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The Elder Scrolls: Blades

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The Elder Scrolls: Blades
The Elder Scrolls Blades Cover.png
This isn't a "pure" Elder Scrolls game at all.
Genre(s): Action role-playing
Platform(s): Android
iOS
Nintendo Switch
Release: Android, iOS
May 12, 2020
Nintendo Switch
May 14, 2020
Engine: Unity
FMOD (sound)
Developer(s): Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher(s): Bethesda Softworks
Country: United States
Series: The Elder Scrolls
Predecessor: The Elder Scrolls: Legends (by release date)
"Blades at its heart, is a pure Elder Scrolls game."
Todd Howard lying about The Elder Scrolls: Blades

The Elder Scrolls: Blades is a free-to-play action role-playing game developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks. It was originally launched in early access for mobile devices on March 2019 and was fully released on May 12 & May 14 of 2020 for mobile devices and the Nintendo Switch. Contrary to the advertising and statement from Todd Howard, it is different from other Elder Scrolls games, as in this game the player goes on linear quests to gain money and items to rebuild their town after it was destroyed. It released to generally negative reviews from critics and audiences, as is seen as a huge downgrade from Bethesda's last mobile game Fallout Shelter and previous titles in the series.

Plot

The Elder Scrolls: Blades takes place shortly after the Great War, where the Blades has been disbanded and outlawed, with most of the members having been killed by the Thalmor. The player character, known as "The Fugitive", was a former member of the Blades, so they are forced into hiding. The Fugitive returns to their hometown to hide, but they discover it has been mostly destroyed by mercenaries sent by the Bloodfall Queen to collect taxes. One of the mercenaries destroyed a statue that sealed away a crypt that contained the Sorcerer-King known as Celemaril Light-Bringer, who escapes the crypt as an undead and forms an army of undead and other creatures to take over the surrounding land. The Fugitive is tasked to help rebuild the town, find townsfolk who fled and went missing, and hunt down the Bloodfall Queen and Celemaril Light-Bringer.

