Tips For Playing The Elder Scrolls: Blades

The Elder Scroll: Blades is finally out, at least in early access, and playable on iPhones or Android devices. While Blades isn’t as big or complex as Skyrim, it does have a surprising amount of depth compared to other RPGs built for phones. Not all of this depth is properly or clearly explained in-game, so after playing it for a few days, I’ve come up with some helpful tips.

We’ll update this post as Blades expands and we spend more time with the game.

I Don’t Have A Tip For Getting Early Access

I’ve seen a lot of people online asking and complaining about how hard it is to get access to Blades. I wish I could tell you exactly how to play this game right now, but I don’t know. Players can sign up for early access on Bethesda’s website and you download the app, but not everyone is able to play.

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Even folks who are getting emails letting them know they can play sometimes can’t play. I also know of someone who got access, played a bit and then tried again and found they couldn’t. Hopefully, the game will be available to everyone with no hurdles to jump soon.

We reached out to Bethesda about the situation and when more players will gain access to the game.

You Can Sell And Salvage Items At Your Blacksmith

One of the first things you are tasked with doing in Blades is helping save a blacksmith and then assisting him in rebuilding his blacksmith shop. Do this as soon as you can. His shop is important and will be useful for all sorts of things, including selling or salvaging items.

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If you are wondering what to do with all those crappy swords and shields you’ve collected, go to the blacksmith shop and sell them or salvage them for materials.

I recommend selling stuff instead of salvaging, at least at first. Gold is valuable for repairing gear, and I found I got a good amount of materials from questing. Later on, I expect it will probably be best to salvage more than sell, because building up your town and gear using materials will be more important, and gold comes at a steady enough rate that selling won’t be as important.

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Explore During Quests…

Unlike the bigger Elder Scrolls games, Blades isn’t open world. Instead, players collect quests and then activate them via a menu. Doing so teleports you to a dungeon or other area where you complete the quest. These areas aren’t massive, but they often have side rooms and tunnels you can explore. Hidden in many of these areas are secrets, usually chests, which can easily be missed if you just follow the quest marker.

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...And After Finishing Quests

After killing enough bandits or collecting enough wood, the quest will end and the game will pop up a message telling you that you’ve finished your task. You can press a button to leave right then, but I recommend hitting the other option, which lets you explore the area after finishing the quest.

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Dungeons can still be filled with enemies, loot, and secrets after finishing a quest. It doesn’t hurt to spend a few minutes doing a little extra exploring to walk away with some more goodies and XP.


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Combat

Every quest in Blades will involve you having to fight some creatures, bandits or other baddies. One of the early quests players are given teaches you the basics. But if you haven’t done that quest yet or need a refresher, here are some tips.

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  • Timing is the key to landing critical hits. Tap the screen and keep your finger held down until the circle fills the ring. The moment the circle touches the outer ring, life your finger off the screen. If you time it perfectly, when the circle and ring meet, you will land a critical hit.
  • Don’t forget to block. In combat, you’ll find a small shield icon on the left of your screen. Holding it lets you block, and holding it longer blocks for longer. Blocking right as enemies attack will stun them and let you counter-attack.
  • For smaller and faster foes, like rats or wolves, don’t swing wildly. You can often only hit them when they are attacking or jumping towards you. I prefer to hold my finger down, which readies my weapon. Then the moment the rat gets close I let go and kill it. Doing this makes it impossible to land a critical, but smaller beasts rarely take more than one hit anyway.
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Potions And Healing

During combat, you might take some damage or use up some mana. Luckily, mana and health potions can be activated by clicking different icons that appear after taking a large amount of damage or after casting spells. You can also drink potions out of combat by finding them in your inventory and drinking them. 

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While in dungeons or on quests, keep an eye out for food items. Things like meat, mushrooms or cheese can often be found sprinkled around these areas, and tapping them will heal you if you have taken any damage. I have barely used potions because of how plentiful food is in most quests.

Use Some Of Your Gems To Expand Inventory Slots

As you play The Elder Scrolls: Blades you earn free gems. These are the premium currency in the game and allow you to skip timers when unlocking chests or building. You can burn your gems to finish timers, but I recommend using them to increase your various inventory slots first. Specifically, increase the number of chests you can collect. Doing so will help you avoid future headaches such as not being able to collect new chests because you’ve maxed out your inventory.

