The Elder Scrolls: Blades (Nintendo Switch) Review

By Drew Hurley 20.05.2020

Review for The Elder Scrolls: Blades on Nintendo Switch

Bethesda can't be accused of not trying new things at least - branching out with each of its big properties into other markets and styles, even if the fans never asked for it. Whether it be the NPC-free ghost lands of Fallout 76, or taking the legendary sprawling RPG series of the Elder Scrolls and turning it into a loot box mobile game, right or wrong, the choices were bold. Both have been critical failures, they've developed their own audience and have their fans, but for the broader audiences, the flaws were too glaring to ignore. Now Blades is receiving a surprise release onto the Nintendo Switch, factoring in all the quality of life improvements to the title implemented over its last year in Early Access, along with some improvements just for this version. Whether those improvements can turn this flawed experiment around though, remains to be seen.

Right from the first download and install, Blades feels like a mobile game that has been ported over in almost every aspect; in the controls, in the simplistic combat, in the limited designs, and most of all, in the pervasive and intrusive behaviour of the micro-transactions. It looks better than its mobile counterpart at least, and is more pleasing to the eye than most mobile titles in general. The team did a decent job in overhauling that aspect, delivering a solid looking presentation for a free game. At least in handheld mode. The cracks start to show when switching over to play in docked mode. The graphics may be decent, but the performance isn't, frequent freezes, stutters, and actual full-on crashes regularly occurred during the play-through for this review.

When Blades launched, it wasn't particularly well-received, and like many other such slated launches such as No Man's Sky and Bethesda's own Fallout 76, it has received many regular updates and improvements that many players would never have seen - the negative experience at launch having driven them away, many never to have seen the improvements implemented for their concerns. November saw the release of Guilds and Arenas which are included, along with some quality of life around the annoying chest timers which improve the game from its original incarnation. For the few who have kept with the mobile version, you can port your experience over via a Bethesda online account, which allows you to effectively cross-play across both platforms.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls: Blades on Nintendo Switch

The Elder Scrolls: Blades sets the player into the boots of a surviving member of 'The Blades,' the group of warriors who were tasked with protecting the line of Dragonborn Kings. Like with other Elder Scrolls titles, this character can be created and customised at startup, with the usual range of races available to choose from, such as an Argonian, or Nord, or Khajiit. Character created, it's off into the world to embark on a grand quest. Kind of. The story picks up in a ruined village that needs to be rebuilt, and it's down to the player to gather up all the lumber and rocks to do so; heading out into repetitive dungeons, taking on basic quests such as rescuing some villagers from Goblins, or rescuing some villagers from bandits, or rescuing some villagers from skeletons.

When out on one of these quests, forget about approaching the combat from the multiple avenues that the other Elder Scrolls titles offer up. While there is the option to focus more on magic or melee, the combat itself is nothing like the main series. As soon as an enemy is encountered, the camera locks into a static position, making movement impossible. Instead, the combat is limited to either throwing up a block, or swinging an attack to the left or right by holding the ZL or ZR buttons. Holding these buttons down begins to fill a ring gauge, which if timed correctly can deliver a critical blow. Alternating between the two without interruption builds up bonus combo damage to reward those who can avoid enemy blocks.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls: Blades on Nintendo Switch

There is a little extra depth to the combat. Enemies have weaknesses to specific attacks, elements, and weapons to take into account - crushing damage for Skeletons and fire damage for Dryads, for example. Then there is a series of special abilities and spells that can be purchased with skill points from levelling up, but these just add one button abilities that recharge from mana and stamina pools. Little real depth to the combat experience. Battles just feel stilted and repetitive. No chance for ranged combat or stealth, just stand there and take it in turns, hitting each other until the enemy drops.

Speaking of repetitive, there are only a handful of dungeons to explore, and as such the quests quickly get dull. The circle repeats endlessly: get a job or quest in town, wait an inordinate amount of time for the dungeon to load, get teleported to one of the few linear dungeons, walk through a horribly designed, linear little dungeon, engaging in the dull combat - return to town, repeat. When back in town the materials found and the rewards received can be used to build up the various parts of the town, unlocking blacksmiths, homes, and even decorations like fountains. This then unlocks new quest givers, to repeat the painful cycle.

Levelling up the town introduces the age-old mobile mainstay, real-time timers. Creating buildings takes time, with buildings taking hours to complete after the first few initial ones. Similarly, as rare chests are found they come with timers to open the chest. Though being a mobile game, it offers a way to speed this process along with the gem system: a premium currency format that can be purchased in the eShop, or found in minuscule quantities through playing the game. This can be used to bypass the long wait times. For a price.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls: Blades on Nintendo Switch

This leads into the absolute worst part of the experience. The micro-transactions, and the begging around them. Being a port of a free mobile game, and again being free on Switch, it's bringing the intrusive and obnoxious adverts along with it - and boy, how obnoxious they are! Get back to town after a quest? "Hey, want to buy a premium hero pack?" No. "Hey, there's 50% off this gem pack right now!" No. "Hey, looks like you turned around, want to spend some real money?" No, no, no! Just all the time, it's horrendous.

On top of the main story, there are some extra gameplay modes. Once the main game has been progressed far enough, the Abyss and Arena are unlocked for play. The Abyss is an endless dungeon where rewards are unlocked the deeper the player delves without dying. With the enemies growing stronger and stronger as the levels descend deeper and deeper. The Arena is the game's PVP section, allowing one-vs-one battles against the other people foolish enough to take up space on their Switch memory card with this travesty.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls: Blades on Nintendo Switch

Cubed3 Rating

Rated 2 out of 10

Very Bad

While it's nice to see more and more things get ported to the Switch, there are things that belong on the platform and things that do not. This would be an example of something that does not. A truly tedious experience, after just a few hours. The best thing about The Elder Scrolls: Blades is that it's a fantastic advertisement for playing Skyrim on the Switch.




Bethesda Softworks

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  2/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  0 (0 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date Out now   Australian release date Out now    Also on Also on Nintendo eShop


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