Why It Should Be Thrown into an Oblivion Gate

  1. Really gross use of monetization throughout that comes off as a desperate attempt to get as much money as possible from the player.
    • In the first few hours of the game, the monetization is relatively tame, as the players can get through a good chunk of what they are given without having to pay, and have a decent player progression that feels a bit natural. However, once the player has progressed their town a bit and reached about level 10 or so, the game decides to put a huge roadblock in front of the player in the form of a sharp spike in difficulty and bringing forth a lot of timers onto the player (see below). In the process of this your progress will be stopped to an almost complete halt, and grinding in lower level areas will bring almost nothing useful and trying to attempt higher ones will have the player dying almost immediately. This forces the player to spend real world money on better equipment to be able to get past these roadblocks.
    • Another example of gross monetization practices with the two currencies. Like most mobile games, you are giving both a common currency and a premium currency to use to buy items and equipment, and the premium currency, gems in this game's case, is much harder to obtain naturally so it is commonly gained by paying real world currency for it. Once again it isn't to bad at the start of the game, as you can obtain a number of gems from chests and such early on and are even given some gems for free when you start out. However, the issue here is that gems are gained often only one at a time, and it costs a lot of gems to do ordinary things such as removing a timer on something for buying more chests. To get an idea of this, one type of chest costs 550 gems, and the player normally gains a gem from a chest or from battle at a range from 5 to 20 minutes if they play continuously. This would mean the player can spend at the least 2,750 minutes to gain enough of this currency naturally, which is incredibly ridiculous, especially compared to other mobile games having much, much lower pricing for items that need premium currency, and considering that playing that often on a mobile game is a ridiculous thought in the first place since these experiences are made for shorter time ranges.
    • While we'll get more on timers below, they can get to very ridiculous time lengths and the player will want to pay just to finish a 7 day long timer for a simple effect.
    • The pricing of the items themselves are also ridiculous when it comes to both real world and in-game currency. For the in-game gems, the emotes are priced ridiculously high, often at 100 gems which takes a lot of time to work toward, which is a pretty bad decision considering they can only be used in the Arena mode. The chests are also at a high price, with the Legendary ones costing at 2,500 gems, which is also a ridiculously high number that will take months or even years of playing for F2P players to reach. When it comes to real world pricing, things take a much worse turn, as players can purchase 14,000 gems for a total of $100 USD. Adding more insult to injury is that it takes $20 USD for players to purchase the gems required for one Legendary chest. Keeping in mind that the more expensive chests only give the players an incredibly small percentage if gaining a legendary artifact (Chances are either 0.1%, 1%, or 5% depending on the chest), it makes the developers look all the more desperate for the player's money.
    • The chest drops compared to the pricing is downright awful at times. Keep in mind that the more expensive and beneficial chests cost 250, 750, and 2,500 gems respectively, while one can be grinded out by playing for 10 hours, the others take far longer when playing F2P and have to pay to get these chests at all most of the time. However, the rewards you can get are downright be considered hard gambling, as every single thing in them in randomized and nothing is exactly certain, with the better items having a lower chance of gaining. In a scenario, lets say you spent $100 on gems in the game and decided to buy 6 legendary chests. In each of these chests, you will gain a legendary and the chance of an extra item, a random selection of 8-12 potions, 6-8 scrolls of revival, 1-5 stacks of materials, 15-25 jewels or ingots, and a 5% chance of an artifact. If you bought 6 of these chests with $100, you would have only about a 30% chance of actually gaining one artifact, let alone any more. This is really unhealthy, especially considering how special these items are and spending a lot of money just to get one is not only unhealthy for the player and can help develop a gambling addiction, but is also just the developer grabbing for the player's money at all costs.
    • Eventually the player will craft a couple of items like potions or weapons in bulk, and eventually they will have to stop paying with gold and have to use gems instead on that day.
  2. False Advertising. Contrary to Todd Howard's words, the game is not a pure Elder Scrolls game at heart and rather lacks the identity of what had made those games so great.
    • The most obvious difference is that the other Elder Scrolls games such as Daggerfall and Skyrim were open world video games that had you explore massive worlds to complete quests. Blades pretty much goes in the opposite direction by putting players among a linear path of completely separate levels connected to a hub world. This pretty much removes a lot of the DNA that made those games unique and in turn makes it feel more like a generic mobile game than anything Bethesda would make.
    • Looting is drastically different from other games in the series, as there are not a lot of places in the levels for the player to get to that give them any sort of useful items to collect. In fact there are very little containers and spaces for the player to loot for items in general, and a large chunk of the items you get in dungeons come from a chest you find within the level, if you find one at all. Anything else is either a healing item like fruit or meat that does very little or items from killed enemies that can easily be gained in larger amounts by opening a chest.
    • The game itself is much more combat focused and removes a lot of the unique skills players had in other games that made them feel like an adventurer, such as lockpicking and speech. This is another big part of Elder Scrolls DNA that is removed to make it feel less like one of those games, as in the other games there were multiple ways to resolve situations like talking someone out of it, sneaking by and stealing an item without getting into an engagement, or fighting your way though a problem among other options. Now everything is largely stripped down to only combat which feels really different and makes this game a lot more generic.
