The Elder Scrolls: Blades (iOS / Android)

SPARTAN VI

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I got an early access invite a few days ago to try out the new The Elder Scrolls: Blades game for Android (and iOS). I'm only about 3 hours into the game so far, but I think I got a good feel for the gameplay loop and mechanics to give some solid first impression bullet points.
Screenshot_20190331-113437.jpg
  • Graphics are excellent for a mobile game, among the best I've seen.
    • Aesthetically it looks nearly identical to Skyrim but without the fancy VFX and post-processing effects.
    • I would not be surprised if they recycled Skyrim assets for this game; it has a distinct modern The Elder Scrolls (TES) look which comes through in the arms and armor all the way through its UI design.
    • Performance-wise, the game runs very smoothly on my OnePlus 6: Snapdragon 845 + Adreno 630.
    • It plays well in both portrait and landscape mode, but there were intermittent scaling issues when rotating the device. Usually resolved by simply switching back to portrait, then rotating again.
    • Looks like Skyrim, but doesn't feel like TES to me (more on that later).
      dungeon1.JPG
  • Sound and music are also spot on for an Elder Scrolls game.
    • Once again, I'm certain they've recycled most of the soundtrack, ambient sound, and other sound effects from Skyrim. Along with the visuals, this will help convince the player that you're in a TES game.
    • The vast majority of NPC interactions are not fully voiced. It appears the only voice-overs encountered were during the intro cut-scene.
      character.jpg
  • Gameplay is where the entire thing begins to fall apart.
    • Blades is extremely linear to the point where the game draws a path on the ground for your next objective (e.g. the clairvoyance spell from prior TES games).
    • The Elder Scrolls franchise is world renown for being an open-world action RPG, and they've completely gutted that with Blades.
    • Gameplay loop consists of picking up quests from your ruined village, insta-teleporting to the quest location (e.g. dungeon), gathering crafting supplies (e.g. wood, iron, copper, etc.), killing X amount of mobs, finding Y amount of items, searching for secret rooms, then teleporting back to your village.
    • At the village, you spend crafting materials at building nodes to construct homes and shops, then you re-enter the loop above to do it all over again on the next building node.
    • Along the way, you'll find chests which is this game's goddamn loot box mechanic. Chests take time to open, usually 5 seconds for common chests, and 3 hours for silver chests, 6 hours for gold. I don't even want to know how long it takes to open other chests, but I'm certain it's absurd. More on this in the Monetization section.
      chest.jpg
  • Combat is akin to sock-em bop-em robots where the player and NPC remain static and seemingly take turns bashing each other.
    • Strike an enemy by tapping and holding the screen, then releasing. Chain together combos by using both thumbs and timing your follow-up hit as you release your other thumb.
    • Magicka attacks, special weapon attacks, and shield blocks are buttons on the bottom of the screen that you tap to spool up and fire off more powerful moves.
    • There's also a critical strike window that triggers when you hold and release an attack swing at the exact moment. Every swing has a "wind up" that's illustrated by an orb where your finger is. When you release at the exact moment the orb is filled, you will get a critical hit.
    • Back-to-back unblocked strikes will stack up combo damage.
    • Combat is fucking flat because there's no positioning involved, no weak points to consider (a head shot and body shot do the same damage), just mindless wailing on the other guy until he's dead.
    • There are a variety of enemy types with weaknesses to different weapons and spell elements (e.g. blunt vs. slashing, fire vs. frost), but the games does next to nothing to communicate this to the player.
    • There are also some enemies (e.g. Skeevers) that frustratingly hover out of melee range until they move in to attack the player. Since combat is static, the player can't do anything to close the distance, so there are really only two choices: time a strike right when the skeever is about to attack, or use a ranged spell (e.g. fireball).
    • Speaking of ranged combat, it doesn't appear to exist at all. You only enter combat by aggro'ing an enemy, at which point you and the enemy are locked into combat (i.e. cannot move anymore) and enemies queue up one-by-one. This means even if there is a bow in the game, you can't loose an arrow at them from a distance. Sorry stealth archers... you're not wanted in Blades, apparently.
    • Leveling-up is similar to Skyrim except it's been cut down to 3 categories: spells, passive, and combat. Each category has 2 major starting points that branch out into 3 paths, with the middle path overlapping. There's not much choice here, so most players will end up spec'ing the same way eventually.
      combat.jpg
  • Monetization is just the turd on top of this cow pie.
    • Bethesda couldn't simply charge for the game and let people enjoy what little gameplay choices they have, so I'm betting this will be a free-to-play game where they'll frustrate the player to incentivize microtransactions.
    • Building structures in the village, crafting weapons and armor, and opening chests all take the most valuable currency of all: your TIME.
    • Their goal is simple: to FRUSTRATE the player with waiting so they spend the premium in-game currency (mother fucking Gems) to speed it along.
    • How much to gems cost? It's basically $5 for 500 gems, with slightly better "value" the more you spend (e.g. 2500 gems for $20).
      Screenshot_20190331-082854.jpg
    • crafting.jpg
  • Bottom-line:
    • TES: Blades is a great-looking Elder Scrolls game, but they do the TES franchise a huge disservice with its linear gameplay, its shallow combat, and abysmal microtransaction business model.
    • Granted it's in Early Access, there is time for Bethsoft to make changes regarding the microtransactions. However, I expect we're looking at the final form of the gameplay loop, and for that reason I'll pass on this game.
 