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Opening Chests

Chests work differently in Blades than in Skyrim. Instead of clicking on them to open them, you collect them and open them via timers and menus later, after a quest.

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Chests will often include new weapons, armor or crafting materials, as well as gems. They are very useful for upgrading your town or becoming stronger. But they can also be annoying, since they take real time to open, with some taking hours before you can access their loot. If you aren’t patient, you can burn some gems on instantly opening them. But I would avoid this.

Instead of buying gems, open a chest before you shut off the game or go out questing. This will help make the timers less of a hassle, as you will be busy doing other stuff while the chest slowly unlocks.

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Also, because you can only have one chest unlocking at a time, try to open the smaller, wooden chests before starting a big chest. These wooden chests take only a few minutes, but if you start unlocking a big chest that takes hours before a small chest, you won’t be able to open the wooden chest without spending a gem.

Check Your Challenges And Daily/Weekly Jobs

In Blades, you have three challenges you can complete, and as you complete them you are given new challenges. These aren’t timed; instead, they only go away if you complete them or if you decide to skip one. Once completed or skipped, you will receive a new challenge. Make sure to check your challenges every once in a while; they’re easy to miss, and once completed you have to click them to earn the reward.

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Another easy way to earn some gold and loot is from completing daily and weekly jobs. These rotate periodically and are usually small quests, like kill four bandits. These will often reward chests, gold, and XP. Jobs are great quests to play if you only have a few minutes to spend.

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Find Theodor To Change Your Looks

In your personal town, you will find various NPCs. These people can give you quests or tell you more about the world and story. One important villager to meet is Theodor, a strange man with yellow eyes. He seems to be not quite human and possibly a magical being.

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Theodor will let you change your character’s looks. This means you don’t have to worry too much about your character looking ugly or if you chose the wrong race. Theodor is also is how you gain access to The Abyss.

Explore The Abyss

After talking to Theodor for the first time you will be able to explore The Abyss, which is a multi-level dungeon. As you get deeper and deeper, you earn new rewards and XP.

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The Abyss will be challenging at first, especially with lower quality gear, but it’s still worth exploring. Don’t waste any of your revival scrolls on your first few treks in The Abyss. You will want those later on as you level up and start getting deeper into the massive dungeon.

Pay Attention To Your Gear

After completing quests and diving into The Abyss, you will probably need to fix up some of your gear. Weapons and armor, like older games in the franchise, have durability. Repairing these items cost gold. The price can vary based on the item and how damaged it is.

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One tip to help save you money is not to repair gear until it is 70% or lower. I didn’t notice these damaged items during combat, so you can probably hold off on repairing them if you’re short on gold.

Another tip to save gold and make weapons last longer is to bring lower level daggers and swords you find on quests with you while completing easier missions and dungeons. There’s no reason to damage your amazing magic sword just to kill a few rats. Instead, use that crappy dagger you found yesterday.

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Build Up Your Town

As you level up, earn new loot and collect new items, you will be able to build and level up your town. This will grant you access to more decorations and buildings. More importantly, it will let you unlock new facilities or styles, like a place to create potions or new decorations to apply to buildings. Want a village filled with stone homes? You can do that, assuming you have the materials.

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Plan ahead a bit when building new homes or shops; some things need more space than others. For example, most shops need two empty lots instead of one. If you make a mistake, you can destroy buildings and replace them.

You Can Play Vertical or Horizontal

You might want to play most of Blades in landscape mode, using the more traditional two thumbstick control scheme. I play quests like this. But don’t forget you can also, at any time, flip your phone vertically and play with one hand.

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This mode is useful if you just want to open some chests and start building something in your town. When in one hand mode, tap the ground to move around. I found menus and inventories were easier to manage in one hand mode, but you might feel otherwise. Don’t forget to flip your phone and see if a certain orientation works better for you.

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About the author

Zack Zwiezen

Kotaku Weekend Editor | Zack Zwiezen is a writer living in Kansas. He has written for Gamecritics, USgamer, Killscreen and Entertainment Fuse.