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The Elder Scrolls: Blades launches in early access, first (and second) impressions

By Cal Jeffrey · 24 replies
Mar 28, 2019
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  1. Initially unveiled at E3 2018, the game was first slated for a fall launch. However, the title got pushed back to Spring 2019. Even with the extra time the game is only in early access with an official launch still unannounced.

    Bethesda tweeted that it would be sending out invites “in waves” to those who have signed up. You can still get access to the early access by visiting the website and enrolling.

    It may be possible to sign in and play without receiving an invitation. I didn't get one. I had the game on pre-order through Apple’s App Store and started playing last night. So if you have it pre-ordered, check the store to see if it is downloadable for you.

    I have only played for a short time so far, but I do have some initial impressions.

    The game can be played in portrait or landscape mode. I prefer landscape myself, but you can switch between either just by reorienting your phone, and the transition is pretty smooth.

    Graphically the environments are stunningly detailed. However, the character models lack the same near photorealistic quality making them look somewhat plastic.

    The music is what you would expect from a TES game, and the sound effects are decent, but there is no voice acting. So be prepared to do a lot of reading. The dialog is carried out old-school-RPG style.

    Leveling up seems kind of limited compared with other TES games. There is a Stamina and a Magicka tree, and they look very basic. However, I’m only level three and only have one skill so far, so it might be a bit early to be passing judgment on that.

    Combat using screen gestures is somewhat clunky and takes some getting used to. I feel like I might have to get an MFi controller for this one. There are virtual control sticks, but they are hard to get to come up. However, once I got the feel for it combat was pretty satisfying. Blindly hacking away will probably suffice against easier opponents, but I have a feeling that blocking will be important against tougher enemies.

    Moving by tapping a spot on the ground feels very old school, while at the same time making it seem like your character is on rails. The lack of a better way to control the camera while moving makes strafing virtually impossible. To me, the ability to strafe has always been a staple to my TES gameplay style. In fact, I tend to favor it over blocking, but it is just not possible with the touch controls. Overall, a controller would suit this game better.

    Fortunately, Bethesda has plans to release TES: Blades on consoles, PCs, and VR at some point. The control issues I had would be remedied on those platforms.

    It's still too early for me to give the game a fair score. On the one hand, I feel like it has the potential to be a very good TES game for mobile devices. On the other hand, the micro transactions, which so far have not been pushed, and the town-building aspect make me feel like it's going to be a game I will eventually put down without completing. We'll have to wait and see.

    If you do plan to play on a mobile device, be sure you have a compatible model. Blades is only compatible with iPhone 6s or newer. It also works on a limited selection of iPads, and a much wider variety of Android devices. Check out the list of compatible models on Bethesda’s FAQs.

    Update (03/29/19):

    I played Blades a little more after work last night and while I have not quit it yet. I can feel myself losing interest. The game has a lot of flaws. Aside from the crappy control scheme, there a couple of glaring weaknesses that are going to be hard to ignore. And loot boxes aren't one of them.

    My first problem is combat. Now that I've got more than just one quest under my belt, I've found that combat is very repetitive and boring. Here is combat in a nutshell: Walk up to a creature, stand in place, whack it until it's dead, rinse, repeat.

    I thought maybe using abilities or spells would spice things up, but no. Abilities are just pre-programmed attacks — another way to continue your bashing. They cost stamina and have a cool down timer, so one use is about all you get out of them in the early parts of the game. Strategic use of them on harder foes could come into play later, but for me this does not rescue the bland combat system.

    Also, if you enter an area with multiple enemies, you fight them one at a time, even if they are standing right next to each other. In a way, this is a good thing because the combat system is so limited that there is no practical way to fight two opponents at once. Unfortunately, it completely ruins immersion. It is somewhat funny seeing the other monster standing in the queue to whack you, but it’s not supposed to be funny.

    The other major problem with the game is there is no exploration. The town acts as your hub. When you take a quest from an NPC or the job board, you magically get teleported to the questing area.

    Once there, you go through the very linear dungeon or forest path until you finish the quest goal. Once the mission requirements are met, it asks if you want to complete the quest (magically teleport back to town) or explore.

    If you choose to explore, you get to run around the area, most of which you fully explored. There might be some nooks and crannies beyond the last enemy you fought that have some resources or a chest maybe, but that’s it. There is no freedom to wander around and discover things or hunt random monsters.

