Elder Scroll III: Bloodmoon


Genre:   RPG

Developer & Publisher:     Bethesda Softworks

Released:   2003

PC Requirements:   Windows 98/ME/2000/XP, Pentium III 500, Celeron, or AMD Athlon processor, 256MB RAM, 8X CDROM, 1GB free hard disk space, DirectX 8.1 (included), 32MB Direct3D compatible video card with DirectX 8.1 compatible driver, DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card, Keyboard, Mouse




by Drizzt

Winter…a word that doubtlessly incurs several memories, thoughts and feelings within every person. Personally, I have always loved winter. Coldness (at least you can protect yourself against winter by putting on more clothes; nothing you can do about the warmth during summer), snow, beautiful landscapes and more is automatically associated to it, but none of these can explain the magic that winter seems to bless (or curse, according to some) us with.

It also makes for incredible sceneries in games, whether it is a Role Playing Game, racing game or an action game. Whatever it is, it always seems to be something special. In racing games I would always drive the tracks during a blizzard or at least when it was snow on the ground, simply to try to catch this “feeling”. The fact that I would do this in a simple racing game gives an indication as to how much I would adore any RPG which managed to put this into a world, which I can explore to its fullest.
Sometime late last year (2002) I saw that it seemed as if my unspoken wish had been granted, when I read about this expansion pack; A big new island, plagued by snowstorms, werewolves and with in the environment I most enjoy; an icy northern landscape with giant areas covered by ice and snow.
Then the question is, how true did this expansion hit the mark? Well, that depends on one’s viewpoint and other factors, which I will look closer into at a later point.

The expansion is smoothly installed over Morrowind, just as Tribunal was (one thing that confuses me, though, is that unlike other games, this still requires the original CD to start instead of the expansion ones. Maybe because they have to take the whole Vvardenfell into consideration, but that shouldn’t really be a problem since obviously, the areas are copied onto the hard drive. Oh well, enough ranting), and is accessed in the same way as well.
This is being done by a Khajit who you pay for passage to the Island of Solstheim – Island of cold weather, snowstorms, unfriendly inhabitants and all kinds of wildlife. According to the map, you can also swim there, but that would be a very long swim indeed, and considering the temperature of the water, I don’t think it would be a very advisable thing to do.

The story starts with the player arriving at the docks of the very desolate Island, from where you are told to head up to the Fortress of the Island and talk to the Captain in charge. From here, you get a number of quests, which will further involve you into the story about Solstheim’s history, religion and aboriginals, as well as some other interesting things which I will not spoil.

Following true to the style of the game (unlike Tribunal, which according to me felt a bit too “enclosed” at times) it an entire new area of Vvardenfell, with all that means.
When you roam across the island, you will encounter tombs, ancient halls, underground dwellings and also a very nice ice castle (feels like something directly out of Conan the Destroyer).
The size of Solstheim is very impressive for an expansion pack, and I would say it is about the size of a sixth of the island of Vvardenfell. Adding quests you can get from people you encounter and you have quite a bit of time consuming exploring at your hands for some time ahead.

Here is one of Bloodmoon’s (and was also one of Morrowind’s lacking areas) weak points, also. Yes, there are lots of quests (even if you find some of them in most peculiar places), and in this case, the size of the island is more of a disadvantage than an advantage. Many above mentioned quests usually involve finding someone or something, and the directions you get are not always accurate, if you get any at all.
To begin with, I could take the example of a ritual you have to conduct by one of the Skaal’s (a nord-tribe) religious stones (the Tree Stone), where you are supposed to seek out some seed and bring it back there. To your help, you have the description of the location they are. And that pointer is “The Hirrsthang forest”. I wonder who of the geographic designers who is now sitting chuckling malevolently in his room somewhere came up with that suggestion?
I mean, take a look at the map. This forest covers about one third of the entire Solstheim, which leaves you very frustrated.
Another example of this is quest you receive from a man standing in the north western part of Solstheim at a hill, overlooking a delta of frozen rivers and icebergs below, with the sea stretching out as far as you can see beyond that (the most beautiful scenery I have seen in the game, I strongly recommend you to go there if you have not already). This man needs you to find another man for him. Sounds reasonable enough, so what is the catch? Well, if you had gotten some kind of directions, it wouldn’t have been hard to accomplish, but the most accurate you get out from this person is “he lives in a dwelling here somewhere on the island”. Well, that was something I never could have figured out on my own. I mean, maybe he actually lives in inner part of Vvardenfell, getting a tan by some molten rocks and a lava stream? I mean, you can never be sure, can you?

And adding to this a sometimes almost ridiculous spawning-rate of animals and monsters (with those Spriggans who are more of a nuisance than fun in my opinion) and you that “exploring” experience I talked about before seems to be unreachable.
Despite this critique, however, it is not as bad as it sounds, as you will not have big problems with most of your encounters if you continued with a character from your original game.
But beware, if you did not like the (sometimes pointless) running around in Morrowind, this expansion is definitely not for you, then you’d be better off checking out Tribunal.

