Last week, we ran a preview of Elder Scrolls: Blades that was very critical of Bethesda’s attempt to bring the first person RPG franchise to mobile. Now that we’ve spent a week with the game, we thought we’d shed some light on our current feelings, because they have shifted somewhat following more time spent with the game.
To Elder Scrolls: Blades credit, we’re still checking back in daily to open a few chests, loot a few dungeons, and spend our (admittedly minuscule) earnings on new equipment, enchantments, and town upgrades. It does actually have a nice core loop of reward systems that encourage you to keep checking back in.
Also, we’re impressed by just how much of the experience we can get for free. After playing what feels like hundreds of gacha RPGs for the past few years, we’re pretty glad to play a game that makes us feel like achieving the best gear in the game is actually obtainable – even if it will take us a long time without paying money.
Because this isn’t pay to win – not really. It’s a pay to advance faster model, which is the lesser of evils where free to play is concerned. We’re not sure if it will remain this way, but right now it’s pretty possible to afford all equipment and upgrades without spending a penny.
The free to play is friendlier than most but pay to win might wreak havoc in the gem store
However, we have seen some Legendary weapons in the gem store that might end up being OP. Until the game has matured and we’ve hit the level and equipment cap, we won’t be able to say for sure. It’s also PvP that will be the real decider on whether or not this is pay to win.
In gameplay terms, there’s also more to this experience than your average mobile RPG. While we still maintain that the combat is overly simplistic (which, to be fair, is a complaint you could leverage at both Oblivion and Skyrim too), it does offer more strategy than its competitors.
We played through a few dungeons before swapping over to Dungeon Hunter V and found that we were immediately put off that particular experience. Combat in that game is literally holding a button until everything explodes, with the speed they explode dictated to by how much money you’ve spent on a powerful weapon.
Elder Scrolls: Blades lets you block attacks, perform combos by tapping and holding on either side of the screen, and lets you pull off skills. It’s a system that rewards you for being patient and using your various skills and tricks with strategy.
There’s more depth to the combat than the early game reveals
This wasn’t immediately apparent at first, as Elder Scrolls: Blades just starts off way too easy. Now that we’ve progressed a bit, we’re starting to have to really consider when to block, when to use our dodging attacks, and the importance of combos. We’re also seeing enemies dodge us and inflict us with status effects. The systems are starting to come into play.
We strongly urge those unsure about Elder Scrolls: Blades to check out a free to play RPG by its competitors, then switch back. It feels like chalk and cheese. Bethesda’s effort is still grim when you compare it to a console or PC RPG, but on mobile it does actually tow the line between grim free to play and an actual game.
So really, Elder Scrolls: Blades’ biggest problem is that it has Elder Scrolls in the title. If this was just another generic mobile RPG, it might be that it might have received a more positive reception initially. That’s not its only problem though: the early game is just too easy, the systems too simple, and the waiting timers too long.
While we still think it’ll end up a dud, we’re cautiously optimistic that Bethesda can turn it around. There are the barebones of a decent experience lurking underneath. If Bethesda can find a smarter method of monetising it (a subscription to turn off wait timers and get more rewards, perhaps?), add more complexity to the combat system, and introduce new types of gameplay like building and decorating your own house, companions, and perhaps more open environments to explore, this could turn into something special.