Reviews: The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind

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A beautiful, if frustrating early on, piece
Skyrim was my first Elder Scrolls game, but eventually I found it lifeless, overall.

It is curious, then, that Morrowind, a game where the NPCs repeat the exact same dialogue across the world and all stand completely still, would be more appealing.

Morrowind is a very good "sandbox" game, perhaps better than any other. Now, Skyrim begins with a dragon attack, Oblivion begins with the assassination of the Emperor, Daggerfall an exceedingly large dungeoncrawl. Morrowind, after a strange dream you immediately exit into the world as gentle exploration music plays, with some vague instructions. In this odd sense, it has the best introduction out of them all, a relaxing one that sort of leaves you to do whatever, explore. This has its own problems, but is appreciated.

Where Morrowind really succeeds is its setting. Skyrim had a lovely aesthetic, but it really doesn't come close and a lot of the more interesting lore pieces seemed cut. Cyrodiil was really generic. Daggerfall made the mistake of embracing scale rather than a lovingly crafted area. But Vvardenfell is a exotic alien beauty, filled with mushroom houses and generally unique monsters. And cliff racers, but give me a silt strider over a horse any day. The politics are interesting, and the guilds feel less disconnected (one key problem with Skyrim and Oblivion, especially the former).

The gameplay does have its merits. I admit, there was some fun in following directions, and using Mark/Recalls was more involved than just using Fast Travel. I won't argue that this is really superior to quest markers or Skyrim's travel-after-unlocking, however, though it's not really an option in future games (disable markers and there is little-to-no other direction). Morrowind's system was more productive, I feel, to more unique builds, but leveling was overcomplex and "gamey" (not until Skyrim does it become anywhere natural).

The mixing with dice and real combat often ends up just frustrating, at least early on. While this does give a good sense of progression, the disconnect from whomping a little rat in the face for a time you can measure and just hearing the miss sound over and over, it will haunt me to my grave. Still, the fun of endgame crap can be great.
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Needlessly Frustrating game.
If your gaming buddies have been looking down their noses at you for not having the patience to endure this "rewarding experience" don't give in. This is a painful and needlessly tedious game. Your buddies remember it fondly because its been so long for them since the first time they had to play it themselves.

When they tell you "No I played it again recently and it totally holds up." It doesn't. They're well-intentioned, but its combination of nostalgia coupled with the fact that they already know the layout of Morrowind and know the stuff they have to do. For a beginner, especially one acquainted with the improvements that have come with modern game design, this whole endeavor is like raking your yard during a storm. The rain makes the leaves wet and everything gets blown around.

You can improve your experience somewhat with the following tips.
  1. Google and download the Morrowind Overhaul Project my hats off to those guys because its a real blessing with massive graphical enhancements and several optional gameplay niceties (take all of them) OR
    1. a) If Skywind has finally been released, just play that instead.
  2. If you're coming to this from Skyrim, you'll want to remap your keys. In particular, the 'E' and 'Spacebar' Key functions are reversed between the two games but some of the others could benefit from remapping as well (don't worry, there's a reset to default button if you screw up).
  3. You'll quickly realize the regular minimap is useless especially at HD resolutions. Fortunately, you can anchor the other map, the one you access through right click. You can reposition it, resize it, and click the X in the upper right so that it stays put when you right click back into the game. You need this, trust me.
  4. The Fourth and Fifth Trials can be bypassed and believe me having just played them, you're missing nothing. The councilors and chiefs are mostly horrible people and there are a LOT of them with a lot of chores. You can do their skeevy chores for them, or you can can side quest till you're level 20 and Reputation 50.
  5. Get the Improved Teleport Ring Mod. It won't save you from all the traveling you're going to have to do and broken verbal directions but it will help.
  6. Get the Accurate Attack Mod. Normally you only have a percentage chance of hitting and the fights are tedious enough even with this mod.
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The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind - My Favorite Game of All Time
Morrowind is, without a doubt, my favorite game of all time. It was my introduction to both PC Gaming and Western RPGs in general. I had previously played the Playstation One generation Final Fantasy games as well as the early games in the Pokémon series, both of which I enjoyed highly and still enjoy to this day. However, the sheer freedom Morrowind allowed me in comparison blew those games out of the water, cementing it as the top game on my list.

In addition to the freedom, Morrowind provided me the other elements I love in a video game: high levels of character customization, a deep and intriguing story (and backstory,) and (by 2002 standards at least) amazing graphics. I also find the sheer number of side quests a major positive factor for the game, with 10 Guilds and Factions each having their own quest lines as well as countless other random side quests available to anyone.

I've since played each of the other games in the Elder Scrolls series, but for me, none could compare to the awe I felt each time I played Morrowind. To this day, even having spent over a thousand hours in the game world, I always find something new each time I play.

The game is, of course, not without it's flaws, as its detractors will point out at every opportunity. Some of the complaints are justified, of course, such as the "wax museum" feel of the NPCs, the slow pace at which you move, the (by modern standards) dated graphics/lack of physics, and the repetitive nature of non-magical fights. But I personally feel that, if given a chance, the pros of the game greatly outweigh the cons to an open minded gamer.

I highly recommend that anyone with an interest in fantasy games give Morrowind a try. Nowadays, it's readily available over Steam for a low price, and virtually any modern PC will be able to play it. Throw in the two expansion packs and tens of thousands of mods available online which range from simple fixes to complete overhauls, and you'll have at least 100 hours of game play to enjoy.
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