- Jun 12, 2004
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.
- 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).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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).
- 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.