The Elder Scrolls: Blades Early Impressions

A very interesting spin-off.



Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platforms: Android, iOS, Microsoft Windows
Release date: March 2019

Its been about eight months since The Elder Scrolls: Blades was announced during Bethesda's #BE32018 press conference. The game was initially set for a fall 2018 early access window but remained behind closed doors until late winter 2019 when Bethesda ran a closed beta. With PAX East approaching the same week as The Elder Scrolls 25th Anniversary rumors began to spread that Blades public early access build would finally hit iOS and Android devices and to my joy it finally did.

I am a huge Elder Scrolls fan. It is by far my favorite series and I signed up for Blades early access the night it was announced. Once I heard people were getting into early access I impatiently refreshed my email for about thirty-six hours straight, combing message boards for any workaround to get myself in faster than it would take the invite to hit my email. Well I still haven't received my invite, but I was able to download the app and after sitting in a queue for about sixteen additional hours, I was finally able to log in and download the rest of the game.



So what is Elder Scrolls: Blades?


Elder Scrolls: Blades is a single player, free-to-play with optional micro transactions, town building, dungeon crawling role playing game initially launching on mobile devices and set to later release on any device that will support it, including PC, consoles, and VR. From what I've played it's kind of Skyrim meets Animal Crossing. You navigate a hub town trying to repopulate and rebuild it and to do so you enter dungeons on short quests to collect resources and townspeople. It has been a satisfying enough loop to keep me engaged for a few hours now.

The graphics are actually really great for a mobile game. My only gripe is that they are seemingly ripped right out of Skyrim and Skyrim's art direction is getting very stale. Major installments of the Elder Scrolls series typically refresh the art style from one game to the next and while this isn't necessarily a major installment, I find it disappointing to see a new entry use art from 2011. I really hope the Elder Scrolls VI gives us something new to look at.



The game can be played in both portrait mode and horizontal mode. Both play well but I prefer horizontal where you can navigate using virtual joysticks. Combat is growing on me as I unlock magic and stamina abilities that give you more to do than swipe. The more I play the more I enjoy the combat actually. I just needed to figure out Blades' rhythm.

So the town needs to be rebuilt, you're making friends, you're doing the RPG thing, its Elder Scrolls, I'm having a good time. So what about the loot?


Well...

You'll find resources, weapons, and armor in chests which are picked up in dungeons or earned by completing quests. So far I've come across Gold, Silver, and Wooden chests each taking a different length of time to open. To speed up the time it takes to open a chest you can spend gems with are another in-game form of currency along with gold that you also earn from quests and can even find in chests.

So, how long does it take for a chest to open? Six hours for a gold chest, three for silver, and only five seconds for wooden. How many chests can you have cooking at once? One. You also have a limited amount of chests you carry unless you spend gems to upgrade your chest storage. I broke it down for myself like this: Open gold chests overnight, open all wooden chests in your inventory first before opening any silver chests. I allowed the app to send me a notification when my chests are done opening and so far I'm not feeling the need to spend my gems to speed up the unlocking time.

Still, I think the system would be a lot smoother if Blades allowed you to have one chest of each type opening at once. That way you could open two silver chests for each gold chest and you could open any wooden chests you needed to basically right away. The only reason I ever put the game down so far is because I can't open a chest for three hours. Otherwise I wouldn't even be writing this article today.


Obviously the systems in place are designed to encourage players to purchase gems and I don't have a problem with that. I don't play a lot of mobile games and I'm honestly just here for The Elder Scrolls. I'm not worried about the micro-transactions and I may even purchase the $4.99 Hero's pack that seems like a starter pack sort of one time thing.

Beyond rebuilding the Town there are two other modes to play. The first, Arena, is not yet available, and the second is a mode called Abyss. Abyss features a seemingly endless series of dungeon floors where you'll try to go as deep as you can. If you die you're able to start again from the lowest floor you have previously reached. It's a fun challenge and keeps you in the loot grind.

So far I really like the game but I'm not sure if I'll be hooked after I initially check it out for science. I'll write an update article once I've played a lot more but for now I would definitely recommend giving it a try if you are an Elder Scrolls fan. Blades is a very interesting spin-off for the franchise. I just hope it gets the same support Legends and Elder Scrolls: Online do.

- Matt


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