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Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

My Rating: 10/10
Gamespot Community Rating: 9/10

The first Elder Scrolls game that I played and it will always hold a special place in my heart.

How to try and approach a game that I have spent countless hundreds of hours playing...In my mind and in my heart Morrowind is truly a masterpiece. It's predecessors, Arena and Daggerfall may have been larger, but Morrowind was the first highly detailed Elder Scrolls game. Despite it's smaller size, you can still spend at least a hundred hours without touching the main story line.

I've always loved the character creation in Morrowind, Daggerfall's was too complex, Oblivion's was good but simplified, and Skyrim's was pretty much non-existant. Morrowind's was great, like in Daggerfall they give you the option of picking from a list, answering questions to let your answers choose your class, or create a custom class. There are quite a few classes to choose from, but I've always made a custom class. You choose two major attributes which get a bonus, you tag a specialization (stealth, combat or magic) the skills in the selected category get a bonus, and you choose your skills.  You get a set number of primary skills, a set number of secondary skills (both recieve bonuses) and the rest are tagged as miscellaneous skills. Choosing a specialization and two attributes to get a bonus should be left to last as you decide which skills you want to use as I was always all over the place (but the game doesn't penalize you for being a jack of all trades). You also choose a birthsign (which is similar to the guardian stones in Skyrim except you can't change it) which gives you a bonus either in the form of a constant buff or it will give you abilities. And, obviously, before you choose all that, you choose a race, which is where you NEED to start thinking about your character because they tell you exactly what skills each race gets a bonus to, unlike Skyrim which pretty much just says "Kahjiit make good thieves".

This game gives you a wide variety of choice, once you leave the character generation the game will never push you in a direction, not even in the slightest. In fact, if you're not paying attention during the character creation and you don't ask the last NPC in there certain questions it is possible to not even start the main quest (though you could always go back and start it at any time). One of the most beautiful thing about Morrowind is it's openness, explore the vast world, delve into dungeons, join the assassin's guild and get contracts to legally murder people, do quests, B&E places, the choice is yours.

Quests range from simple and mundane quests such as clearing out a storage room of rats (what, not a basement for once!?) or convincing a guy to give back a pair of stolen pants to really long and involving like doing a pilgrimage to several different sites in order to join the temple or delving deep into dwarven ruins to fine a puzzle box only to go back and unlock a door and delve deeper into the ruins. While most of the Morrowind quests aren't really THAT unique, there is quite a variety between them, enough so to keep most people interested for quite a while. The expansions also add great quests chains, in Bloodmoon you get to join a faction previously in the game, but unjoinable, and you get to help them build an effin town which you get to make choices on how it's built! There's also a quest chain where you get to choose whether or not you want to be a werewolf!

There is more than enough items to provide for variety, more weapon and armor types than in Oblivion or Skyrim, they even have medium armor and spears in Morrowind, how cool is that!? It was probably taken out in later games because I always went medium, ebony and daedric were just too damn heavy! Enchanting items was a bit stupid in Morrowind, for enchanting you had all your known spell effects available. You had to go to an enchanter, choose effects that you personally know, and go off your own skill level for making the item. Why then, was there a need for an enchanter?

Spells were a great thing in this game, there was a decent variety and not only that you could make your own spells! Go to an NPC that offers spellmaking (this one makes a bit more sense than enchanting) and choose effects, whether it's a touch or ranged spell, if it's ranged you get to choose area of effect, choose magnitude (damage, or level effected, etc) and duration (if applicable) and it tells you the gold cost and the mana cost. The major flaw with this is a fundamental flaw in Morrowind's leveling system. You can make a spell that is too crappy to even use and it will raise your skills, essentially letting you train your skills without having to spend gold, and without a trainers max skill level cap.

Navigation in this game was one of the major flaws in my opinion, there were no waypoints on the map, the questgiver told you to go to such and such location, or to head in a direction such as north, you'd have to wander around trying to find the place you need to go. There also was no fast travel, need to go back to town to sell off your shit? Walk there bitch! No mounts either made that a royal pain (though you could fortify your carrying weight). In some ways the lack of fast travel really made me appreciate the world though, I got out, and I saw it, it's like the difference between going for a walk or going for a drive, if you go for a walk you take in a lot more of your surroundings. Don't get me wrong though, the game wasn't so bad to navigate, the game had a taxi service, only each town only had a limited amount of choices so sometimes it was like riding a bus, you needed to hop from town to town to get to one place. Also all the roads (not little paths, just roads) had numerous signs telling you which way to go to get to towns further down on the road.

Here are a couple screenshots:

There is too much to say about Morrowind, but I think I've touched base on the game enough already. If there is not enough to interest you in the base game there are a TON of mods available out there, and I would like to tell you about two really ambitious ones. First one being the overhaul mod
to sum this one up, it brings the graphics up to modern standards and changes the sounds (I personally prefer the original sounds) there are a TON of options with the installer to change settings and keep vanilla sounds. One mention is that with the better bodies mod that it includes there is a nude version and an underwear version, keep that in mind if you don't want your kids seeing nudity.
Here's a video on the overhaul mod's graphics:

The other great mod is Tamriel Rebuilt
Basically to sum this one up, Morrowind is a large province, look up a map of Tamriel. The problem is Morrowind only takes place on Vvardefell, a very large island, and the expansion, Bloodmoon takes place on a smaller (but in no case actually small) island. Tamriel Rebuilt aims to re-create the entire province of Morrowind in six parts, they are still working on it, part one is complete, part two is available and progress on the other four parts is coming along. I could not get both mods to work together, but they are supposed to be compatible.

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