The Elder Scrolls: Blades is a free to play role-playing, adventure game published by Bethesda Softworks and developed by Bethesda Game Studios and was originally released in 2019 for Android and iOS. It has since made its way out of early access and has landed on the Nintendo Switch.
In Blades, you create a character from a selection of races and return to your home of Rivercrest to find it destroyed by someone wielding unearthly green fire. While this is a mystery worth solving, the first order of business is repairing your home to its former glory.
Rivercrest, or whatever you named your town during character creation, is in shambles. Rebuilding your home generates prestige, allowing citizens to return and shops to set up to aid you in your quests. The shops vary from a smithy used to buy and repair weapons to an alchemist who helps you brew potions, each with various effects.
In order to repair Rivercrest, you need supplies, such as timber and stone, but also gold. You can find all these by adventuring. Unfortunately, unlike its predecessors, The Elder Scrolls: Blades is not an open-world game. Quests are linear, where you traverse a given area and are taken back to town when your objective is satisfied. All loot comes in the form of chests and rewards when you finish questing.
However, in most areas, there are numerous secrets in the form of hidden rooms. If you have not found said rooms while completing your objective, at the mission’s end you can explore the level until you do. I am currently still at the beginning of the game and some of these hidden rooms are in plain sight while others I have happened upon by chance because I was exploring for chests or breakables to collect more gold and supplies for my town.
When it comes to gameplay, nothing is novel but it’s simple and fun. Combat is fluid. Whether you have a shield of not, you can block your enemies’ attacks by either pushing forward or pulling back on the left joystick. To attack with your weapon, you hold either ZL or ZR until the indicator turns gold to swing. If you’re good at timing your attacks and waiting for your attack indicator to glow, you can inflict a critical hit. If you hit your opponent in rhythmic succession, it’s called a combo.
And what’s an Elder Scrolls game without skills and magic? As you level up, you gain an additional amount of max health and a skill point. You can also choose what attribute you want: Magicka or Stamina? When it comes to spending your skill point, you can either purchase a spell, perk, or an ability to use in battle. For a mobile game, I was surprised by the number of abilities available in their respective trees. There are 17 spells, 17 perks, and 17 abilities. You can actively use your spells and abilities while your perks have passive effects. These effects can range from how much damage you can take and how much you can dish out. As I continue to learn this game, I am currently building a balanced character. A Jack of All Trades if you will.
The story is not the only mode you can entertain yourself with The Elder Scrolls: Blades. You can try your hand at the Abyss—a never-ending dungeon-crawling experience—until you die, or you can test your metal in the PVP arena.
While you can get loot from completing missions in the story, it seems you can get a lot more by defeating enemies and successfully making it to the next floor in the Abyss. The deeper you go, the greater the rewards. In order to fully enjoy this experience, you need good gear and a good amount of skills. This is also where the Smithy comes in. Using the Smithy, you can craft new gear or temper your favorite pieces you can’t seem to let go of.
The PVP arena is equally fun and gives you the chance to test your fighting skills against actual players. There are 6 ranks for you to climb and each match is best two out of three. As you defeat other players, you are rewarded with gold and experience points. You’re also rewarded with rank points that, after certain milestones, reward you with chests and currency. Upon losing, you do go down in rank, taking you further away from your prize. This activity motivated me to go back to the story to take on more quests to build up my abilities and arsenal.
While you can play for hours, Blades does remind you that you are playing a mobile game with its timers when you’re crafting items or rebuilding your town. There are a plethora of microtransactions, but the game isn’t in your face about them. There is also a store option where you can buy various things from chests to gems and emotes to use in the Arena. There are notifications for the store, but they subtly remind you that it’s there.
While totally different from Elder Scrolls on your console or PC, The Elder Scrolls: Blades is a lot of fun and feels like it belongs. While the gameplay isn’t groundbreaking, sometimes simplicity isn’t a bad thing. Controls aren’t clunky and the gameplay feels natural. The great thing about Blades is that you can play in short bursts or for hours. And, due to my love for adventure and roleplaying games, I never got bored. I was mystified by the energy and joy that Elder Scrolls games bring, despite not being able to explore an open world. The Elder Scrolls: Blades has a little something for everyone, even if you’re looking to just past the time.
The Elder Scrolls: Blades is available for Android, iOS, and Nintendo Switch
The Elder Scrolls: Blades
While totally different from Elder Scrolls on your console or PC, The Elder Scrolls: Blades is a lot of fun and feels like it belongs… I was mystified by the energy and joy that Elder Scrolls games bring, despite not being able to explore an open world. The Elder Scrolls: Blades has a little something for everyone, even if you’re looking to just past the time.