FREE-TO-PLAY MOBILE GAME | FIRST-PERSON RPG | EARLY ACCESS
“If you are a mobile gamer and/or an Elder Scrolls fan, then Elder Scrolls: Blades is worth giving a chance to play. It looks and sounds like a true epic Elder Scrolls game, just played on a mobile device with instanced quests and town building.”
The Elder Scrolls: Blades is a first-person RPG developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. Blades has been developed solely for iOS and Android mobiles and Early Access commenced on March 28, 2019. As a long-time fan of the Elder Scrolls games, I was initially excited when I first saw Blades hit the big screen at E3 2018. Bethesda then showed that it was mobile exclusive game and my excitement waned.
I don’t do much gaming on my mobile, primarily as I only play games when I’m at home on my PC or Xbox One. The only games I’ve played on mobile the past few years are things like Candy Crush, Fallout Shelter and Star Wars Puzzle (a Star Wars match-3 style game). Over the Christmas/New Year break I took my family on a holiday to Singapore. Not being able to justify the cost of getting a Nintendo Switch, I resorted to loading up a couple of games on my mobile – Star Wars Knights of the Old Republic and I even tried Fortnite Mobile. The controls for both games were easy to get used to and I found KOTOR was a great game to play on the mobile.
I had forgotten about Elder Scrolls Blades given the sheer volume of games that have released the past few months. It wasn’t until I received a notification on my phone that Blades Early Access has commenced and as I had pre-ordered, the game was installed and ready to play. I had to wait until Friday morning before I was given access to the game. Once I logged in, I was blown away at how beautiful the game looks on my iPhone X. The game can be played in portrait or landscape mode and it switches between the views impressively with no glitching.
You tap on the ground to move the character and pan the camera by swiping around the screen. Items that you can pick up are highlighted in yellow, so don’t do what I did and try to bash every crate/barrel in sight. The music and sounds were classic Elder Scrolls, as were the waypoint and quest icons. Down a forest track, vines block your way so clicking them hacks them away with your weapon. Further along the track you come across two mercenaries blocking the path and combat commences.
Combat involves pressing and holding the screen, then releasing to attack with your weapon. There is a shield icon on the left side of the screen, holding this will hold up your shield. At this early stage you haven’t learned any skills, but later you will have little buttons above the mana and stamina bars that you tap to cast a spell or use a skill such as Shield Bash at a cost of stamina. If your health gets low and you have health potions in your pack, a red heal icon will show in the middle of your health bar for you to tap. It’s all very simple but some of the fights were challenging when the bandit blocked my attacks, fighting spriggons or when a rat or wolf is out of reach of normal swings, so I had to wait for it to lunge at me before I swung my weapon.
Once you complete the short introduction section you get to customise your character, and here you have many choices from height and skin colour to hair style and you can cycle through the races to see which bonuses appeal to your playstyle. Being traditionally a human paladin player, I went with the Imperial race that gives +5% healing effects and +5% damage with longswords, war axes and maces. Other races give different bonuses such as the Argonians who get +5% health regen and +5% damage with daggers, hand axes and light hammers, or the Wood Elves who get 15+ poison resistance and +5% damage with abilities.
Next you are taken to a recently destroyed town that needs you help to rebuild. Through a couple of npcs conversations, you are given your first quest. Quests outline the objectives, the quest difficulty, rewards and you can click ‘start’ which will take you to the quest instance. After this first quest and you establish your town, you can run along to various npcs that have quests available, add them to your journal and then complete them in any order. However, the main mechanic with quests is that they are instanced and you insta-travel to and from them.
Once you’re in a quest instance, there is a blue line that flashes giving you direction to the main quest objective. In most of the early quests I completed they were linear so very easy to find your way. Others had some open rooms with different paths to take, with some being ending with a locked door and you need to get the key from the other path. Despite the close first-person view sometimes feeling cluttered and too close, I never got lost in these instances. There are secrets in some quest areas which are hidden doors opened with discreet switches or chains on walls that need to be pulled.
