Elder Scrolls: Blades Misses Part of What Makes Elder Scrolls Great, Adds Microtransactions

It's a good translation of Elder Scrolls, but it's missing something.

The only thing that prevented fans from revolting when Bethesda announced Elder Scrolls: Blades for mobile was the fact that there was a vague teaser trailer for Elder Scrolls 6 beforehand. Even with that firewall, the question remained: Can a proper Elder Scrolls experience be translated to mobile? Today during the Bethesda Game Days, I finally had a chance to play Elder Scrolls: Blades and the answer is, "Somewhat."

The demo, which I played on an iPhone, offers part of the dungeon-diving experience you'd expect from the franchise. It threw me into the Abyss, an endless dungeon that players can plunder for loot—every floor you clear gives you a bit of experience and gold for completion. You keep going until you die, at which point you can revive right then and there with a scroll, which you can buy with real-money microtransactions. Alternatively, you can head back to the surface with your spoils.

Elder Scrolls: Blades does look the part. Visually, it has all the hallmarks of a modern Elder Scrolls game. There's the soft glow of dungeon candles, the luminous cave plants, and the ancient weathered stone of a ruin. Bethesda knows how to dress a game to evoke the feeling of Skyrim.

But then you try to plunder the shelves or tables of a dungeon, and the truth is laid bare. Elder Scrolls: Blades doesn't let you hoard items like a kleptomaniac. You can't take everything not nailed down and sell it to a local vendor to fund your ongoing quest. To me, Elder Scrolls games are about filling your bags with the loot of the fallen, and the forgotten bits of whatever organization has long left a region. You can't pick up anything in Elder Scrolls: Blades outside of the bags of gold and chests that occasionally drop. It turns Elder Scrolls into a primarily combat-based game, and that's never been the series' strong suit.

Tap to murder. | Bethesda Softworks

In combat, you hard lock to any enemy you encounter. To attack, you have to tap and hold on your touchscreen. It's an unwieldy system compared to simply tapping to attack, and using some abilities isn't much better; you have to tap onscreen icons and wait for the move to activate. It honestly doesn't feel like you have total fine control over your character, even though Elder Scrolls has never aimed for finesse in any entry.

The worst facet is the mechanic clearly aimed at drawing more microtransactions. When you get a chest in Elder Scrolls: Blades it has a timer on it. When you open a chest, that timer begins to count down, and the timer is seemingly higher depending on its rarity. I had one chest that opened in seconds, but another that took 3 hours. That might be better in live conditions, but I doubt it. Regardless, it didn't feel great in the demo. You can spend gems to open a chest immediately, but gems cost real money. Hell, it looks like you can buy chests directly with gems if you want.

It doesn't paint the best picture for Elder Scrolls: Blades, which likely had an existing perception as a grab for cash. I can see it being enjoyable for the hardest of hardcore Elder Scrolls fans, as it definitely sells the look of the series, but what I played on the demo wasn't the most compelling mobile experience in terms of play.

Is this the promise or the prestige? | Bethesda Softworks

And that's before we get to where it feels a bit deficient compared to a proper Elder Scrolls game. Bethesda is promising a lot, with full quests and an entire city players can build, but none of that was apparent in my demo. I can play Skyrim on my Nintendo Switch portably right now, and I'd prefer a mobile experience that was closer to that. Sadly, Elder Scrolls: Blades doesn't look like it.

Elder Scrolls: Blades is currently in early access on Android and iOS. To stay up to date on the game, keep an eye on our Elder Scrolls: Blades Guide page.

Tagged with Android Devices, Bethesda Softworks, iPads, iPhones, Opinions, PAX East 2019, Role Playing Games, ZeniMax MEdia.

Sometimes we include links to online retail stores. If you click on one and make a purchase we may receive a small commission. See our terms & conditions.

Read this next

Bethesda E3 2019 Press Conference Recap: Shinji Mikami, Arkane, and Fallout 76 [!?] Shine With New Announcements

Doom Eternal, Elder Scrolls: Blades on Switch, and lots more from the Bethesda press conference.

Elder Scrolls Blades Nintendo Switch Release Date: Cross-Save, Gameplay - Everything we Know

Here's everything you need to know about The Elder Scrolls Blades, including a potential release date, early access beta sign ups, gameplay, platforms, and more.

The Elder Scrolls Blades Chests - How to Get Free Chests, Gold Chests

Here’s everything you need to know about Chests in The Elder Scrolls Blades.

The Elder Scrolls Blades Tips - What to Do First, Can Your Phone Run it?

Blades squeezes the Bethesda RPG experience you know and love into a bite size package. Here’s everything you need to know about The Elder Scrolls Blades.

More Opinions

Starting Screen | How the Second Half of 2019 is Shaping Up for Video Games Now That E3 is Over

We take a look at the upcoming release schedule and identify one potential juggernaut.

How the Z-Axis Changes Trials of Mana's Remake

A change in perspective opens up new doors for the Seiken Densetsu 3 remake.

Gooigi Adds a Gooey New Dimension to Luigi's Mansion 3's Puzzles

We get to know Luigi's Mansion 3's creepiest new character.

Animal Crossing: New Horizon's Customization Options Prove Representation Can Be Simple

Sometimes it just comes down to letting people play as themselves.

More on Android

Fortnite Week 6 Challenges - How to Complete All Season 9, Week 6 Battle Pass Challenges

Here's everything you need to know about the Fortnite Week 6 Challenges, which you can complete right now.

Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad Pre-Registration: Sam Fisher, Nomad - Everything We Know

There’s a brand new Ubisoft mobile game on its way. Here’s what we know about Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad.

Elder Scrolls Blades Nintendo Switch Release Date: Cross-Save, Gameplay - Everything we Know

Here's everything you need to know about The Elder Scrolls Blades, including a potential release date, early access beta sign ups, gameplay, platforms, and more.

More Role Playing Games Games

Destiny 2 Daily Active User Count Surges as Interest for Series Returns

The player count hit over one million for the first time in a while.

Cyberpunk 2077 Quest Director on The Witcher 3 Comparisons, Life Paths, and Keanu

At E3 2019, we sit down with the director of Cyberpunk 2077's quests to learn about how Night City, life paths, and more will affect how the story unfolds.

Monster Hunter World: Iceborne Devs on Bumping Up Difficulty, New Flagship Monsters, and Which Weapon Needs the Biggest Boost

We talk to the Monster Hunter: World team at Capcom about the upcoming expansion.

Nier: Automata Fan Art Forces Elon Musk Off Twitter

Elon Musk felt the weight of the world.