The Elder Scrolls: Blades has now been available in Early Access for about a month, and we've been playing a lot of it, figuring out exactly what Bethesda intends to do with their massive fantasy RPG franchise on mobile devices.
Thus far? Well, it's a distinctly mobile game experience in a lot of ways, despite Todd Howard promising that this was a full-fat Elder Scrolls game on the go. That, this is not, lacking even a small open world for players to explore, which has arguably been an essential staple of the series since Daggerfall.
Instead, what we have here are slices of the core Elder Scrolls experience, cut down and adjusted for mobile play. In some ways these are massively successful, and other ways are useless.
The combat, for example, is pretty good. It's not great, with a floaty feel to it, and skills don't always seem to activate when you tap away at them, but that kind of is what a mainline Elder Scrolls game is like, honestly. Floaty and mildly unsatisfying.
Exploring dungeons is also present, and somewhat rubbish, with players exploring repetitive corridors repeatedly, which are themed after three types of environments. Once you've played a couple of missions in each area, you've pretty much seen everything this game has to offer aesthetically.
A matter of time
But that's not to say it's awful. You can see so much potential what a few more area types and environments could do for the gameplay, and the combat could be incredibly fun with some more obvious signposting of when skills can be used, when they'd be useful, and what status effects enemies deal out.
As of right now, you need to simply get really good at reading the animations of your enemies to understand how their moves affect you, and when best to attack. It's a little frustrating, honestly - it's not like this mobile game has haptic feedback or the sensation of a button press to make these things feel more responsive. More can be done to adjust to the format.
Which does not mean more wait timers, yikes. The chests have been vastly improved already with Silver chests now only requiring a single hour to unlock, instead of three, which makes collecting gear and materials a much easier process, while also pushing you to expand your inventory using premium currency. Ah, they always find a way to get you.
As of right now, I log in multiple times a day, but only to unlock chests, earn a few more chests, and improve my buildings where possible. Mainline quests are often far too difficult when you first unlock them, requiring you to level up and get better gear before challenging them.
Improvements to come
In fairness, the game gives you all the tools you need, it just doesn't explain them very well. Resistance potions, enchantments, strengths and weaknesses, they all factor in to progressing through the game, but are rarely explained in any detail, except as tips in loading screens.
It means players can often be playing and making mistake after mistake, instead of making any meaningful progress. It's not clear how to overcome roadblocks without throwing out Scrolls of Revival or paying gems to revive - two fairly bad choices, honestly.
But improvements have already happened when it comes to job variety, chest timers and other quality of life functions. if Bethesda continue to update and improve the game, it can still become an incredibly fun experience once it hits the full release.
But please, please Bethesda, when Jewelry is released, don't balance the game so my character it required to equip it just to fight normally against enemies. I know what you're like, and I don't need more esoteric gear to min-max in order to survive.