It was only going to be a matter of time before Todd Howard tackled the mobile games market with a giant Fus-Ro-Dah, and let’s be honest, he’s looking for a win after the sore events of Fallout 76. So, will Elder Scrolls: Blades; a new narrative in the Elder Scrolls saga brought to mobile, be Bethesda’s comeback from the brink?
The Blades, a secret order hidden in the shadows of normal society to protect and serve the Empire of Tamriel, have been shunted even further into the depths of exile. You, being a member of the Blades return back to your home town, only to find it has been destroyed and burned down by the Blood-Queen. It’s down to you to rebuild your town to its former glory, as well as discover the hidden mysteries such as an ancient burial ground right within the walls of your town.
It’s not the strongest of narratives for an Elder Scrolls game, but it is a pretty good one for a mobile game. Existing character, believable plot line and plenty to keep you on your toes. What troubles me is how the responsibility of rebuilding and entire town ends up being thrust upon you the moment you arrive at the town. It’s like the head-honcho just said “Well shit you took out 3 bandits on your way into our town, you should rebuild it!”, well… alright then. Wouldn’t be Elder Scrolls if something’s were complete nonsense.
Let’s get straight to business with this; Combat and Exploration. You explore and fight either by doing quests, or doing their endless dungeon mode called the Abyss. The biggest part of the Elder Scrolls series was the freedom to move and fight with ease. Controls and Button layouts were easy to navigate as well as having an array of options to suit your combat style. I’m glad to say that they have done a relatively good job with the mobile version. Navigation can be performed by a simple point and move system, or by holding your thumbs either side of the screen to move and look around independently. The latter is more for when you have your phone in landscape mode, as this game can be played either portrait or landscape, a unique feature amongst a first-person perspective adventure game.
The moment is a little lost in combat however, imagine you are playing a standard game of Fallout: New Vegas or Skyrim, and you are ‘locked’ in place having a conversation with someone. Now imagine that’s happened but you are now fighting said person. The freedom to move around as you please are gone, and becomes an entirely new mechanic. You must press and hold your thumb down to time your strikes right, press and hold to guard or parry opponents and use abilities and spells along the bottom of the screen to defeat your enemies. It’s a simple mechanic but it ruins the immersion with having your feet suddenly glued to the ground. The fights can be challenging but that’s only because of how effective your equipment is. Even though you also have spell casting, there are no bows and arrows to use either, they seem to be in short supply of those for some reason. Despite the lack of movement though the combat itself is alright at best. It’s all about having the right melee weapon available for the right enemy, as well as having skills and spells to correspond to each fight.
There’s a lot of customisation options from the start, continuing with the previous Elder Scrolls games, such as your race and facial features. Choosing a race also determines specific buffs pertinent to that race. There is a large variety of equipment and weapons, abilities and spells to choose from in Blades. Weapons themselves have 3 categories; Slashing, Crushing and Bashing, which deliver more damage depending on what type of enemy or armour they are wearing. This means there’s a variety of one handed to two handed swords, axes and maces. Like weapons, equipment and armour carries different resists to these weapon types, and all weapons and armour have better versions of themselves depending on their material, such as iron, steel, silver and so on, just like the previous Elder Scrolls games. Also recurring from previous titles is the spells and abilities you can perform.
Spells consist of fire, ice, toxic and electric, each carrying their own effects towards enemy targets, and can be used depending on how much magicka you have during battle. The same goes for abilities, which allow you to perform special moves such as dodges and powered strikes, to increase the amount of damage you do to an enemy, which again depends on your stamina meter. All of these are unlocked through perks which you acquire throughout levelling up, and you can be as creative as you like, there is no blocked ability classes or any of that in Blade. If you want to be a two-handed sword wielding ice-blaster in battles, then go nuts. This combination of abilities and spells really gives you a lot of variety and a chance to improve yourself with increased gear and the like.
Then we move on to the town itself, because of your prompt new position of power, you may rebuild the town to how you see fit; placing down houses, statues and other cosmetic bullshit to make your new town the talk of the land. More importantly you want to be focusing on buildings that actually provide you with useful features, like the alchemist lab which will allow you to make potions to use during quests, or a smithy so you can further improve your weapons and equipment by tempering them, as well as selling your garbage, buying more garbage, salvaging your garbage, repairing your garbage… all that good stuff.
Buildings and crafting however require materials, materials are gathered from quests, quests are the only way to release you back into the art of sticky-footed combat. They are also the main focus for the storyline part of the game. Job quests give you moderate exp as well as useful resources to use to rebuild your town, improve equipment and so on. Each quest has a difficulty rating which is based on what equipment you have to hand in your inventory.
There is another way to acquire equipment and materials, in which the ‘mobile game’ cliché comes creeping into the frame. On your adventures of static fighting through quests you will find chests, which can be opened to grant you more good resources and equipment. Each chest, like weapons and armour has a rarity rating, and the higher the rarity of chest, the longer it takes to open them. Wooden common chests only take 10 seconds real time to open, where as rare chests take 6 hours before they pop.
The loot box feature is present in the game, that’s strike 1. You can open these chests earlier by using a purchasable currency; Gems, which are found throughout exploration, can also be bought from the games store, strike 2 for In-game currency. Strike 3 straight away for allowing chests to be readily available from the store ANYWAYS, so now it’s also pay-to-win. Ladies and gentlemen, we have the tri-factor for almost every mobile game; loot boxes, in-game currency and pay-to-win. I would have just been happy enough to pay a reasonable price and got on with the game, rather than paying for chests which may or may not contain decent loot inside them.
Audio and Visuals
The audio isn’t too bad to be honest, nice melodies to set the fantasy tone well, with the music changing accordingly to the surrounding and the scenario too, including creepy mysterious dungeon tones and battle music when in combat, which fade in and out of one another fairly seamlessly. In terms of sound effects though, ambiance could be a little stronger, and would create a better sense of immersion within environments. And of course, it makes sense that they would recycle old sound effects from their other games too, however there’s not much in the way of speech dialog when having conversations with NPC’s either.
So, with the audio a little all over the place with both good and bad points to pick out, what about the looks? Well, for a mobile game it certainly looks like a quality game; a reason it catches most people’s eyes to download it in the first place. I’d place the graphics quality somewhere in between Oblivion and Skyrim, and that’s me saying that from an iPhone 7. It is an exceptionally good-looking mobile game. The textures and lighting work well in all areas, whether your outside or in a dungeon, right down to the detailing of weapons and armour.
The Elder Scrolls: Blades
Beautiful to look at, explore, and plenty to do, Elder Scrolls: Blades is perfect for those mobile gaming moments. The combat side works well apart from glued feet, and traditionally carries the curse many mobile games have; those in-game currencies and pesky loot boxes. Other than that, it’s a pretty solid game, and recommend it to anyone who’s waiting in a reception area or on a bus journey home. A nice little time-passer.
- Great Graphics for Mobile
- Lots of Variety in Gameplay
- Elder Scrolls on Mobile!
- In-Game Currency and Loot Boxes
- Concrete Feet for Combat
- Audio sexually confused (bit inconsistent)