When Bethesda announced the mobile Elder Scrolls game, Blades, at E3 this year, many fans were sceptical – including myself – but after giving it a whirl during QuakeCon over the weekend, I gotta say, it’s impressive as fuck.
Mobile games can be tricky to get right, particularly in terms of implementing a limited control scheme. While this is all well and good for games like Candy Crush, it becomes much harder for the genres that play better on console or even PC. Many have gotten close, like Fortnite, for example, but often feel more like a supplementary title rather than a proper game.
While Blades definitely looked amazing during its reveal, the console-quality graphics bear far more weight when seen first-hand in the context of an iPhone screen. Visuals don’t look tacky or watered down and the frame rate is smooth and impressively consistent.
But where blades really stands out is how it handles. If you don’t mind using the dual stick approach, (using your left thumb to move and your right thumb to look around) that’s certainly an option, but if you’re anything like me, you’re fucking rubbish at that shit and hate it immensely. Luckily, there’s an alternative for chumps like us.
Simply tapping anywhere on the ground in front of you will automatically start walking your character to that point. It doesn’t feel cheap or dinky and if there’s an obstacle in the way, you’ll be manoeuvred around it without having to awkwardly do it yourself via a number of taps. It’s a small thing, but it makes a huge difference in a mobile setting.
Blades also doesn’t give a fuck how you like to play, either, offering an experience in both landscape and vertical positions. Landscape certainly feels more natural from both a visual and control standpoint, but it’s nice to know the option is there should you feel like going one-handed.
I got to play through two levels – one inside a castle and another in a forest full of enormous spiders and pissy goblins. Both were fairly similar in terms of gameplay, but offered a good contrast in setting. While they were short in length, I would assume this is just for the demo’s sake, and not an indication of their actual length. On top of that, the actual release will feature procedurally generated levels like the very first Elder Scrolls: Arena, but whether this will keep the game interesting is another question.
Walking up to or being approached by an enemy will engage them in combat and bring up a set of buttons. To attack, you simply hold your right thumb on the screen until the circle fills, then take a swipe at your opponent. You can choose the direction of the swipe if you like, or simply lift your thumb for a generic one. On the left, you can bring up your shield or do a couple of right-handed attacks, one of which was set to a kind of lightening bolt blast. I could also choose to barge enemies with my shield with a button to the right.
What’s great about combat in Blades is that it feels dynamic rather than just a series of mashed taps. Timing your blows in tandem with shield blocks is essential and easy enough pull off without being frustrating.
Overall, it’s still a little early to make any definitive judgements on the mobile edition of The Elder Scrolls, but I can confidently say I’m impressed by what I’ve played so far, particularly considering it’ll be free-to-play. If they can keep the content varied and interesting throughout, Bethesda will certainly be sitting on a winner with Blades.
You can check out the Elder Scrolls: Blades E3 reveal in the video below.
Blades will hit Android and iOS devices later this year.