E3 Hands On: Elder Scrolls Blades

The perfect mobile RPG experience?

I have a confession to make. I have never finished an Elder Scrolls game. Yes, that includes Skyrim, a game that I have bought and sold about four or five different times in an attempt to force myself into falling in love with this world that everyone has raved about during the last seven years. I just never could bring myself to finish it.

After playing Elder Scrolls Blades at E3 on Tuesday, though, I can confidently say that my streak of never diving deep into an an Elder Scroll title will finally be broken.

While the demo was a short 15 minutes, it left me wanting so much more and itching to get my hands on the full release this Fall.

While this isn’t a full-blown Elder Scrolls title, it is the mobile Elder Scrolls that you never knew you needed. The minute you boot up the forest level, you’re met with some of the most lush environments you’ll ever see in a mobile title. The dungeon level, while not as pretty, still showed an impressive level of gritty detail for a game running on an iPhone X.

Movement through these environments comes in two forms. The easiest (and likely most used) consists of simply tapping anywhere on the ground and front of you. Tap a spot and your character will automatically travel to the selected location. As your character travels, you can swipe the right side of the screen to take a look at your surroundings.

The other method of movement is your more traditional mobile method of having a “joystick” on each side of the screen, one for movement and one for aiming/looking around. Using this requires the game to be in landscape mode, however, and just didn’t feel as intuitive as the tap movement did.

Speaking of landscape mode, Blades allows you to play the game in both landscape and portrait mode. This is the feature I was most excited about testing and I was not disappointed. Switching between the modes is as simple as reorienting the phone, and it happens seamlessly without any noticeable lag. I wouldn’t suggest doing it mid-fight, but it’s incredibly clean nonetheless.

Combat was also solid given this game’s nature as a mobile title. When you encounter an enemy, the game snaps into battle mode where both you and the enemy are locked in place. You simply hold and release the right side of your screen to attack with your equipped weapon, with there being buttons on the screen for other actions during a fight as well. You’ve got your shield to block attacks along with a couple skills, a lightning bolt and “blizzard armor” in the demo build. I imagine that you’ll pick up other spells and skills along the way in the full game.

I do wish that the combat was a bit deeper, though. Since there is no free-form movement in combat, it basically consisted of blocking and following up with a counterattack, rinse and repeat. It is a mobile game, though, so I guess that’s to be expected.

While the combat may have felt a bit shallow, the inventory system was anything but. There were slots for your sword, shield, armor, gauntlets, boots, helmet, necklace, and two rings. There was a Daedric armor set I put on that was hot, y’all. The customization and loot grind seems to be alive and well in Blades.

All in all, Blades was a great mobile experience. I can see myself spending a ton of time playing this game once it comes out. You certainly have to temper your expectations and not expect Skyrim on your phone. But if you take it for what it is — a fun mobile title of one of the most popular franchises on the planet — then you will enjoy this game immensely.

Elder Scrolls Blades is scheduled for a Fall 2018 release.