A step up from the mobile version
The Elder Scrolls: Blades wasn’t exactly the great free-to-play experience I was hoping it would be when I tested out the game in early access back in April. It had potential with a beautiful world and a fluid combat system. But the repetitive nature of the dungeon crawling quests was a real kick to the giblets. Control problems compounded the issue, however those have mostly been fixed through updates to the app.
Like most games-as-as-service titles, Blades is slowly getting better. At E3, Bethesda announced the 1.1 update for the game. This introduces new NPC voice overs, new jobs, a new dragon quest, and more. It also announced the game would be coming to Nintendo Switch this fall. Players will be able to use the same account across devices, and if my experience with the game on Switch is any indication, they’ll probably prefer to play it on Nintendo’s system.
The Blades demo on Switch is a short mission that regular players of the mobile version have run multiple times before. My character is sent out into the forest to gather some wood when they run into a villager asking them to save his wife. She’s at the end of this linear level with a half-dozen wolves and tree men standing between you and her.
Right away I was happy with how Blades controls using the Joy-Con controllers. The mobile version has digital joysticks but those simply don’t compare to the real thing. The Joy-Con also represent a massive improvement from the point-and-click option I primarily used in early access preview.
Outside of combat, nothing much has changed with the Switch version. Interaction is still limited to specific items in the stage and you can’t unsheathe your weapon or sneak up on an enemy for a surprise attack. In combat, it’s a different story. You can attack from the left or right using the ZR or ZL buttons. A swing of your sword is still timing based, holding the button down until the attack circle hits its apex. Skills and spells are mapped to the face buttons of the Joy-Con controller, and this will be a game changer later dungeons when the enemies are stronger and faster than you and you need to ensure the spell you’re activating is the one you intend to.
The only part of combat that gave me trouble was blocking. Using your shield at just the right time to stun your opponent is a key element of the attack system in Blades. On Switch, you use a thumb stick to activate the shield. From the short demo, I couldn’t really get a hang brandishing it at the right time for maximum effect. That quibble aside, if you’re one of the millions of people who’ve downloaded The Elder Scrolls: Blades and are looking for more control of everything you do, the Switch version will be exactly what you want when it launches later this year.