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ThatITGuy

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Thanks for the review/insight. I had signed up to be notified when it became available, but am not going to waste the space/download bandwidth.
Mobile games just seem to be an overall disappointment for me lately.
 

harmattan

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You're right on. The graphics and sound are exellent; gameplay and monetization, a turd in my drink.

I might be going crazy, but do you get the sense they scale the difficulty up and down based on how long you've played? All designed to hook you, then entice you to buy microtransactions.

Like most mobile games, this is nothing but a glorified Vegas slot machine, in my view.
 

SPARTAN VI

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I've been playing it off and on for the past few weeks and the combat honestly gets a little more interesting as you unlock more and more abilities. Slogging with a tanky boss-like enemy is genuinely fun. I'm now nearly level 20 rocking mostly silver gear, but many of the story quests are still 4-5 skulls (out of 5) in terms of difficulty, so they really keep things just out of reach so you buy progression. Since my above mini-review, they've also reduced the cooldown on silver chests from 3 hours to 1 hour, so I've gotten to the point many times where I've opened every chest in my inventory (which is good).

The city progression itself is still the bottleneck, you can't get better gear from that without building/upgrading better stores in your town. This means grinding non-stop for limestone, timber, and copper. And they only give you 10-15 if you're lucky enough to get a quest that has that as its reward. At this point I only really boot up the game when there's absolutely nothing else to do (e.g. waiting room at the dentist).
 

vegeta535

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I've been playing it off and on for the past few weeks and the combat honestly gets a little more interesting as you unlock more and more abilities. Slogging with a tanky boss-like enemy is genuinely fun. I'm now nearly level 20 rocking mostly silver gear, but many of the story quests are still 4-5 skulls (out of 5) in terms of difficulty, so they really keep things just out of reach so you buy progression. Since my above mini-review, they've also reduced the cooldown on silver chests from 3 hours to 1 hour, so I've gotten to the point many times where I've opened every chest in my inventory (which is good).

The city progression itself is still the bottleneck, you can't get better gear from that without building/upgrading better stores in your town. This means grinding non-stop for limestone, timber, and copper. And they only give you 10-15 if you're lucky enough to get a quest that has that as its reward. At this point I only really boot up the game when there's absolutely nothing else to do (e.g. waiting room at the dentist).
I still don't understand why people play crap games like this let alone spend real money on it. These games have very little to no substance. Honestly why even play this? What value and entertainment do you get from this and games like it?
 

SPARTAN VI

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I think I answered your question with the first two sentences and the last sentence.

  1. combat honestly gets a little more interesting as you unlock more and more abilities. Slogging with a tanky boss-like enemy is genuinely fun
  2. At this point I only really boot up the game when there's absolutely nothing else to do (e.g. waiting room at the dentist)
 

AceGoober

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I stopped playing Blades due to combat balancing issues. Despite having equipped proper gear for a 1 skull task my character is getting her butt kicked. Despite following guides, changing combat style and numerous other changes I'm stuck. Level 26 at the moment and am unable to proceed further.
 

AceGoober

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Bethesda updated with a 2.67MB patch.

Entered game and chose a 1 skull mission and got my butt handed to me on the 3rd Necromancer despite using proper equipment to attack weaknesses. Had to leave since I'm not paying 25 gems to revive.

Went back to town, checked missions and all of the quests were 4 to 5 skulls.

Bethesda has a lot of work to do before I ever play Blades again.
 
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AceGoober

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Had a light bulb moment and paired my MX Master mouse to my phone. Works quite well and makes a few things easier. Going to find a BT keyboard and see if that'll work.
 

SPARTAN VI

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Had a light bulb moment and paired my MX Master mouse to my phone. Works quite well and makes a few things easier. Going to find a BT keyboard and see if that'll work.
I tried this early on in the beta, and the keyboard did not work. This was also feedback that I shared during the beta, so hopefully it got implemented.
 
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