When Bethesda announced a new Elder Scrolls game at their E3 2018 press conference, I got extremely excited. Knowing that it was a mobile game designed to leech off of Fallout Shelter’s massive success, I tempered my expectations, but it was still a landmark moment to see one of my all-time personal favorite game franchise’s get a new entry — mobile or otherwise. The later announcement of The Elder Scrolls VI was enough to just send me over the edge, but that’s unrelated here.
Todd Howard got on stage and explained that with The Elder Scrolls: Blades, they want to bring it to as many platforms as possible, which means mobile obviously, but also PC, consoles, and even VR. Even though he mentions VR, I made sure to ask Pete Hines, Bethesda’s SVP of Global Marketing and Communications, if that was just an idea or if it was actually definitely happening:
“It’s definitely coming to VR,” said Hines. “[Todd Howard] wouldn’t get up on stage and say it’s coming to VR if it wasn’t. We are absolutely going to do it for VR. As for when or how long that version takes beyond the phone version I don’t have any idea. It was a thing where, because of the control system, it felt pretty natural for VR.”
So that’s reassuring at least. At E3 they only had demos of the mobile phone version, so that’s all I was able to play, but I’ve got a pretty good idea of how the game works and why I think it would be a natural fit for VR headsets later on down the line.
Btw here is a quick little video fron #E3 showing how combat and inventory management work in The Elder Scrolls: Blades on mobile portrait mode pic.twitter.com/7HyMfT5dCg
— David Jagneaux (@David_Jagneaux) June 15, 2018
When I saw the trailer for the first time, mobile VR immediately came to mind. The movement system in the mobile phone version of the game is either virtual joystick-based (as in, you hold your thumb on the screen and move it around like an imaginary joystick is beneath it) or you can just tap to move to a spot in the distance. The latter feels a bit like old-school isometric RPGs, such as Baldur’s Gate, except the view is first-person.
The tap to move scheme would work great in VR since it’s basically teleport movement already, or let us use the joystick and trackpads of the Rift and Vive to move around easily. Done.
I didn’t get to try out a whole lot of the game, really just wandered around a castle dungeon and forest killing spiders and skeletons. For combat, everything I saw was purely one-on-one based. When you initiate, the camera centers on the enemy. At the bottom left there’s a block button, which can be timed to cause a small stagger, as well as ability buttons for shield bash and spells. It’s unclear if magic will be utilized in any other way.
To attack you just hold your thumb over the enemy and try to release it as soon as the two circles overlap each other. I liked the system because of how easy to pick up and do it was with either one hand in portrait mode or two hands in landscape. Here is an example of the portrait mode I recorded during my demo:
The trailer mentions a lot of other systems in the full game, such as a city-building management mechanic, as well as PvP arena. I don’t see why porting all of that to VR would be a problem.
This really seems like a game designed from the ground up for mobile phones and I’m already pre-registered to try it out as soon as it’s available on my Google Pixel 2. Hopefully it won’t take long before I can have it installed on my Oculus Go, Rift, Vive, and elsewhere soon too.
If Todd Howard’s plans come true, we may even have all versions of the game connected across the same shared world, which would be excellent. I still just have so many questions. Like, where in Tamriel does this take place? Can we sneak? Can I use a bow? Do I level up skills? Can I marry Lydia? I need answers.