    Now I was not expecting a whole lot from a mobile game. I was ready to cut Bethesda a lot of slack on this title — I was not hoping for the next Skyrim. However, I was expecting something fun that could keep me entertained in short bursts for weeks. What I feel like I got was Skyrim on rails. I don’t see myself playing this game for weeks. A few more days at most just to check out the magic system and then I’ll probably delete it. These flaws are too fundamental for Bethesda to be able to fix them.

    Permalink to story.

  2. ckm88

    ckm88 TS Booster Posts: 85   +53

    Nice! Can't wait to kill my battery!
  3. Nobina

    Nobina TS Evangelist Posts: 1,833   +1,343

    Multiple virtual currencies :poop:
    Digitalzone, psycros and Cal Jeffrey like this.
  4. Cal Jeffrey

    Cal Jeffrey TS Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 1,640   +397

    Gold is used for building, repairing/buying equipment, etc.

    Emeralds are for things like speeding up the opening of chests and stuff like that.

    I've not had the need to use emeralds. I've gotten a couple silver chests which take three hours to open, but I'm patient. The first one I got last night right when I was ready to go to bed so I started the opening and it was ready this morning. The other I got this morning and started it right as soon as I got it because I knew I was putting it down to write this article.

    Even still, the contents of the chests are not pressing at all so starting to open one that take three hours does not seem like a big deal to me. Just keep playing and it will be ready later. So far I have not see the need or been pressed to partake in the micro-transactions. We'll have to see where Bethesda takes it once the game truly gets rolling.
  5. psycros

    psycros TS Evangelist Posts: 2,618   +2,349

    The mixture of Fallout and Elder Scrolls fonts gives me hope that we might get see the Cold War typeface removed from future TES games. Its a shame that Bethesda is deprioritizing their traditional experiences in favor of mobile and multiplayer pay-to-win, but the fact that their modders can't fix these new games might eventually reverse the trend. Few players will invest much time or money into something that's fundamentally broken. Personally, I'd like to see Bethesda bring out some cooperative games. Everyone would welcome an Elder Scrolls or Fallout with a multiplayer option, but it needs to be a local install so players can fix as many problems as possible. They could probably re-purpose a lot of TESO code and maybe even a bit from FO4, errr, FO76 as well. Imagine a co-op TES with heavily randomized dungeons, or FO with randomized cities - and all as savable multiplayer campaigns.
  6. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 2,131   +1,551

    My experience with some games let you go so far and then get you in a position that if you want to progress, then you have to pay.

    Although Fallout Shelter you could buy stuff but you could still play without buying.
    onestepforward and Cal Jeffrey like this.
  7. indiferenc

    indiferenc TS Enthusiast Posts: 44   +49

    Lol mobile gaming is such a joke
    ShagnWagn likes this.
  8. Cal Jeffrey

    Cal Jeffrey TS Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 1,640   +397

    Yeah. Definitely have to see where this goes. Howard promised it would not be P2W. That doesn't mean they won't try the hard sell on MTs. The moment it becomes a burden to play, I'll be done with it.
    stewi0001 likes this.
  9. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,424   +1,425

    Yeah... it's only the most popular and profitable business in the entire world... guess everyone's laughing but you?
  10. Mithan

    Mithan TS Enthusiast Posts: 70   +44

    This is how it will be:
    Normal levels: 300 minutes of grinding.
    Or buy the Level Power Up: 10 minutes of grinding.

    Normal In-Game Sword: +10 Damage
    Or buy the Sword: +150 Damage
  11. Nobina

    Nobina TS Evangelist Posts: 1,833   +1,343

    Thing is if you don't pay you usually have to grind a lot, they didn't add mt's so you would not buy them. If they are only cosmetical than it's fine because there's nothing you can buy to speed up your progress to where it should be.

    What does that have to do with mobile games being absolute ****? If anything, them being so profitable is because they're aggressively trying to get you to buy whatever currency they offer making games just a tool not a focus.
    indiferenc, stewi0001 and BSim500 like this.
  12. ShagnWagn

    ShagnWagn TS Guru Posts: 651   +484

    I have been waiting for over 6 months now. I played it today (on my S8) for about 30 minutes. The chest opening process is absolutely terrible. Basically you tap a chest in the dungeon and the chest goes in your "inventory" rather than actually open it. Very stupid, and loses the immersion. It's not the same as actually finding something in a dungeon. I am put off by it.

    It takes 3 hours of sitting around to open the most basic chest. Basically this is going to turn into a loot box gambling situation. I can already tell. It is terrible that gambling ever got started in the industry. It's a cancer. Let me try and buy the game.