  3. On the subject of the combat, it is very boring and repetitive and never changes all that much even after you have sunk many hours into the game.
    • The main issue is that every single enemy can be defeated with pretty much the same strategy and with little damage taken as long as you are good at timing critical hits and stunning enemies with blocks. You can swipe to attack in pretty much swipe in the same direction to get through many battles, and even if an enemy puts up a shield to block you only have to adjust your swing a little bit to deal damage normally.
    • Even though enemies have weaknesses and are also resistant to different weapon types, it doesn't matter all that much, all it really does is affect how long a battle lasts and there is no real strategy change to do other than swapping out your weapon mid-battle.
    • Your health depletes way to fast and you have to use healing items a lot, which could be a cheap way for the player to grind money to purchase multiple healing items.
    • While mid combat, you have to open up a whole separate menu to use an item that affects your status in battle like a fire resist potion, which really slows down the slow of combat. The only real time this doesn't apply is for a health, stamina, and magicka potion, but even then it only appears when you are low on such a resource and you can't chose which potion to use during combat top prevent wasting a really important one.
    • The player can unlock different combat skills that use their stamina and magic meters to deal lots of damage to enemies and finishes battles faster, but it adds little to overall strategy and is more of an easy way to cheese battles without losing any precious health.
    • Finally, the controls can feel unresponsive at times as well, as you can told up and attack and release, but sometimes it will detect it as attacking before you're ready or in rare cases doesn't appear at all, though this mostly applies to the mobile version.
  4. The game is littered with a bunch of timers that impede player progress even further.
    • The chests are locked behind timers, a larger issue in the early access version, starting with a controversial item known as the silver chest. It's the second one on the chest tier and essentially took three real time hours to open. While it may not seem to much of an issue at first, the problem is that only one chest can be opened at a time, so the player will have to wait for a countdown to finish before opening and starting another countdown to open another chest. This is more of an issue with larger chests, as the legendary chests take a whole day for the timer to finish.
      • Thankfully the time for the silver chest was reduced to one hour by Bethesda later on.
    • Even outside of the silver chest's issues, there are a bunch of timers that slow down the player's progress to almost a complete halt at times and turns Blades into more of a waiting game. At first, you don't have to wait to long for timers, as it often took only a few seconds or minutes in the early hours for a task to be finished such as forging armor or rebuilding a location in town. However, as the player keeps playing and progresses their town and other world aspects, the timers rise severely, taking many hours to finish one task. Even basic tasks can take forever to achieve, and some tasks can take whole days to finish, which makes the player want to spend money just to finish something a lot quicker.
    • Unsurprisingly, you can't do a lot of things at a store when something is already being done under a timer, like crafting armor or strengthening weapons, and will either have to wait it out or pay to immediately bypass the barrier. This can especially be frustrating if you want to repair a bunch of broken items at a blacksmith while they are working on something else, as you can either just wait it out or play missions to pass the time, and you'll need good equipment to even do a mission at most levels.
  5. Extremely repetitive and boring level design that never really changes all that much. Pretty much every level in-game re-uses a lot of the same assets from one another which makes every level feel very samey and give none of them a unique identity. For example, many of the dungeon levels begin in the exact same way, with the player walking down the stairs, or a large open area that is re-used sometimes multiple times in the forest levels. The same enemy types are also often re-used between levels based on a mission's difficulty, and you often don't encounter many new ones unless it's in the form of a boss This makes the game incredibly boring to play and adds in to the constant repetition the player will face both inside and outside of the main game.
    • It doesn't help that outside of the Arena game mode and the player's town, there are only two types of environments for the player to explore, the dungeon levels and the ruins/forest ones. This adds to the repetitive level design and overall makes you feel as if you are doing the same thing over and over even after playing for only an hour in total.
  6. The optimization can be pretty bad at times on the iOS and Android versions, even on more powerful mobile devices.
    • It is quite common for the game to crash at least once in a play session even if your phone is powerful enough to run the game and should be able to run it no problem. It can happen from either leaving the game idle for long enough, during combat, or even when you are in a simple menu and doing mundane tasks like opening chests and using equipment within the inventory screen. Sometimes even after loading up the game again after a crash it will crash again after only a few seconds. As a final nail in the coffin for the issue, you can re-open the game over and over after it crashes and never make any progress after playing for a bit. The creator of this page has had an instance where the game crashed 5 times within a span of 3 minutes, which is not only annoying but frankly impedes upon player progression even more than in-game.
    • The framerate can drop pretty low at some points, even as low as 10 fps or less. For some reason this is incredibly common hen a chest is opened up, as the game will freeze for a bit and cut to a screen of the player obtaining their items. Despite that the graphically complex levels get drops in framerate less frequently.
  7. There are numerous bugs that can be encountered throughout that range from being harmless and mostly funny to being very frustrating.
    • Some odd graphical bugs can pop up at times, especially after killing larger enemies such as bosses. For example, a bear can be killed and after death its limbs bug out into unnatural positions that make the game unintentionally hilarious.
