Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind


Genre:   RPG

Developer:     Bethesda Software

Publisher:     UbiSoft

Released:   2002

PC Requirements:   Windows 98/Me/2000/XP: Windows ME/98 128 MB RAM,Windows XP/2000 256 MB RAM, 500 MHz Intel Pentium III, Celeron, or AMD Athlon processor, 8x CD/DVD-ROM Drive, 1 GB free hard disk space, Windows swapfile, DirectX 8.1 (included), 32MB Direct3D compatible video card with 32-bit color support and DirectX 8.1 compatible driver, DirectX 8.1 compatible sound card, Keyboard, Mouse




by Drizzt

The Elder Scrolls III – Morrowind

Björn Fallqvist

Have you ever felt you feel too “confined”, whether it’s in the real world or in computer games? If the first apply to you, don’t play this game, but go out a bit instead. If, however, the second applies to you (as is the case with some games; “aha, I have gotten the magical stone and have to travel all the 15 minutes back to the other side of the world where the game ends!”) you would do very good to pick up Morrowind. Unless you are enjoying being limited to a very small space in your games, of course (I know I do appreciate linearity in some games, as to not make it too free with too many choices).

What we have here is an incredibly free game. You can do whatever you want, as long as you do not kill anyone important to the game’s plot.
Feel like taking on the life of a burglar? Nobody is stopping you from getting a set of lock picks and trying to make your fortune on the other side of the law. Just make sure you do not get caught, or you will have to either be hunted by ever guard you see, pay a fine (and return your stolen goods) or be put in prison for an amount of time (you lose some skill every time that happens).

When talking about skill, that is a fun aspect of the game. In the beginning, you simply choose what your main skills will be, and then depending on how much you use them, you improve them, and also eventually gain levels. Some RPG’ers might not like this system (probably not “true” RPG enough for them), but I found it quite satisfying.

The world of Vvardenfell is huge, and then I really mean it. But that doesn’t mean it is necessarily empty or devoid of life, though. Everywhere you go, you will encounter people (who might join you as npcs in short side quests, or bandits, who attack you), animals, monsters and even some very strange encounters (such as the famous “Icarus scroll” one).
There are also tombs (the damn Island seem to have more ancient burial tombs on it dedicated to kings and whatevers than a big graveyard has tombstones), villages, larger cities, tribal camps, underground facilities, deserted ruins, mines, bandit hideouts and much more.
So, needless to say, you might sometime feel alone in this huge world, but you never know what might wait beyond the next turn of the road, or the peak of a hill and you never feel as if you are truly alone either.

So what about the environment, then? Well, the first thing to notice are the graphics, which when the game was released were top-notch (and still serve more than adequately).
The graphics do much for the world, and even if the Ashlands seems just the way they should be even though they are dull, grey and lifeless.
One thing nobody can complain about though, has to be the water effects (still unmatched today in my opinion).
The day-and night cycle is probably the best I have ever encountered. No instant day-night change in just a second, but instead here you will experience dawns, with the sun rising above the sea, and dusk, when all is settling again for the night and the sky is hardly just of the normal stuff either. Some days and night, it might be clear and blue as the sea, but others it can be full of clouds, foreboding a storm, or a dark grey when thunder rumbles, heavy rain falls and lightning crackles the screen, or perhaps a clear night sky showing stars and the moon almost transferring the chill of it to you. In short an incredible work of weather- and cycle effects.

The world in itself (if you ignore the graphics) is amazingly detailed. Every house you can see is filled with decorations, bookstands, drawers (some locked, some unlocked) and you can find a lot of stuff in them. And then imagine this all around the whole Island, and you get quite overwhelmed by the amount of detail.

The sound suits fine, especially sound effects, and character sounds are well done (dark elves sound especially raspy and excellent) – even if I wish I had been able to turn the sound off when you approach them – but what I can complain about are the ambient sounds.
Or should I say the lack thereof. There are practically no sounds from the surrounding areas, except in cities, but the only thing there are the torches (extremely well done torches, though, and it really adds to the feeling to see guards carrying them at night, casting a gloomy light around them) fizzling and the sound of your own footsteps (which by the way sounds exactly the same no matter what you are walking on). One thing I loved about the Baldur’s Gate series were the ambient sounds during day and night (shouting, talking and other sounds in the background which fit perfectly), and I would have loved to see the same thing here.
The music is composed by Jeremy Soule (composer of the music to Dungeon Siege, Neverwinter Nights, Icewind Dale and Total Annihilation among many other things) and is very grand but suitably calm and beautiful in other parts, and is the typical kind of work to expect from him, which is to say excellent (to those who does not know of him, I can only recommend to check out the Icewind Dale music).

The most important thing about this game in my opinion would most probably be the option to enchant your weapons by yourself (if you have the sufficient skill, otherwise go to an enchanter), and you can almost sit for hours trying to decide how to best enchant it, and it also adds a total new dimension to the game as you have the ability to practically form your own very personal gear.

