Mobile games have it rough. They aren’t respected by gamers because of their casual nature, but they are then criticized for not being free, and attempting to make money in order to make a game with some actual entertainment value. People don’t want to pay upfront for apps, so to compensate mobile games make money by encouraging microtransactions and ads, which typically just makes a game less fun. I admit that I’m part of the problem. I have a difficult time sticking with mobile games for any length of time. I will play them religiously for a few weeks, get bored, then delete them from my phone to make room for more pictures of my dog. I rarely buy mobile games because of my fear that I’m spending money on something that will hold my interest for a limited amount of time. If I buy a game, it has to look really fantastic. Nothing in the last year or so had really managed to get my attention, until very recently. Cue the angelic music and lights shining from the heavens. My relationship with mobile games was forever changed when Bethesda released Elder Scrolls Blades.
Elder Scrolls Blades is an action RPG for your mobile device, that is currently available in early access. I was actually able to play the game as part of the limited closed beta as well, so I’ve been digging into it for a little over a month now, and I’m still really enjoying it. Similar to other Elder Scrolls games, you begin by creating a character. It isn’t an intricate character creation, but it’s the best one I’ve seen on mobile yet. I love the variation of Elder Scrolls character creation, so being able to select a race and customize my character on my phone was a treat! While there are limited options compared to games like Elder Scrolls Online, the characters look pretty good. For a mobile game, the graphics are also a really good quality in general. Everything about it looks sharp. Trees have leaves and branches that rustle and sway in the wind, smoke billows from fire and chimneys, and clouds blow across the sky. It is a fun world to explore, which is an important aspect for the type of game that it is. A world that wasn’t nice to look at would make the dungeon crawl style gameplay feel dull pretty quickly.
Playing the game is relatively simple. You tap where you want to move on the screen, and slide your finger left or right to look around. Anything you need to interact with you simply click on. An enemy will come up to you and engaged battle as soon as you get close enough to them. Your combat options are to either block an attack by clicking the “shield” icon, or attack an enemy by tapping and holding where on them you would like to hit. Attacks are more successful dependant on timing and location. As you level up, you are also able to equip special abilities that use your magicka and stamina. Even in the simplified form that it’s in on mobile, the combat is reminiscent of other Elder Scrolls games. Enemies are easy to kill at first, but get more difficult as the game progresses and I have found it necessary to switch up my approach instead of just beating them over and over with my sword. I love the combat in this game, even if it may start to feel a bit repetitive down the road. I prefer real-time combat to turn based, and this is the first time I’ve encountered it in a mobile game (at least that I can think of). My only real issue with the controls is that despite my marker being place correctly, I sometimes overshoot where I am trying to walk to, and end up either past it or on top of it. This is a minor annoyance that really only costs me the few seconds it takes to turn myself around, but that might be something that could be improved on. Otherwise, I’ve felt appropriately challenged, and it is simple enough that I can play it casually on my phone while I watch tv or have a few minutes to spare.
Let’s talk about the different game aspects. The main hub for the game is the town your character originated in and is returning to. It has been destroyed, and as you collect money and resources you go about rebuilding it. So far it isn’t overly personalizable, which would be cool, but you can put decorations in different places, and build various sizes of houses in the available spaces. You can also name your town, and visit your friends’ towns as well. Townspeople will give you quests, some of which advance the story, while others are radiant and are just for grinding, basically just like other Elder Scrolls games. Most of the quests take place in a dungeon setting, which are randomly generated so that they aren’t completely identical. I do feel as though they’ll seem more repetitive as the game advances despite the random generation. There isn’t a lot of variation. Hopefully they continue to update it so this isn’t the case. There is also a job board that has daily quests ranging in challenge level and offering various rewards for completion. There is even an arena mode, where you can battle your friends in PVP combat. However, my favourite part of the game is the Abyss. The Abyss is an infinite dungeon crawl, where items that restore health aren’t provided to you at all, and enemies get progressively more difficult. After reaching certain floors, you have the option of starting from that point the next time you enter. Loot gets rewarded to you based on a timer, along with anything you find and pick up. The dungeon style in the Abyss is also a different style from the other dungeons of the game, and this changes the farther down you get as well. Overall, it’s just a fun challenge and a good way to kill time. I’m interested to see if they make any changes to it after early access is finished.
Elder Scrolls Blades makes me hopeful for the future of mobile games. It’s engaging, it looks good, and it doesn’t make me wait for lives or time dependant tasks before I can keep playing (even when there are some, there’s lots of other quests you can do while you wait). I’m hopeful that they’ll keep updating the game, so that it has a long life, and it encourages more developers to create involved mobile RPGs. That, or they let me play Skyrim on my phone. The Elder Scrolls: Blades early access is currently available to Apple and android users that have a Bethesda account. Try it out, and let us know what you think in the comments!