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Platform: PC Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Genre: PC RPG Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Format: CD-ROM Released: 06/04/03

Review
06/14/03
John McCarroll
John McCarroll

What you started in Vvardenfall could have ended almost anywhere, but never in the snow. But now it has been discovered that there is more to Morrowind than previously thought; the world extends to the northwest, into the unknown. The snowy island of Solstheim lays open to you now, adventurer. Legends say that there are creatures there, half-man and half-beast... are you brave enough to tackle what is most certainly your doom?

Morrowind was an expansive world to begin with, but Bethesda has now added an entire additional island that is 1/3 the size of the main continent. Solstheim is a different experience than what was found in Tribunal or Morrowind, one that is based on stealth and cunning rather than on brute force. A land filled with trolls, werewolves and snow is now available to those brave enough to venture in. But beware, for Bloodmoon is more difficult than Tribunal and Morrowind, however just as fun.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was a pretty game to begin with, and although Tribunal did not add much to the graphical style, Bloodmoon does introduce two new visages: ice and snow. Snowstorms on the island of Solstheim are very impressive. Trees are topped with the white stuff and your character's feet trudge around in it. Caverns of ice are particularly impressive; characters are shown across the different facets of the gemlike interior of the grotto. Although many environments have been added, character models are the same across the board -- aside from the new creatures. The lack of new models is not a bad thing in any way, but it is an improvement that Bethesda could have made.

The game also introduces a new FMV cutscene that is rather impressive. On the third night after a character has been infected with lycanthropy, a full moon will rise with the character's shadow cast against it. A muzzle and fur is seen clearly on a humanoid form. It is a small thing, but is important; it is these kinds of touches that make Bloodmoon spectacular instead of just good.

The sound of a chirping bird and the creaking of a boat as waves hit the shore -- these are just a few of the sounds that can be heard in the Elder Scrolls world. Bloodmoon's music is generally the same as in the other two games. And while the new compositions are done quite well, they are often outshined by the game's other outstanding features. The compositions blend seamlessly with the game's atmosphere. New sounds have been added for the lands of Solstheim, as well. When you walk across the wastelands, you can hear the howling of the winds as snow falls upon your head and you run from the howling of a pursuing lycanthrope. These sounds are equally as impressive as those found in Morrowind and Tribunal and aid in creating an environmental ambiance just as much as the music does.

Although beautiful, Morrowind is as deep as the GURPS, S.P.E.C.I.A.L, or D20 systems. Purchasing Bloodmoon is like purchasing an expansion book for your paper and pen D&D entitled: "Snow, Building a Colony, and Lycanthropes". Nothing is changed from the base engine itself, but much is added as a result of the new island. The main reason many people want to pick up Bloodmoon is the addition of lycanthropy, the curse that transforms one into a demon wolf at night to go feast on the flesh of mortals. Such a concept is quite enticing to many gamers.

Bloodmoon's implementation of lycanthropy offers two distinct play choices: a character can become a werewolf and hunt in the night with his brethren, or he can be a valiant warrior fighting against the plague. Both paths are difficult and make Bloodmoon more challenging than both Morrowind and Tribunal. When one becomes a werewolf, nearly all statistics are lost. Characters are left with very high strength, agility, and sneak, but almost nothing else. For those that are of a high level, this is not a very enticing offer, as their statistics may already be higher than those of the werewolf. Lower-level characters and those looking for a greater challenge, however, will be happy with becoming a lycanthrope. Those looking to be a badass won't be pleased as fighting the werewolves is not an easy task, either. They travel in packs, like real wolves, and will tear an unsuspecting adventurer apart in no time. One issue I found in balance is that NPC werewolves seem to be far stronger than your PC as a werewolf. It's not a big deal, but it eschews the reality of Bloodmoon.

Another added feature of Bloodmoon is the Colony. Players may join a company seeking to build a colony on Solstheim. It is similar to a player's stronghold found in Baldur's Gate II. The colony has several states of completion and is a nice little addition to an expansion where the werewolf is quite obviously in the limelight.

Bloodmoon adds no real new controls to Morrowind. The game's control scheme is like that of a first person shooter; WASD is used for movement and the mouse for mouse look. The scheme is very responsive and works well in both third- and first-person view. Those looking for a control scheme based solely on the mouse will be let down, but Morrowind was never meant to be controlled in that way.

Bloodmoon, unlike most expansions, does not create a new story after the end of the game, but follows the footsteps of its fellow expansion, Tribunal, and adds new branches to the current story. Players find themselves scouring Solstheim for clues as to how to defeat the werewolves or how to become infected themselves. The player, if a non-lycanthrope, will find him or herself protecting the Empire's colony on Solstheim. Those who choose the way of the were-creature will attack the colony in an attempt to stave off those who would join them on the island of Solstheim.

Bloodmoon is a worthy expansion to Morrowind and will make many gamers happy when added to their collections. Those who did not purchase Tribunal need not worry, however, as Bloodmoon is available to those with or without Tribunal and includes all the additions (such as journal sorting) that were found in the first expansion. Those looking for an entirely new game will be under whelmed, but players who just want the opportunity to change in the night and rip out some throats will be sufficiently happy in the world of Solstheim.



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© 2002 Bethesda Softworks
Graphics: 99%
Sound: 97%
Gameplay: 91%
Control: 91%
Story: 88%
Overall: 94%

Click to Enlarge
Bloodmoon introduces the snowy world of Solstheim.

Click to Enlarge
Character models remain the same, but new scenery is all around.

Click to Enlarge
Bloodmoon also introduces a new set of monsters...

Click to Enlarge
...most of which are anything but friendly.

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