E3 2019: Hands-on with The Elder Scrolls: Blades on Switch
The Elder Scrolls series has reached more genres than most, but the one thing people have always wanted, or at least demanded recently, was a mobile phone version, we are going to ignore the Travels series and that odd port of Oblivion. At E3 2018, Bethesda let Todd Howard take the stage and detailed a few things, one of which was Elder Scrolls Blades, a full title for mobile that would let you explore the world, wherever you are and now its coming to Switch.
One of the first things I did at E3 2019, was track down the Bethesda booth and go hands-on with the Switch version of the game, as someone who has played a fair bit of the iOS version, I was keen to see how it handled and I can safely say, I prefer this instantly. Bethesda has promised the game is cross-play and cross-progression, which means all content will be on both and the games will be identical, at least outside of controls, so those expecting the microtransactions to be removed might want to temper their expectations just a little more.
Picking up the console, the E3 build dropped me into an early quest, where you had to go and find some lumber, in order to begin the rebuild of the town, a simple quest to be sure, but one that gave me a chance to check out all the controls the game would have. On iOS and Android as well, most of the action is done with swiping or tapping buttons, which includes moving, on the Switch release, everything I did was completed with a physical button and no-one could answer me if touch controls would be present. Moving around was done with the left stick and looking with the right, this is miles ahead of the mobile version, because even if you use their dual stick set up, it just does not play well.
On Switch, it played just as smoothly as I had hoped and even better, the using of spells and potions was simple and easy to grasp, with directions on the d-pad or the top face buttons being used for those portions. Motion controls were promised, but as with most E3 setups, the Switch consoles were in rigs that did not allow for that to be tested, but if we base it on Skyrim motion controls, I would not think them to bad. Of course, playing the game was simple, but the gameplay itself is where things are a little weird, I had hoped that the game would stop the pause and attack gameplay, but it seems that was not to be.
In the game that you can download now on mobile, when you enter combat, the game locks your viewpoint onto your enemy, allow for you to attack, defend or cast a spell upon them, depending on what you need to do. This works perfectly for the mobile space, when screen real estate is a premium and you can’t overlay multiple button combinations, so keeping the action locked onto the target makes sense, but with the Switch one, I had hoped it would allow me to move around the target. Sadly, as the game still locks you onto your target, you are stuck in combat until you or it are defeated and if there are multiple enemies around, they will all wait their turn, approaching you in order.
On the real downside, I did not get to explore any of the town building mechanics, nor the arena combat, just the one mission, which playing through twice, as its quite short, allowed me to explore and the same secrets locations and items exist here as well. While I did locate the hidden chest on run two, I was not able to open it, as pausing the game just brought up the controls screen, great for reference, not so great if one is attempting to discover if the waiting game of chest opening is still around.
The Elder Scrolls Blades on Switch looks to be the same base game form mobile, but with the added and much-needed function of proper controls. With cross-progression and cross-play announced, the odds of them removing a lot of the microtransactions are slim, but even still the game looks to keep the 5-min burst of Elder Scrolls gameplay alive, which is perfect for Switch.
The Elder Scrolls: Blade is out later this year.