Currently in Early Access, The Elder Scrolls: Blades is Bethesda's stab at dominating the mobile space by delivering a multi-platform experience that is said to be on par with its other major console RPGs. Think Skyrim or Oblivion that can fit right into your pocket, with progress shareable across many different devices (well, that's the vision anyway). It was announced during the company's E3 showcase in June that Blades would be arriving onto the Switch this autumn, but we were able to take a closer look at this recently-revealed version when visiting QuakeCon Europe last weekend.
The demo that was available on the show floor just featured one quest, which we could remember playing through early on in the mobile version. Here we had to search for two missing woodcutters in a forest whilst slashing our way through wolves and spriggans. The level itself was very linear and the majority of the time we just followed a glowing beam of blue light while pausing on occasion to collect materials and engage in battle. The demo itself didn't show us any further story or gameplay content, but from it we were able to get a feel for two things: how the game controls on Switch and how it holds up on a TV screen.
Blades on the Switch addresses many of our qualms with the mobile version regarding controls, mainly because using the touchscreen is completely optional. Having to tap on the screen to move your character forward every couple of steps felt tedious, and it's much more natural to be able to push an analogue stick in the direction of our choice. The screen on mobile also felt really cluttered, as commands for potions, special attacks, and defensive blocks with our shield all occupied the same space. This may be the same on the Switch too, but there is now a button allocated to each, so there's no danger of accidentally hitting the wrong one, which may be a reality for those like us with fat fingers.
We should note that we played Blades in docked mode with a Pro controller, so there are still a few aspects that we weren't able to try out. At E3 Bethesda revealed that motion controls would indeed be present, which we imagine would work really well for actions such as slinging your sword towards enemies, but alas we couldn't see it in action here. We were also unable to use the touchscreen controls due to the setup, but we imagine that they will work along with the allocated buttons and will be purely optional. Essentially we're just pleased that there is the option to play with the buttons on the controller, as it wasn't too long ago that we were grumbling at how The World Ends With You: Final Remix was hurt as it didn't have this control scheme present.
A selling point of Blades is that it's multi-platform and your progress can be picked up seamlessly when switching over to another device. That means you could be playing on your phone during your commute, for example, and then continue your adventure on the Switch when you get home. Nintendo's console, of course, has the advantage of being portable and is playable on the TV through docked mode (besides the Switch Lite), so this removes the need to even have to alternate between devices. This - and the fact that it appears to be the only platform to offer motion controls - is why the Switch will be our platform of choice once Blades makes its way out of Early Access later on in the year.
Blades sure does look pretty impressive when running on mobile, but it didn't feel like quite the visual showcase when running on a TV. We can report that the Switch version looked identical to running on an iPhone X, with no apparent enhancements to the visuals despite running on much more powerful hardware. When playing on a TV screen many blemishes started to present themselves too, as character models appeared rough around the edges, and the green shades of the forest just felt washed-out. As a free-to-play mobile title it stands above the competition in the visual department, but it just can't compete against other major console RPGs it claims to be in the same class as.
Blades on Switch appears to be the definitive way to play the free-to-play RPG come autumn, since it can be played both at home and on the go without the need to move between devices, and it includes motion controls as well. In handheld mode it also removes having to use the occasionally tedious touchscreen controls that we felt really hurt the mobile version, but things start to look a lot less rosy if you plug it into a TV. If you want to hear more about the fundamental mechanics though, be sure to check out our original preview of the mobile version from last year.