The Elder Scrolls: Blades Review – A Monetization Nightmare

    Title: The Elder Scrolls: Blades
    Developer: Bethesda
    Release Date: March 27, 2019
    Reviewed On: iOS
    Publisher: Bethesda
    Genre: Adventure

I’ve always had the unpopular opinion that loot boxes and other forms of monetization are fine as long as they don’t hinder any kind of progression in the game. But The Elder Scrolls: Blades is any gamer’s worst nightmare when it comes to monetizing a game to hell and back. Pair that with uninspired gameplay and an arbitrary town system, and you have even more of a reason to dislike Bethesda than most some already do ever since their Fallout 76 debacle.

In The Elder Scrolls: Blades play as your created character to roam free in the Elder Scrolls universe as a part of “Blades”, an elite group of agents for the Empire, that has been forced into exile. The player returns home only to find it in ruins because of some evil folks and must assist in rebuilding the town by going on various quests. That’s as far as the story goes, but trust me when I say it’s probably the least important thing in the game.

For those who have played any Elder Scrolls game, many would say the combat is pretty intuitive with different customization options and ways to approach battles. In Elder Scrolls Blades, you have the same customization options with different skill trees, weapons, and armor for you to utilize. Once I got into combat, I was horrifically bored. As a mobile game with swords, I was expecting gameplay akin to Fruit Ninja or Infinity Blade where your swipes on the phone are mirrored by the motion of your weapon. All I got was prompt to hold the screen for 2 seconds to charge my weapon and release to swing. 

I’m not really sure who thought that would be a fun gameplay mechanic but here we are. It doesn’t really matter where you hold to swing either as it doesn’t seem like attacking certain body parts of an enemy does any more or less damage. Now imagine doing that in environments that look practically the same. I can already hear you snoring from wherever you are. There isn’t even an open world like most Bethesda games offer. You’re only transported to some dungeon or outdoor area to collect a few items, kill a few enemies, and save a few people depending on the quest received.

elder scrolls blades 1

Thought that was bad? Now imagine having to use those materials to start building your town, only to find out each and every single thing you build is locked from completion by a time block which can range from a few minutes to a couple of hours. It doesn’t help that certain points of story progression won’t allow you to do more story quests until you build certain structures. But don’t worry, you can use gems (which you rarely find during gameplay) or spend real money on gems to open them immediately! The locks don’t end there. Need to upgrade a weapon and need it for your next mission? Well, you have to wait 30 minutes. Oh and those chests you found that could contain an awesome piece of weapon or armor? Hope you have something else to do because they’re locked behind time blocks too that could range from a few seconds to a few hours.

When I came across some normal chests, they only took five seconds to open. Once I got a bit more into the game, for some reason each normal chest needed to be opened with one gem. And let’s hope you didn’t run out of chest space either, because you can pay to expand your inventory. Literally everything and anything you can think of, Bethesda has monetized it. I could have forgiven the entire system if they didn’t block story quests because of the fact I had to wait a set amount of time for one house to be built in my town once I actually got the necessary materials. Not playing the main game in order to progress or give you my money to speed things up makes no sense. Sure, I can play the side quests, but I should still be allowed to play the main game.  Again, I’m all for monetization in video games especially if it’s free. But if it prevents me from actually playing your game, then what’s the point? The only reason I’d even pick up the game again is to admire the admittedly spot-on visuals that remind me of the Elder Scrolls universe.

elder scrolls blades 4

While The Elder Scrolls: Blades is technically still in Early Access, there still isn’t any excuse to have dull gameplay and a monetization system that literally requires you to not play the game at certain points to progress without having to spend any money. I also need to mention that somehow the game crashed and all my info was gone, but my login stayed the same. While this may have been a heaven-sent sign for me to not have to play this anymore, I do worry for future AAA studios who think this kind of game design and monetization practice would be acceptable at all.

Yes, Clash Royale has a system where you have to wait to open chests to gain cards. But it doesn’t stop you from playing the main game like The Elder Scrolls: Blades. I honestly don’t anticipate any major changes to come to the gameplay or monetization anytime soon, so go play an actual Elder Scrolls game on console or PC instead.

A review copy of the title was provided by the publisher for review purposes

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Brock Jensen

Saebyeolbe is the Tom Brady of Overwatch. MOBILE GAMERS ARE STILL GAMERS. Send me stuff [email protected]