When The Elder Scrolls: Blades was unveiled at E3 last year, my reaction was mixed. Mobile games rarely ever appeal to me and the ones I do end up playing, I end up getting bored and uninstall them after about 5 hours of playtime. However, as it was in the Elder Scrolls universe I was more interested in what it could be and whether this would buck the trend. From playing early access for roughly 5 hours, the game has promising moments, however, there are equal if not more issues present.

The story so far is basic but fine for a mobile game. You play as a member of the Blades on the run from the Thalmor after they were forced into exile. You return home to find your village destroyed and it is now your job to rebuild, by going on various quests and assisting the townsfolk to gain supplies. In all honesty, the story is mediocre and bare-bones so far, and because there are no interesting characters, it suffers the same problems the main line games have with their main narratives. This is that the story is bland and is hard for the player to care about and become invested in. The difference is the main games had many other things to do that could help make up for a disappointing narrative, Blades doesn’t have too much else going for it.

The combat is obviously a hugely important aspect of the game, and it is surprisingly effective for a mobile title. You have a button on screen to block and you must hold, then swipe and release at the right time to swing you weapon in a given direction. While it can be unresponsive at times, it works well given the limitations. When you level up, you gain skill points that you can use to unlock new spells, stamina abilities or perks. I always love playing as a magic user so I chose to unlock a variety of spells. Once again, magic works fine if nothing else, the spells have a cooldown and require you to simply press a button to work. However, if you are interrupted while casting, they can backfire and deal damage to you instead, which provides a slight new strategic element to magic. Stamina abilities work much the same. Overall, it’s a perfectly average combat system with minor problems here and there.

In terms of what you will be doing in the game, this is very limited at the moment. Quests are pretty mundane and get frustratingly boring to get through, which isn’t helped by the sluggish movement. The majority are simply fetch quests with barely any story tied on. There is a severe lack of variety of dungeon design, you will end up playing through the exact same dungeon layout, but perhaps in the opposite direction. As it is a mobile game concessions should be given, however, as you will be mostly going through dungeons, a greater variety would help to break the monotony. I mentioned that movement was sluggish and for good reason. You can either move by tapping a point on the ground to walk to that point or by using a touchscreen analogue stick. Both can get frustrating to use and a mix of the two is often the best way to play. Using your thumb to try getting the analogue stick to appear can be annoying at times, causing you to control the camera instead. But once you do get it to work, it definitely helps make the game feel like a normal Elder Scrolls game. The point and click version is more accurate but it just feels too awkward to use all the time.

Rebuilding the town is a key feature to the game, but hasn’t been that important to the game so far. Building houses and shops raises your town’s level, allowing you to build new places. Rebuilding requires money and resources such as lumber or iron, which can be found out questing and as rewards for completing those quests and jobs. Shops, such as the blacksmith and alchemists are important, but other than that, nothing else seems useful so far. This will likely change with the full release and I can see promising aspects and room for creative design on the players part. Wait times play a prominent role in the game, like countless other mobile games. However, they never intrude that much, as you will likely play the game in short bursts rather than long periods of time. Therefore, you can leave a couple of wait times brewing, turn the game off and when you return, these will be completed. This isn’t for just buildings in the town but unlocking chests as well, but the reality to its intrusion is similar.

Graphically, it really does depend on what phone you have. For me it doesn’t look great, is pretty blurry and the textures are bad. However, I was playing on an iPhone 6s, so this was expected. If you are playing on a more recent system then it will look very good. Saying that, it still looks decent enough, and on a small screen alleviates some of the issues. But there are definite performance issues such as moments of stuttering and poor frame-rate, but these didn’t happen too often to really impact the experience.

Overall, this game definitely has periods of enjoyment, however, there are still many issues such as quest and dungeon design and a lack of additional things to do. There are microtransactions, yet the game hasn’t done anything that has necessitated me buying gems with real money. I have found plenty of strong equipment in the chests that the game gives you. There are wait times to open chests and build things in the village, yet because I don’t play the game for long periods of time, when I next load up the game, those things have finished their wait time. I hope that when the game launches fully, features such as the arena and later sections of the narrative help to improve the overall experience, but so far it is yet another average mobile game experience.

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