    Controls are very clunky and ruin the experience for me. Pressing and holding on the screen to initiate an attack seems to be about all you can do. You just walk up, tap hold and release. *yawn* Does anyone know of a FPS game that plays descent using a touchscreen?

    Graphics are nice, although, as said in the the article the characters look plastic. There are thousands of combinations of how you can make your character look (who cares?).

    I did not look at battery usage.

    I will try it some more as time allows, but my initial impressions are poor. Perhaps a physical controller would be better, but who is going to carry even more equipment around? If it is to be a mobile experience, I would expect to not need to carry around extra equipment.
    indiferenc and Cal Jeffrey like this.
  13. ET3D

    ET3D TechSpot Paladin Posts: 1,645   +304

    Google Play only let me install on one of my devices, but when I started the game it told me to try on a supported device. I guess I'll have to hog my wife's OnePlus. :)
  14. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,424   +1,425

    I didn't say anything about the quality of mobile games - but some ARE quite fun....

    The previous poster had stated they were a JOKE... they clearly are NOT a joke, as they rake in BILLIONS per year... if that's your idea of a joke, I guess you'd be laughing all the way to the bank :)
  15. gh0stie

    gh0stie TS Rookie

    Except that the game doesn't support controllers.
    Cal Jeffrey likes this.
  16. stewi0001

    stewi0001 TS Evangelist Posts: 2,131   +1,551

    Keep us posted then ;)
    Cal Jeffrey likes this.
  17. Cal Jeffrey

    Cal Jeffrey TS Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 1,640   +397

    Doesn't look like I'll be sticking around long enough to find out where it goes with it. I'm already growing bored with it.

    Updated the article with some further thoughts after playing a bit more.
    stewi0001 likes this.
  18. Comet

    Comet TS Rookie

    "Abilities are one-shot, pre-programmed attacks. Even if you have two slotted up, once you use one they are both disabled for the rest of the fight."

    This is not true. Abilities use your stamina, which regenerates over time. Fights with low-level enemies don't last long enough for it to regenerate to the point of using another ability, unless you have a stamina potion.
    Cal Jeffrey likes this.
  19. indiferenc

    indiferenc TS Enthusiast Posts: 44   +49

    yea because everything that is popular and makes money is good right? see: r kelly, carbi d, recent DC and star wars movies, the kardashians. mobile gaming is absolutely a joke, squeezing the plebs dry with predatory micro transactions and gatcha mechanics. and if you dont agree, then youre the mark!
  20. Squid Surprise

    Squid Surprise TS Evangelist Posts: 2,424   +1,425

    I think you need to look up the definition of "it's a joke".... a joke doesn't have to be good or bad... a joke means it's futile or useless... something that is making billions is NOT useless... it might be bad, but NOT a joke... and painting all mobile games with one brush is a joke....
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2019
  21. Cal Jeffrey

    Cal Jeffrey TS Evangelist Topic Starter Posts: 1,640   +397

    Thanks for pointing that out.
    I adjusted the article to reflect that, but it still doesn't save the "stand there and mash the button" combat mechanics. The combat reminds me of those "Idle" games where you just blindly (and mindlessly) tap on the [insert play mechanic variant here] until you get [insert reward here]. It's feels like a twist on the cookie-cutter idle games with a beautiful coat of paint.
    I am interested to try out magic use, but I fear it will just be the same formula that does not make you feel like you are using magic. In other words, cast fireball, bash with any physical weapon until your magicka recharges, cast lightning because fireball is still on cool down, bash with weapon until magicka refills, ad infinitum.
    But we'll see. As it is now it's not going to keep my interest. However, it is in early access and Bethesda might be able to fix these issues, but I won't hold my breath. They seem like very core mechanics that aren't going anywhere.
    Comet likes this.
  22. Bp968

    Bp968 TS Booster Posts: 81   +56

    Stop making sense. We need more continuous revenue models to exploit, er I mean um, well yes, exploit..

    -Bethesda Managament
  23. havok585

    havok585 TS Addict Posts: 200   +57

    This will flop.

    Bethesda is slowling fading away.
  24. Flexyv

    Flexyv TS Rookie

    How to make another character or delete first?
  25. Delvecan

    Delvecan TS Rookie

    What? No, no, no and many more no, the games have always been about that ‘self’ exploration and immersion. Stupid ideas like this smudge
    and spread games like this into the realms of Fortnite! Can we just leave things as they are, the way they were envisioned please? Please don’t make stupid suggestions like this as they might actually do it and ruin a franchise!

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