The Elder Scrolls: Blades – Early Access / Early Review

For centuries, the Blades protected the Dragonborn Emperors.
An elite group of fighters, they commanded fear and respect.
But the Great War against the Elves ravaged the Empire…
The Emperor was forced to sign a costly peace treaty.
The Blades were outlawed and disbanded.
The Thalmor hunted them down throughout the Empire…

And so begins the newest Elder Scrolls (ES) adventure: Blades. The Queen, Urzoga gra-Batul, who rules over a small portion of the realm, is rumoured to have burned down your village through the use of mercenaries. Your first quest will be to rescue villagers and then to slowly rebuild your village so that your people can start anew.

If you are not familiar with the ES series, the games are action role-playing games taking place in an immense and highly developed open fantasy world. The games are developed by Bethesda Game Studio (also know for Wolfenstein, the upcoming Doom Eternal, RAGE 2, Fallout 76, etc.).

This review will mostly be divided into pros and cons as the game is only available in early access, and therefore will likely undergo some changes before being released to the masses.

We are also building a TIPS and FAQs for Blades, which you can find right HERE. It will be updated regularly with YOUR help, so make sure to provide any feedback, changes, additions that would be helpful to it!

What we love about ES: Blades

Even when the game was showcased in September of 2018 at Apple’s Keynote for the latest iPhones, we suspected that the graphics would completely push away the competition. And as we suspected, the graphics are simply amazing AND comparable to high-end graphics from consoles or PC. Of course, the game opens near a waterfall, in the woods with leaves falling from the trees. The perfect setting to showcase these amazing graphics. Worry not, they remain this quality throughout the game (at least as far as we can tell, which is about two hours of gameplay experience).

Note: Quality of graphics will vary depending on the device you are using. We used an iPhone X, hence the high quality of graphics. Early reports indicate a higher quality of graphics on iPhones in general (especially the most recent models), and a rather low quality of graphics with Samsung Galaxy S8 or below.

Most of the mechanics are very smooth and intuitive (for one exception, see below). The battle sequences are extremely well coordinated, even though we haven’t had extremely intense battles so far, but we are confident that the smooth experience we had during smaller encounters will transfer to big battle sequences. We certainly appreciate the smoothness and ability to play either vertically or horizontally.

Battles are fairly fast pace action sequences, and yes, it is possible to be attacked by two enemies at once.

Although we only saw a few of them, cut sequences are a delight to the eye. Very few mobile games rely on those to offer a smooth transition into two consecutive stages of a game, and the way Bethesda uses them is very soothing.

Blades offers a skill tree and character customization, a requirement for any action role-playing game, but implements it very well in a mobile game. Depending on your style, your encounters, your enemies; development of your skills will be extremely important. As the adventure begins, you get to choose between 10 races (we opted for Wood Elf) and to customize the facial traits, eyes, mouth, nose, hair, etc. of your character. And of course, your gears will add to the look and the skills of your character as your progress. For instance, a sword will certainly not be the best tool to take down a Spriggan (tree-like enemy). An axe will be your weapon of choice.

As much as we can think, Blades is probably one of the first open-world games available on mobile (doing it successfully in our humble opinion). You will lose yourself in this fantasy world completing quests left and right, rescuing villagers from your hometown, killing nasty orcs, etc.

Finally, the adventure itself is simply exceedingly entertaining. If you like the customization aspect, you will be served as part of the game requires you to repair your hometown, add decorations, upgrade buildings, etc. If you are more adventurous, then you will love all the various encounters you will make as the story evolves. Any fan of Elder Scrolls games will be happy with Blades.

What could be improved in ES: Blades

As do most mobile games to avoid people progressing too rapidly (because unlike PC or console gaming, everyone has a mobile device on themselves 24/7), Bethesda used the infamous timers to delay progression. Of course, we understand the rationale, but some timers simply are pointless. A 5-second timer to open a chest? What’s the point? Hard to tell, but it’s there! See the video below which showcases what we’re referring to.

Perhaps this was done to delay players’ progression, but we can foresee many people growing rapidly tired of this and potentially quit playing because of it.  Timers are also connected to quests so that you have a limited amount of time to complete a given quest. For that reason, we strongly recommend completing a quest before accepting another one, so to avoid having to complete 10 quests in a day.

To align with this idea (in a way), the movement mechanics seem a bit odd and are somewhat annoying in some instances. In short, your character can only move in linear movement, which means that it will not walk around an object that it’s its path. You will have to manually have your character walk around it, which makes the experience slightly irritating.

While our experience was rather short (about two hours of gameplay), one thing we can tell is that quests and encounters are extremely easy. We are not looking for the Dark Souls type of difficulty experience, but at least something challenging to keep us on our toes and willing to push further. Then again, this could simply be a result of the little time we spent playing the game (which we literally had access to early this morning), and it is actually very likely that the difficulty level will increase as we progress in this addictive adventure. Time will tell.

Note: After testing a bit further, we noticed that the difficulty level does increase (but very slowly). People looking for an actual challenge may be somewhat disappointed.

Parting Words

The game (as any other games in the Elder Scrolls series) is extremely addictive! You will obviously have to take some time to figure out whether you prefer the joystick or swipe gestures mechanics, but once you do, you will have an exceedingly smooth experience. We remember during the Apple Keynote of September 2018, when Bethesda’s representatives spoke to the high-end graphics comparable to a console or a PC. Needless to say, they were right.

The game will undoubtedly be a huge hit, so we suggest getting pre-registering right now to be ready for Arena (multiplayer mode of the game) ahead of the curve. You can do so right here.

Did you have the chance to try it already? If so, what are your thoughts? If not, do you plan on trying it out once it’s fully released? Would you like more details about the in-game items, quests, gears, etc.?

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