    • Sometimes the enemy AI will freeze for a little while. Players will have to wait until the enemy moves again as players can't do anything during these freezes.
    • Due to battles taking place in-game rather than a separate screen, it is very easy to get stuck somewhere and not fully turn around to face the enemy, making for odd situations such as the player fighting an enemy that only partially appears on the left side of the screen or multiple at once being triggered by accident. This makes attacking a lot harder than it should and requires some tricky finger work to get through them without losing a lot of health.
  8. Throughout the game the player will be given quests, either from NPCs in their town or by progressing through the main story, that will give them rewards such as materials to help build their town and upgrade buildings, new kinds of gear that can be equipped or sold by the player, and even gems in some rare instances. There are five different kind of difficulty levels for quests, each kind giving you different rewards and being more difficult as they progress. While this may seem like typical quest fare at first, the issue is that they don't bring anything interesting to the table. All the quests are essentially for the player to kill a certain number of enemies, save a certain number of NPCs, or to collect a certain number of items. They don't have any interesting story or even help give any lore for the series, it's just mindless work that doesn't have any sort of depth to it. This makes all the tasks feel incredibly mundane and boring to get through, as only three quest types get repetitive really quickly.
    • It doesn't help that even on the higher ranking quests the rewards you gain aren't always that useful, as items like wood and limestone can easily be gained by normal methods such as breaking containers in dungeons.
    • Due to a startling difficulty spike later on, you can't play on the lower level dungeons because they give to little experience, and anything above will be to difficult for the player to do anyway, so either way the rewards and challenge are very unbalanced and make these quests even more unsatisfying and makes it almost unplayable for F2P players.
  9. There is a large lack of any true player customization. Since a lot of the skills from the last games like sneak and alchemy, the only option the player really has is a fighter-style character, with the only real difference being whether you wish to pursue into magic or not as well. This makes building a character to suit your playstyle mostly a non-existent art and once again adds to the recurring theme of the game's issues with repetition.
    • There are magic and stamina related skills to gain but they are a bit limited and don't add much to the experience and in fact, some builds will make the game a lot more difficult for yourself. For example, focusing entirely on magic skills generally are slower to charge up and in turn will make you a lot more vulnerable to attacks and damage, especially if your timing is off.
    • This also brings us to game's issue with the skills. In short many of the skills the player can chose to gain or upgrade by leveling up are not all that useful, as most are just combat skills that can easily be found obsolete depending on what you are fighting. For example, the fireball skill does way to little damage even if used against enemies weak to fire attacks and upgrading it often doesn't help much. Really the only two spells/skills even worth getting are dodge and absorb, as those will allow you to avoid damage and restore health much easier, which is almost essential for F2P players at a certain point in the game.
  10. While the Abyss and Arena game modes are cool idea for an Elder Scrolls game and certainly fit well with the mobile platform, they are heavily flawed.
    • The Arena mode has probably the larger issues of the two. In this mode, you place your current in-game character into combat against another player in the world for money and chest drops. However, while it may seem like a decent way to grind for loot drops at first, the main issue is that is has really unbalanced matchmaking. Often you'll be thrown in with a player who are a much higher level than you and therefore has more health and better equipment, so you are pretty much guaranteed to lose matches against these players, and you are going to encounter them a lot. It's only really fun once you find a player near your level and are skilled at the game, and only then can you really get much fun out of it.
    • Abyss is the better of the two, but it can easily wear down on you after a bit. You only gain coins from playing it normally, and completing objectives will give you some good items. However, it can get pretty repetitive, and as with the high spike in difficulty for F2P players, you're going to get to a point where enemies will really over-power you quickly once you get to a certain point. You also won't be able to gain experience points from it, although that could have been done to prevent farming.
  11. Similar to other recent Bethesda games, weapons and armor and even town materials are locked behind a level cap, so even if you do gain a really powerful weapon you'll often have to grind for a very long time before you can use it. This is frustrating for quite a number of reasons.
    • Most of the time when you complete a high level area and get a very good weapon from it by a lucky loot drop, but most of the time the item itself is a couple of levels higher than you so you always have to work even harder than you should to actually use it. This is especially frustrating due to the low amount of experience you gain overall, even in high level areas it's very hard to level up effectively since even the boss enemies essentially give off a similar amount of experience to the standard enemies.
    • While it may seem a bit balanced at first, the town building system loses a lot of its enjoyability because of this, as to get better buildings to aid your progress requires you to build more lower-level buildings first, but this is pretty frustrating when you consider how many resources you want to save up for a really good building, but you have to spend those resources on buildings you don't even want or need first before you can use them, but by that point you've likely used quite a bit of them and can't get the building yet, so you have to resort to grinding.
  12. The story is fairly messy, with plot holes, characters that only appear to advance the story, and cliched villains.
    • The Fugitive returning to their home town to hide is a bad choice as the Thalmor can easily find out what the Fugitive's home town is.
    • An Elder Scroll appears, but it's only used for the cliched "find this powerful item before the villain does" plot device.

