E3 2018: Hands-on with Bethsoft’s Elder Scrolls: Blades (yes, in portrait mode)

To blathe.

Out of all the announcements Bethesda had at its pre-E3 presser, The Elder Scrolls: Blades was the last title I thought we’d be offered. Oh, we had asked about others, but they sadly weren’t being shown, nor did they have anyone around to answer questions. Beyond the basics, Blades was the same.

Which was a shame, since there was excitement about the title in the MOP newsroom, especially once we heard it would include some sort of multiplayer. Scaling from PC VR down to mobile is a vast tech difference and gameplay experience. And being able to potentially play in portrait mode? All jokes aside, that’s actually some promising stuff!

However, of those awesome selling points, I only experienced portrait-style ESO mobile goodness during my demo.

While Blades’ surprise announcement ramped up quickly, my demo felt like it was still an early model. What I saw was restricted to a solo experience and limited to mobile, but I can still imagine how it might play on VR.

Movement is acceptable. You can either click the ground to move toward the desired point, or you can hold the virtual joystick on the left side to move similar to using WASD, while holding the screen on the right side to move the camera for almost a PC gaming feel. The former obviously feels like a good choice for VR that doesn’t make you sick (Skyrim VR sounds cool, but my stomach freaks out when I think about it).

The problem is that the game feels a bit too big for mobile. When you enter combat, it’s seamless first-person action, but you can’t dodge or run around. I could block, shield bash, lightning stun, or make a blizzard. Oh, or slash stuff. I don’t know whether it was by design or a bug, but the spiders (leave it bee, pun fiends!) seemed to “dodge” a lot. At any rate, combat just a bit like a clumsy version of For Honor, with shield and no-shield being the stances. No shield got most of the AI to attack; shield got them to turtle up.

Collecting cash and gems happened after each fight, but I’m not wholly sure what those sorts of currencies do in the long run. Even when I started to get the rhythm of combat, the idea of having no deeper goal at the moment was somewhat distracting.

Now, all this may be fine, but I have a feeling there’s still another huge elephant in the room to address: The game plays fine in portrait and landscape. The seamless combat stance that limits mobility felt odd, and I imagine it could be worse in VR.

The demo just seemed to be pretty early in development, especially as my castle adventure kept crashing (not a widespread problem, it seems). Based on just what I played, it’s hard to get excited and recommend Blades right this very moment. That being said, the concept we heard from Bethesda’s conference still has me intrigued in spite of my experience. The game world hints at something bigger than its humble mobile demo, and I can only assume the addition of multiplay – hopefully group combat – will add another element entirely in the future.

Massively Overpowered was on the ground in Los Angeles, California, for E3 2018, bringing you expert MMO coverage on Anthem, Fallout 76, Elder Scrolls Online, and everything else on display at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo!
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