Items such as lumber, ingots and alchemy items can be found on the floor throughout each quest area, highlighted in yellow. There are also food items which will give you an instant health boost which are handy to leave until you’ve cleared the area of monsters. You will also come across treasure chests and receive them as quest rewards. A chest icon will display at the top left of the screen which you can tap and will take you to the chests screen. Here you see that it takes 5 seconds to open a wooden chest. Silver chests take 3 hours to open and I’ve found one gold chest so far which takes 8 hours to open.
Like in most mobile games, you can use in-game store items to speed up this process, in this case it’s gems. Gems can be earned in game, but not at an overly fast pace. Sometimes you’ll gave 1-4 gems when opening a chest, sometimes gems drop as loot or quest rewards, but the fastest way to get gems is to buy them with real money in the in-game store. You can turn notifications on so that when you start the countdown timer to open a silver chest, it will notify you once the 3 hours is up, or 8 hours for gold chests. It’s worth visiting the shop once a day as there is a free item to claim such as a pile of lumber or ingots.
As you can see though, it costs quite a bit to get some of the gem bundles. It costs about 36 gems to open a silver chest and I think it was around 70 to open a gold chest. Once you do open a chest you will receive a sum of gold, sometimes a couple of gems and then some random items. In wooden chests you will receive two items like weapons, armour, crafting materials and potions. In silver chests I received four items and generally two are green items and 2 normal items. In the only gold chest I’ve opened so far I received six items including a nice blue upgrade to my armour and a green shield.
Once back in town, you initially need to name your town. It can’t be changed once entered, so I thought long and hard and named my town Nobbyville! Here you commence what is essentially a 3D base-building game, building up the prestige of your town which will unlock bigger and better buildings and decorations. You start with a town hall which will automatically upgrade as the town grows in prestige. There is also a job board which opens after a couple of quests and this job board lists new quests as they become available, including some time-limited quests daily so it’s good to check the list in between story quests.
Through a couple of quests I earned some town decorations in the form of an Imperial Banner (small) and an Ayleid Warrior Statue (medium) which adds some atmosphere as well as backstory when you inspect them. I initially added a blacksmith, a dwelling and a homestead which took me to town prestige level 2. I had to wait 30 seconds for the blacksmith to build, then it took 3 hours to wait for the homestead to be built. Again, you can use gems/real money to speed up this process. The blacksmith is where you can shop, craft, temper and repair items. Tempering items means upgrading them, and better upgrades requires higher tiers of blacksmith which becomes available once the village increases in prestige and you unlock the next tier buildings.
Aside from doing quests, the Abyss opens early on which is an endless dungeon with increasingly more difficult monsters as you ascend to deeper levels. The deeper you go the better rewards you gain both in loot and from completing challenges. The Abyss initially looks like the regular quest instances I had already been fighting in but as I progressed lower, each floor started to get bigger with harder monsters. The longer you stay alive, the better rewards you get for completing challenges. If you die, you can use respawn scrolls if you have any or spend gems/real money to continue your progress, or you can release back to town which will reset your progress. You can travel back to previous levels you’ve unlocked or continue from your latest one. My deepest floor so far was 9 so I can choose to travel to floors 1, 5 or 8.
So far, the only thing I’ve come across as locked content not yet released is relating to jewelry (wearables and crafting) and The Arena which looks to involve one-on-one multiplayer PvP battles (which doesn’t really appeal to me in this setting). There are plenty of quests to do with variation thanks to daily job tasks, and there are challenges to conquer which will reap rewards.
If you are a mobile gamer and/or an Elder Scrolls fan, then Elder Scrolls: Blades is worth giving a chance to play. It looks and sounds like a true epic Elder Scrolls game, just played on a mobile device with instanced quests and town building. Be prepared to wait to open chests and build up your town, otherwise you may need to get out your wallet for those happy to fork out for in-game store items. Being free-to-play, I will probably revisit playing the game every now and then but as I mentioned at the top of this article, I’m primarily a PC and Xbox gamer. Whilst the game is fun to play and is rich in Elder Scrolls lore and systems, it’s not screaming at me to replay it every day and being a mobile-only game I’m less inclined to choose to play it over other PC games I’m playing currently.