Redeeming Qualities

  1. The graphics look pretty great for a mobile game, as there are some really good lighting effects in effect and the very limited environments do admittedly look beautiful at times. Even more surprising is that the game only takes up about 1.6 GB in storage, which is really low and surprising considering how much was put into the graphics.
  2. There is some nice character appearance customization at the start of the game, and while it doesn't have the extensive color and feature options as Skyrim. it transitions that sequence nicely into mobile.
  3. To be fair, the game did have a lot of potential and did show some of this promise in the final product, even if it ended up being either under-utilized or completely butchered in general.
    • For one, this is one of the few free-to-play mobile games that actually attempts to have a story for the player to follow through, which is admittedly pretty cool.
    • The town building is also an interesting mechanic, especially for an Elder Scrolls game, and in some ways is more expansive than homeowning in Skyrim.
    • The Arena and Abyss game modes are pretty cool concepts and have a lot of good moments in them despite their problems.
  4. On mobile devices, you can swap between landscape and portrait mode easily instead of being forced to play in one view, which is nice.

Reception

In both Early Access and in the full release, The Elder Scrolls Blades received generally negative reviews from critics and audiences. As of March 2022 the Switch version of the game has an aggregated score of 42/100 on Metacritic, indicating generally unfavorable reviews, while the Switch and iOS versions have a Metacritic userscore of 2.6/10 and 2/10 respectively[1][2]. While in Early Access, IGN gave the game a 5.4/10, as while they did like the combat and the game's visuals, they were not impressed with the game's use of monetization, grinding, lack of innovation, and long load times[3]. Nintendo Life gave the game a score of 3/10 (While also having a user review score of 3.8/10), criticizing the "braindead A.I." and that it lacked the sense of adventure and fun the other games in the series had and that it was "repetitive grind with an Elder Scrolls skin designed very obviously to tempt you into spending your real-world money on the gems and chests you'll require to get the most from its grubby little representation of the Elder Scrolls universe"[4]. Nintendo World Report described the Switch version as "a simple case of a mediocre game on mobile just not holding up on an actual console" and found the game to be "a downright joke", criticizing the game's combat and grind as well as the linear quests and the visuals and giving it a final score of 4/10[5]. The Android version currently has a 1.95/5 on GameFAQs while the iOS version has a 1.93/5 on the same site[6][7].

Videos

Trivia

  • The famous "arrow to the knee" from The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was made into an emote in the game.

References

Comments

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