The prodigal fantasy series journeys back to mobile after more than a decade of hiatus, with promise of more to come.
There’s been an onslaught of gaming reveals from this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3 for short), but none was more surprising than Bethesda’s return to smart devices. Their new app wasn’t a strategy spin-off like Fallout Shelter, or a card game in the vein of The Elder Scrolls: Legends. No, Bethesda showcased a fully-fledged Elder Scrolls game in the palm of your hand, something we haven’t seen in years!
Offering dungeon crawling adventures, brutal online player versus player duels, and a story mode where you help rebuild a town, The Elder Scrolls: Blades promises to be a splendid hybrid of Infinity Blade and classic Elder Scrolls action. Bethesda looks to have done a marvelous job translating its brilliant hack’n’slash combat and sprawling world to handhelds, with an intuitive set of controls demonstrated on-stage. Holding Tamriel in your grasp is a compelling prospect in of itself, but Blades‘ announcement carries greater weight still, and stands as a vanguard for a quite promising new future for Bethesda mobile titles.
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You see, while the idea of a pocket version of Skyrim or Morrowind may seem like a new development, Bethesda has a storied history of bringing its epic fantasy series to mobile phones. Known as The Elder Scrolls Travels, these mobile adventures to Tamriel ranged from flip phones to the ill-fated N-Gage, and even a cancelled PSP game. Where most developers erred on the side of simple 2D spin-offs, The Elder Scrolls Travels boldly offered the entire 3D experience on handhelds, first as dungeon crawlers, then, much like Blades, with fully 3D environments in Shadowkey. The first entry, Stormhold, even gave us our first trip to the frozen peaks of Skyrim, years before the iconic title of the same name would get its first of several releases.
However, during their boldest attempt with The Elder Scrolls Travels: Oblivion, the blades of valor were stayed due to a number of extenuating factors. The title was little more than vaporware until online archivist PtoP came across a preview build nearly a decade later. It seemed like all was lost for those all those brave adventurers who wanted to quest on the go, but now that all changes with Blades, which fittingly incorporates a number of the core ideas in The Elder Scrolls Travels: Oblivion. With its dungeon crawling focus and town-centric narrative, Oblivion‘s mobile sibling lives on in spirit as one of the most ambitious first-person mobile RPGs to date.
More importantly, Bethesda’s creative director Todd Howard explained during the reveal that Bethesda has continued to explore unique experiences that aren’t available on mobile. Like Fallout Shelter before it, Blades is a renewed exploration into the power of handheld devices, and their inter-connectivity with other hardware, such as VR. Bethesda’s expansion beyond traditional consoles offers a potential wealth of hallmark IP’s in forms we haven’t seen before. Wolfenstein and Prey already have VR spin-offs announced, and its easy to see how such series might be translated to mobile if Blades follows in Fallout Shelter‘s success.
While it wasn’t the biggest announcement of E3, Blades may very well help open the door to many exciting series coming to mobile, and with the careful, smart hands of Bethesda’s developers at the forefront, we can’t wait for what they have in store of us in the years to come.