Posted by fire on Tue, 25 Oct 2005.
Morrowind: In the far, eastern province of the Empire. Distant from the Imperial centre, the continent Vvardenfell, the province of Morrowind. Land of the dark elves, the “evil” race. You’ll discover that Dark Elves are not the only creatures of this remote land. There are the other elven classes. The wood Elves and High Elves, the standard human races (categorized as the Nords, Imperials, Bretons, and Redguards) also take up a big area on the map. Rounding out the array of playable classes are the Orcs, Argonians (Lizard Men), and Khajit (Tiger people). Although Dwarves (called Dwemer) used to live in the red mountain region, they have disappeared long ago…
Covered by mountain ranges, vast deserts, and deadly swamps, the large majority of Morrowind is still wild and uninhabitable. Despite efforts to populate it, the wild lands still remains a dangerous area to travel through. This is even more so now that a new demonic danger seems to be emerging from Red Mountain (in the centre of the island). Sealed off from the rest of the continent by a gigantic wall. The demons from the Red Mountain appear to be multiplying and attacking villages with increasing power and speed. Red Mountain is also the home of Dagoth Ur. Think of him as Morrowind’s version to Sauron.
What the aim of game is entirely depends on what you want to do, of course. Without giving much of the storyline away, you are sent to the island by the Emperor on a secret mission. You literally don’t have an identity till the game questions you for your player’s stats through a tutorial. After choosing a name and selecting your class and your looks, you are asked for your vocation. Depending on the method you pick, you can answer a series of multiple-choice questions to determine your player’s class, or pick from a pre-generated character “list, or make a custom class for your player. I’d have to say that the third choice is probably by far the most fun and probably the most in tune with the meaning of the game. This lets you to create a character and play it the way you choose. In addition, here is where you pick your star sign. If chosen wisely, your star sign will give your player unique bonuses that would hopefully complement his/her stats. Once you’ve done all this you can head out into the big wide world…
When I first played I didn’t count on the size of the “continent.” Figuring that Morrowind was only a small sub-province compared to the Empire, I was totally unprepared for the large amount of towns and cities that marked on the very detailed map. The previous two games in the Elder Scrolls were much larger, but were far less detailed. Morrowind, despite trading in the sheers size for lots of detail, is still nevertheless a giant place to explore. The attention to detail in the landscape was simply fantastic, and was complemented by the brilliant way everything looked. Depending on your PC, the FPS may slow down in many areas, as Morrowind is somewhat of a system hog in terms of resources.
Still, the game does an amazing job with its day to night cycles and weather conditions. The sunrise and sunset animation are absolutely mind blowing as well as the level of detail given to the sky at night night. In fact, if you care to look closely, you can spot some of the constellations that the star signs refer to at the start of the game. Being caught in the night in a sandstorm or a rainstorm is a daunting thing, especially in the mists of nowhere. Thankfully, the game comes with a useful automap tool that gives a spectacular bird’s eye view of not only the local area, but also of your general area in Morrowind. It takes a really long time to traverse the island by foot so thankfully most large towns and cities are linked through their Mage Guilds, via sailing ship (think ferries), or via stilt-striders (think giant creatures with hollowed parts that carry passengers and cargo around).
Speaking of them, the towns and cities of Morrowind have their own individual character and design, unlike the prefabricated cities of the previous games in the Elder Scrolls series. In stark contrast to the previous games in the Elder Scrolls series, none of the tombs are prefabricated either. Morrowind tombs range from sprawling underground complexes, to tiny caves in the cliff face, but bandits, renegade wizards or other creatures or people to “destroy” always populate most. A few cities were grander than I anticipated, and each has their own quests that you can do in any order, at any time in the game. One of the towns, Vivec, is actually several large pyramid shaped structures that are literally towns themselves!
Unfortunately, there are some issues to nitpick about like the fact that NPCs in one area say exactly the same things. While it is correct that most RPGs are like that, at least guards say different things that other guards do not… In Morrowind, everybody in the same cities speaks the same way. That is, the guards, merchants, nobles, and civilians all respond in the same manner to certain topics of discussion. You would expect at the least, the nobles and peasants would have different views or ways of saying certain things, but they all use the same text. Another thing that is a little strange is that everybody in town seems to be awake 2/7, sun or rain. The same guards and civilian’s stay outside, even when it’s dark and there is a giant dust storm going on.