I am split about the graphics, as a matter of fact. The textures feel a bit too dull often, and the engine feels a bit too “stiff”. However, the animations are state-of-the-art work with a great amount of detail, which serves as a counterpart to the aged engine.
Despite the somewhat lacking engine, generally the graphics are great when it comes to doing what Morrowind always has been best at; creating whole sceneries. Icebergs, piles of snow, mountains, frozen rivers and villages all float together (especially enjoyable during a snowstorm) in a world that manages to convey the image of a frozen and harsh world.

The sound is pretty much the same as earlier, without any major changes except the additions of new monster/animals sound. I must give them credits for managing to create such a sound as they did with the werewolves, as it is differs from the other additions in both originality and simply quality.
Here is also a great addition from the original game; environmental sound. Now, instead of simply hearing music and your own footsteps when trampling through forests at night, you hear much more of the environment itself, and not seldom you hear wolves howl in the distance (or werewolves, it depends on how much imagination you have), and overall, the sound has simply put been improved (the footstep sounds now differ depending on what surface you are currently walking on).

A major disappointment for me was the music, though. Or maybe I should say the lack of any new music. With Tribunal being not much of a difference in style or environment I didn’t mind this much, but with this as an entirely new environment I surely wouldn’t have minded something resembling a Nord battle song or something a bit more peaceful to suit the calmer, more beautiful parts of Solstheim.
Jeremy Soule has already shown he is a master of these areas, and made a wonderful job with Morrowind (not to mention Total Annihilation, Icewind Dale – something like the beautiful Kuldahar theme would fit as a glove - and Neverwinter Nights, why not ask him to a soundtrack for this as well?

New monsters and encounters include Spriggans (incredibly annoying creatures who does not add anything good at all to the game, and are generally just an annoyance), Draughs (undead nord warriors, or “angry undead nord warriors” as I had it explained to me by a tribesman), Tusked Bristlebacks, Rikling Raiders (exceptionally high respawning rate, it seems), Wolves (travels in packs, which makes them dangerous if attacked all at once), Bears, and most interesting, Werewolves (which I only have encountered during nights).
These all seem to live in harmony with each other (strange enough, I thought animals was supposed to defend themselves against other, e.g. bears?), and at times when you roam through the woods it feels almost crowded.

One good touch about this (and the only good thing about the ridiculous respawning rate) is that Solstheim feels “alive”. More alive than Morrowind ever felt, especially as this island does not have huge blackened areas totally devoid of live covering half of the area.
Adding to this atmosphere, created by great scenery, well-fitting sound and wildlife just around the corner are also the nord themselves. Instead of simply putting together a race consisting of tall humans who were fierce fighters, most of them, the developers decided to work on their history and race a bit more.

It can be no doubt that the nords (nord means north) are a reference to the Vikings (of Scandinavia, I might add). What really hooked me and made me feel this as more solid is that the names seems like a mix of norweigan (the Vikings who had most influence on England and the rest of the world due to their coastal location) and a small part English. This serves to make it feel more “authentic” and gives the feeling this is something that actually has been put a lot more work into than most works today.

The replayability value is just a matter of the question “How long can you keep playing Morrowind without being bored”? As with the original game, there is no real ending here, and because of the size and solidness throughout it, I’d say it has a big chance of staying on your hard drive for some time. At least as long a time as Morrowind stays, because when you have grown tired of that, you will almost certainly have grown tired of this as well.

So would it be worth getting, then? That is entirely up to you, and your earlier experiences with Morrowind. If you are the kind of person who really liked Morrowind and thoroughly enjoyed the giant outdoor areas, then I wonder; why haven’t you packed your warm socks yet and are on your way?
If you thought Morrowind was utterly boring and couldn’t at all stand the wide ranges and simple running around, then I think a better choice for you would be Dungeon Siege or maybe Neverwinter Nights (sure, there are some outdoor areas there, but none as immerse as Morrowind’s).
Now, if you thought Morrowind was an ok action game and pretty decent as entertainment, then you better try it by a friend’s house or ask to play it in the store (if they allow that; it takes quite a few hours to get a hold on the island before you can judge for yourself if you can handle it).

Something for you to sink your teeth in. You had best be prepared for it, though, and used to the typical Morrowind complications. The thing that distinguishes whether you will experience it as roast beef or putrid meat is how well you like Morrowind. This is a must for fans and a stay away sign for non-fans.


Graphics: 8/10
Sounds: 8/10
Gameplay: 7/10
Story: 8/10
Replayability Value: 8/10

My Rating: 7.5/10

design copyright © 2003 GameBoomers Group

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