Review: The Elder Scrolls Blades (Early Access)
At its core you could say that The Elder Scrolls Blades is a lite version within the popular franchise. However, Bethesda has had to give up some iconic elements to bring this franchise to the smartphone as well. The lack of these elements, combined with the position of mobile games on the market, does not always benefit the game.
For years, players have been enchanted by the fantastic worlds that Bethesda develops in the universe of The Elder Scrolls. From Cyrodiil, the human capital of Tamriel, to the snowcapped peaks of Skyrim.
The franchise's success is due to many different factors. Discovering these fantastic worlds at your own pace is one of them. The franchise has proved so successful that the franchise's latest installment, Skyrim, has reappeared no fewer than several times since its original release in 2011.
There has even been an MMO of the franchise trying to bring all the worlds together. Again, all the iconic elements of the franchise come together to provide an incomparable experience for fans of The Elder Scrolls.
In The Elder Scrolls Blades, you are a member of a group that calls itself "The Blades". You have been ostracized from the group and are forced to find your way back to the city where you grew up. The city, as you once knew it, is no more. Everything has been destroyed and it's up to you to restore the city to what it once was.
You do this by rebuilding the city. You can place different buildings. Some buildings have a function, such as the blacksmith and the brewery. Other buildings, such as houses, have no function, but serve as extra XP to level up your city. Higher levels then unlock more new buildings that will help you in your quest.
Quests and Progress
That building is not easy, you need gold and materials such as wood and stone. You can obtain these materials in various ways.
By following the story you complete quests that reward you with various items including materials to build. In addition to the story, you can do jobs to replenish your stock of stuff. Jobs are small quests that have nothing to do with the story. These jobs take place in procedurally generated dungeons so they can sometimes look very similar. In these dungeons you then have to kill certain monsters, save inhabitants, or find special items.
There is no open world in this game. You find yourself in a destroyed city that needs to be rebuilt and from there you start all your jobs and quests. These transport you directly to a handcrafted, or procedurally generated, dungeon in which you must perform your task.
Another way to collect materials is by opening treasure chests. These chests can be obtained for free by completing a job or quest in the storyline. You can also find them in dungeons, or buy them in the in-game store.
If you buy a chest from the store with gems, you can open it immediately. If you find or get a chest from a job or quest and you want to open it, a timer will start. Once this timer is over, you can only open your chest.
So far I have found and received three types of chests as rewards. A wooden box, it takes 5 seconds to open. A silver chest, which takes 3 hours to open, and a gold chest, with a six-hour wait.
As soon as you open the chest you will find various items including gold, if you are lucky even some gems, building material, crafting material, potions and equipment. Depending on the rarity of the chest you will find more and better stuff.
The chests are directly the biggest obstacle while playing this game. By default you can only carry 10 chests with you and if you are full of chests you can't pick up new ones, or earn from quests. Since most chests have a long waiting time, you are almost forced to stop playing until you have more room for new chests.
Finally, these chests are by far the most effective for progressing in this game. You can buy extra space for more chests, but this too fills up quickly. This almost makes you feel compelled to spend money so that you can skip the timer on the boxes.
Fortunately, the treasure chests are not the only way to get equipment. You can buy and forge equipment at the blacksmith. For forging you count down gold and crafting material. The higher level the blacksmith is, the better equipment you can forge. The blacksmith can level you up by providing the building with an upgrade, for this you need building materials again.
The blacksmith can also make your current equipment stronger in exchange for gold and crafting material.
It's not just your gear that matters during your Blades adventures. Because also in this game you have levels and as you level up you can choose to increase your Stamina or Magicka. Stamina is required for special melee attacks, magicka, self-explanatory. In addition, you will be rewarded with one or more skill points per level.
You can then spend this in the skill trees for magicka spells, perks or special stamina attacks.
An important aspect to this franchise is the look and this is where Blades also comes into its own. The game looks great for a smartphone game and also plays very nicely. Occasionally the game does not quite do what you want because touch controls are not the most pleasant way of controlling. Bethesda also knows this and that's why this game offers different gameplay. You can play the game in landscape mode, but also in portrait mode. The entire game including UI adapts to your playing style. In portrait you can only tap to move, but in landscape mode you can also use the virtual thumbstick.
Once you get into combat you will move your sword by swiping across the screen, which is very entertaining. The sword follows your precise movement and provides an almost as entertaining effect as Skyrim VR follows your precise arm movement. If you have chosen it with your skill points, you can also use spells and special attacks with your sword during combat.
The Elder Scrolls Blades is one game in the franchise that hasn't quite won me over yet. It's an entertaining smartphone game, but when I think of The Elder Scrolls I often think of an open world and discover everything at my own pace and way. Blades throws a spanner in the works here with dungeons that aren't very exciting and often look the same and the chest system that prevents me from playing further as I can no longer take new chests with me and I feel compelled to spend money.
The Free-To-Play model is therefore attractive to a certain extent. I don't mind spending a few bucks on a game I enjoy, but it shouldn't be necessary to continue playing.
The game is still in Early Access. This means that there is still a lot of room for improvement. Especially the way the gems are priced and the sometimes absurd waiting times for your chests.
It's a shame that Bethesda seems so greedy in this game. That while they were able to find a good balance with Fallout Shelter indeed their microtransactions
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