Anyway, the freedom to wander anywhere in the world whenever you feel like it’s a refreshing change from the standard of most RPGs of this type. The fact you can have almost any quest at any time means that you won’t get stuck or be bored with what you’re currently doing. Don’t like a mission? Don’t accept it. Is the quest is proving, too complex? Just leave it be for a while, take a simpler quest from somebody else, and finish the job when you’ve levelled up. The end result is that a player never feels stuck in the game. Furthermore, there are usually variations of different ways to complete a mission.
In addition, this means that some tasks may be more do-able for some classes than others. For example, some espionage quests are far suited for thief classes while certain missions require, more pure strength than standard from the player. The only major problem with the mission system in the game is the fact that the journal record that keeps track of missions is somewhat poorly used. It would have been great to see which quests you’ve finished and which quests are still ongoing. Disappointingly, the system in place now has you constantly back and forth through your journal, trying to find the relevant information. This can be a time taking task because you’ll find that by the time you’ve played for 60 or more hours you’d have accumulated somewhere close to 100 pages of notes in your journal. There is a “topic” option that has entries in alphabetical order however, it actually isn’t very useful when you don’t recollect what your mission is about.
By now, you’re probably asking your self about the combat and experience aspects of Morrowind. The good thing about battle is that it’s pretty easy to get the jist of. Ranged weapons just require you to aim and shoot, while melee weapons swing in the direction that you move and press the attack key at the same time. Handy quick-keys make it simple to swap weapons and use important items in the heat of battle. Right clicking your mouse button will show your character’s vital statistics and allow for the equipping of items and equipment. If, in the centre of a fight, you feel you bit off more than you can chew, you may always attempt flee. Although Morrowind probably doesn’t not have as many weapon or armour categories as other RPGs, there are enough variations to each one that you don’t really notice too much at all.
Fortunately, the enchanting section in Morrowind lets you to craft your own unique clothing and weapons, usually with very dangerous effects. Unfortunately this can create to some potential balance issues, especially if you have items that creates a continual effect. Morrowind makes it much too easy to make “uber” equipment. In addition, it’s relatively simple to get a very powerful weapon very early after starting the game and use it, which negates a lot of the challenge in the game. Its is true you have to train your weapon skills to make yourself do more damage, but if the game is designed so that anybody can find any weapon and use it, there had better be some kind of limiting system. Morrowind, unfortunately, has no such limitations
Musically speaking, Morrowind has a great soundtrack. If you happen to buy the Collector’s Edition of Morrowind, you will definitely be in for a treat. Thanks to the special edition soundtrack disc that comes with it. The music that accompanies the game is very well composed, and always fits what’s happening. The only problem is that there is not enough of it! Most of the time you won’t notice the music but when you’re travelling to distant land that aren’t easy to get to by the island’s “transport system,” you’ll be hearing some of these tracks over and over… and over. The sound in the game is a mix. Most of the time the sound is directional, but sometimes the sound comes from the wrong location, or sounds muffled like it’s coming from the inside of a box. Also unfortunately, the voice acting in the game ranges from downright disturbing to good, depending on which NPC your chatting with…
Finally, no review about Morrowind game would be totally complete without a mention of its bugs and glitches, many of which seem to appear out of nowhere. Although they are rather infrequent, when they do tend to be somewhat annoying, distracting and usually in someway fatal to your game. For example, when doing trading with merchants, the game can sometimes send you right back to your desktop. Sometimes the game does that even when you’re doing nothing. The terrain is sort of dodgy as well, as there are certain places in the world where you can fall through the floor (like in the Mages Guild in Vivec or even sometimes in the middle of nowhere?
In conclusion, although it appears from my review that there are many problems, the rewards from searching the map outweigh them since most of the time you won’t notice them. The game will grow on you as you use it more and more. In my personal opinion, the chance to gander around the world and discover its story at your own pace is a real breath of fresh air, from games where you have no choice over you fate…