There are plenty of weapons in Morrowind, some enchanted, some very rare, some just plain things such as a wooden club or a steel sword, but they all have the problem in common.
Fighting in Morrowind is hardly more than just frenetically clicking, trying to get a good strike before your opponent does, and if you get hit, you have to recover, and thereby lose the next strike. Very frustrating sometimes, to say the least, but after a time when you get the hang of it, it will be a little easier (if still annoying at times).

The interface is very well made, with the inventory, spell inventory and character stats showing up as soon as you press the inventory button, and if this might sound as if the screen will be cluttered by small windows, I can tell you it is not so. It all works smoothly, as you can also move the windows around on the screen (if you seem to be blocking something in the game you wish to see), and the only thing I could have wished for was just a bit better spell inventory (divide it into the magic classes might be a good idea).

Another thing improving the game even further is the ability to create your own spells (just be careful not to make any spell you are unable to cast), and by this you can customize yourself even as a mage.

I have only played the game as a fighter, but after what I have heard, (and noticed when I played) it seems as if the classes are a bit unbalanced.
Generally, there are three classes; fighters, mages, rogues. Sure, you can create a character how you want to, but it will not prove very effective if you spread out your abilities on totally different thing and get averagely strong in many than very strong in few.
Mages especially seem to lack strength, as they can not cast very many spells at all, and neither can they fight well (unless they want to put points on weapon exercising instead of magic skills), so they are for the most part very easy to defeat (even if they can deliver some nasty surprises before you manage to take them down).

I won’t spoil too much of the story, but I can tell you as far as that you are a prisoner aboard a ship which has just arrived to the Island of Vvardenfell, where you are granted release (in exchange for delivering a strange package to a man in another town). After that, you are on your own, and free to do as you wish.
About the world and history of the world, there are dozens and dozens of books, parchments and notes to read if you are interested in the background (even if I never bothered with it).

Besides the main story, there are many political intrigues among the guilds (fighter’s guild, mage’s guild and thieves’ guild) and the different houses you can join (Hlaalu for rogue classes, Redoran for fighters and Telvanni for mages) and advance in rank in.

Eventually, you will get your own stronghold, which you can decorate and live in as you please while the world crumbles to dust around you (not that I believe Morrowind has a time-limit, but that is what WOULD have happened if this had been real). The only complaint I have about this is the location of these Strongholds, as some are just out in the middle of nowhere, and can take an awful lot of time to travel to.

Yes, traveling, that is another issue…not that I know how it could have been avoided (probably couldn’t have) but still, it is kind of annoying early in the game when you have to run around for hours and hours and hours just to find your way to a town (you can otherwise use silt-striders, a kind of animals you travel with, or boats, but they do not reach everywhere) where you have not been before. But the world is huge and beautiful, and you might as well enjoy watching it while you are running around. Just don’t take too much attention from the road where you are going, as there are monsters and other things practically everywhere (some of them are even extremely annoying, such as those cliff racers, who I wish the developers had never made such an incredible amount of and such a high respawning rate. They are simply annoying).

One thing I must bring up also is how buggy this game is before you install the patch. And even after the patch, bugs are still present. Luckily, I have only encountered a few bugs after patching, and among them only one which really annoyed me.
The game crashed for me frequently, perhaps every hour of playing (or in some cases, just minutes), and needless to say, that is ruining the gameplay and joy of it in a measure.
A few others, not as quite serious, were one where I got stuck at walls, peoples, in the ground and so on a few times, and another was that silt strider- and boat drivers would somehow mystically be moved. This was quite weird, since they themselves don’t move an inch during the gameplay, and they just simply stood in a new place suddenly (for example, the silt strider driver in Khuul who stands on a high bridge suddenly stood down by the beach below by the water). Not a very serious or annoying problem, but still quite confusing.
Another one I am not sure if it’s a bug or not, is that you can not restore abilities if you have been drained when wearing or using something strengthening that ability. This is incredibly annoying if you have to strip down of your entire armor just to restore a few points of strength or speed, or any such thing, and then put it back on. Perhaps it is meant to be so, but I can’t see any reason why they would do it in such a way.

This game is probably the game with most playing hours I have ever had the fortune to experience, and I do not doubt it when I say I have spent at least 400 hours, probably closer to 500 hours with it, and enjoyed every single minute.
Because of the quests, side-quests, intrigues, the exploring of the world and satisfactory story, this might very well be the longest game ever.
And now there have also been released two expansion packs for it; Tribunal and Bloodmoon of which I have only played Tribunal (interesting story with some twists, new side quests and items).
Also it bodes well for the replayability value, with all the guilds, houses and ways to complete things.

Despite the few downfalls of this game, it is still an extremely immersive and will provide many long hours of exciting gameplay, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes either RPG’s, action games or both.


Graphics: 9/10
Sounds: 7/10
Gameplay: 9/10
Story: 7/10
Replayability value 8/10

Bottom line 9/10

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