hits, you hit the icon on the right side, draining stamina. There is also a shield icon which you can hold to block incoming attacks. The combat, overall, is pretty simple and standard. It is not overly complicated and works really well on a mobile device with touch controls.
Visuals and Audio:
The game, while being only 900 MB in size manages to look absolutely stunning for a mobile game. I tested the game on a Galaxy S10, an older S8, an iPhone XS and on an older iPhone 7 too. The game managed to look amazing while running at stable framerates on all of these devices. The game is extremely well optimized and we have to give mad props to Bethesda for it, with their bad reputation for game optimization. I also didn’t encounter many bugs or crashes. My game only crashed once at the start through many hours of gameplay that I had. However, this is still in early access and Bethesda could be excused for bugs or crashes even if they did happen.
The Elder Scrolls: Blades does not have voice acting though, sadly. You would have to read through the dialogues for NPCs. This might be done to keep the file size of the game to a minimum. However, this does not ruin the experience as most mobile games don’t have voice acting. The other audio, however, is amazing just as you’d expect from an Elder Scrolls game.
This is probably the worst part of Blades. Being a mobile game, Blades is riddled with micro transactions. Literally everything from opening chests to constructing buildings works on Clash of Clans like timers. The timers are relatively short at the start but it might get ridiculous as time goes on. Players can buy gems to reduce the timers much like Clash of Clans. I really hope Bethesda makes the right choice for monetization for Blades and doesn’t turn it into a pay to win game.
The Elder Scrolls: Blades is a solid entry in the franchise, despite being a mobile game. The game feels responsive and intuitive while looking absolutely gorgeous. The story makes sense and the characters are memorable. Blades also manages to retain players with robust city building mechanics. In addition to that, Blades has cross-progression, meaning you can play it on any device and continue right from where you left off. The Elder Scrolls: Blades genuinely feels like a true Elder Scrolls experience and has quickly turned into one of my favotite mobile games of all time.