QuakeCon 2018: Hands-On With ‘The Elder Scrolls: Blades’ (iOS)

The Elder Scrolls: Blades offers a promising fantasy adventure without compromising on quality for mobile platforms.

Announced during Bethesda’s E3 2018 presentation, The Elder Scrolls: Blades will be the second title in the franchise to find its way onto mobile devices when it joins The Elder Scrolls: Legends on iOS and Android later this year. Bethesda’s latest adventure in the Elder Scrolls saga sees players assuming a position within the Blades- former dragon-hunters and protectors of Tamriel’s emperors. The once-revered faction finds its members in exile at the beginning of the game, returning to their destroyed homelands. Over the course of the mobile adventure, players will regain personal glory and restore their own towns by completing numerous combat and exploration-driven quests.

Those in attendance at QuakeCon 2018 had the opportunity to play a brief demo of The Elder Scrolls: Blades running on iPhones within the Exhibitor Hall. The final game promises an expansive quest across the various regions of Tamriel, however our build only featured two areas set within a forest and a castle. Regardless of the chosen region, it’s clear The Elder Scrolls: Blades is one of the most visually impressive titles in recent mobile history; despite its status as an enhancement of a near 7-year old title, Blades‘s graphical quality rivals that of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Special Edition. I found no cases of visual stuttering or drops in the frame-rate during my play, but the overall presentation quality may vary between devices upon the final release; the only pauses in gameplay came from actively turning the phone from landscape to portrait orientation.

As previously suggested, The Elder Scrolls: Blades can be played in both landscape and portrait orientations, with the player able to switch actively between the two during gameplay if needed:

Portrait mode assumes the player is only using one hand, as movements and actions are limited to single taps or held presses on the screen. When players engage an enemy, the game locks the player and his or her adversary in a one-on-one fight based on timing and weapon positions; when the circle around the player’s weapon glows yellow, he or she must tap the screen for a perfect attack, otherwise he or she may have his or her attack blocked or countered. Blades still lets players navigate the environment in landscape mode by tapping on various locations on the screen, but the extended gameplay window also allows for dual “joystick” mechanics; by holding the screen with both thumbs on opposite edges or corners, the left-thumb controls movement while the right controls the camera; attacks and environmental interactions are still limited to tapping the screen, even when using this control scheme. While the thumb-control option makes for a decent emulation of a standard controller, moving with this feature feels loose and disorderly; perhaps the final version will include an option to adjust the sensitivity for thumb-controls, but for the demo this control mechanic was incredibly sensitive, often sending the character and camera in all directions other than what was intended.

The QuakeCon 2018 demo only offered a minimal taste of gameplay features in The Elder Scrolls: Blades, as the final build will include customizable characters and towns, and the “Abyss” endless challenge mode. Players will also have the ability to enter the “Arena” mode to fight each other in online one-on-one battles.

The Elder Scrolls: Blades leaves a strong first-impression of not just the versatility of the Elder Scrolls franchise, but the future of what’s truly capable on a mobile phone. Players shouldn’t expect a massive adventure comparative to Skyrim, but for those looking for a portable, traditional fantasy take on the franchise after the card-based departure of The Elder Scrolls: Legends, The Elder Scrolls: Blades looks to deliver on that premise.

The Elder Scrolls: Blades will launch worldwide this Fall for Android and iOS platforms. An official trailer has yet to surface, however the E3 2018 announcement may be viewed below (begins at 26:58).

Image courtesy of Bethesda

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