That’s the one word I would use to describe The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. The game is so vast and detailed that 200+ hours may not be enough time to explore every inch of the amazing world. However, this also turns out to be the games biggest flaw, which tends to cause the game to drag on for considerable amounts of time.
Morrowind is as close to a pen-and-paper Dungeons and Dragons RPG as could be. The character creation system is reminiscent of the old days of Ultima questioning (most hardcore PC role-players will know what I’m talking about). It also follows in suit in terms of the plot, which branches out into a very open epic, much like the previous games in the Elder Scrolls series (Arena and Daggerfall).
The game begins with your character being transported to Vvardenfall as a prisoner, without much information as to what’s going on. In fact, you really don’t find much out for quite some time, because you’re immediately given orders to traverse out of town and find a man. Ah, the first quest, the first of many! From this point on, your custom character must join guilds and factions, raise experience through various methods, and go on the endless amount of quests that await. The game is quite non-linear, and as I’ve said earlier, this also hurts it. Though the story’s presentation is outstanding, from the smooth introduction to the massive amount of NPC interaction, there are sometimes dry spells of inane fetch quest after fetch quest, something I’ve never been fond of. Not only that, but sometimes due to the sheer vastness of the world, traveling can become somewhat of a chore, even when within the same town or area. Another aspect I feel hurts the plot is that in spite of the many NPC’s roaming the world, they all answer your questions in the exact same manner. I understand that giving every character a specific personality would be impossible, but I can’t help but feel a bit disengaged from the story when I can ask the same things to different people and get the same standard response.
Gameplay in Morrowind is filled with choices. The choices begin early in the game during the introduction sequence. Through various questions, you go along and create a unique character ranging from race, facial features, sex, and abilities. Your skills are determined via a class, in which you will progress through questing and battling. The actual combat system is done through the first-person mode of the game (don’t even bother with the sloppy third-person camera) and real-time attacking. There was one peeve I had with the battling: the lack of an enemy health bar or some sort of way to know how much damage I was doing. This was quite an obvious flaw, but thankfully the patch was released and now gamers won’t have to go through 2/3 of the game like I had to. Though battling is what is mostly covered by the gameplay section of an RPG review, there is more to Morrowind’s gameplay: when I say that you’ll go on numerous quests for the entire length of the game, I don’t mean that you’ll be battling monsters and villains each time. Quests vary from rescuing someone to retrieving a lost item. Maybe you’ll simply have to escort someone across town! The possibilities are endless, and that variety spices the game up. However, that variety also drags down the epic scope and plot of the game. There were plenty of times I felt dragged up in these side-quests when I wanted a real focus. Though, there is of course a main “quest”, you will spend a majority of your time leveling your character up and gaining abilities by doing side-quests.
The music in Morrowind stands out as some of the finest orchestral music I’ve heard in any game. The moment the main screen comes on, you’re graced with an epic, swooping orchestral piece with an amazing crescendo, and the game features more than just mood music: the pieces specific to each area and/or town have a vibrant feel and are integral to setting the scene. The sound effects are equally as impressive, from the standard sword clangs to the creaking and squeaking of the town pub’s front door. Morrowind’s world is brought to life in part by its amazing orchestral score; and I recommend the Limited Edition due to the inclusion of the soundtrack.
The graphics in Morrowind are second to none. They’re the finest 3D graphics to grace my PC; every object is rendered in 3D, from the buildings to the keys on a man’s desk. The sky that flows with the light of the sun and moon and stars is gorgeous; I’ve found myself many a time standing and just staring at the game’s amazing sky, and listening to the peaceful compositions that played in the background. The negative to the wonderful graphics in Morrowind would be the heavy requirements and strain on the computer. I was running a Pentium 4 1.8GHz with a GeForce 3 and still had instances of slow-down and choppiness (running in 1024x768x32). Those instances were few and far in-between, though. The game’s attention to detail in character models and landscapes will have you ogling for hours.
Morrowind is a huge undertaking, and I suggest that casual RPG gamers don’t attempt it unless you have the time to complete. Ultimate satisfaction comes through seeing your character grow, and playing the game for a mere hour or so will never do it justice; if you really wanted to see it all, the game would take hundreds and hundreds of hours! Though I felt that the dry spells of side questing and walking around were a major flaw, the overall scope of the game is an achievement in itself, and it was definitely fun to play through. It’s a visual splendor and has provided probably the most vivid fantasy world I’ve ever visited. C’mon, hardcore RPG gamers…this is the one you’ve been waiting for!