The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC) Review

By Athanasios 30.09.2016

Review for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind  on PC

Nowadays, the popularity of The Elder Scrolls is such that it has even given birth to an MMORPG. Most people, especially those not really into PC gaming, have found out about this world of sword and sorcery through Skyrim, with some, older ones, through the fourth instalment, Oblivion. In reality, the franchise first became popular with the third one, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Is this, as most fans proclaim, the best in the series, as well as one of the best RPGs period, or is it just a good, but otherwise, timeworn, relic from the past?

This follows the typical Elder Scrolls recipe: the character starts as a prisoner, then immediately gets freed for… some reason, and is immediately put into the service of Tamriel's Emperor by becoming one of his many agents into the strange province of Morrowind. After a small intro, which mostly serves as a character creation sequence, this lucky fellow can do whatever his/her human/elfish/beastly heart wants. Want to focus on the main mission, side-quests, flowers collecting (don't ask), or walk aimlessly across this gargantuan world? You are fee to do so…

Morrowind's Vvardenfell is a titanic island that needs about one hour to go from side to side (never mind the central volcano), with enough dungeons, towns, and cities, to last a lifetime for the would-be explorer. Like in most titles in the series, these insanely realistic numbers and proportions can get quite boring at times, and yet, while walking these long, but otherwise, empty distances isn't exactly fun, and despite every cave, dungeon, and cavern being only slightly different than the previous one, the feeling of isolation and mystery of this untamed land helps a lot when it comes to the immersion - and that's where Morrowind's gold is at.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind  on PC

But still, why is this the gem of the franchise? Is it the battles? That's just boring hack 'n' slashing that won't feel any different whether one is stabbing a critter with a knife or a demi-god with a magic Dai-katana. The main mission? Unfortunately, that's only a long fetch-quest divided between lots of smaller ones. Is it due to the audio-visuals? Far from it. The colour palette is filled with dull brown, mundane green, and lifeless grey, the character models are ugly and have stiff animation, and while the sound and music (especially the latter) are great and all, this is meant to be played for more than 100 hours, inevitably leading to repetition.

Moving on, the journal where quest info gets recorded is a total mess (a problem solved with the expansions); the train-skill-to-improve-it system is extremely unbalanced and redundant; the fact that it's hard to tell tough enemies from weak ones is aggravating; the differences between most races and classes begin to fade out after a few hours into this adventure, and, most importantly, even after the latest official fixes, this product is littered with mission-breaking bugs that usually require some in-depth console work to fix.

So, what's the big deal? Why do people love this? Well, it's impossible to explain that in a couple of paragraphs, but here are the most important reasons, with the main one being that this is a pure, Dungeons & Dragons-inspired RPG, and not an RPG-ish title like Skyrim. This might sound like an old-school, PC elitist's opinion, but understand that, in order to enjoy this, it should best be experienced as an actual adventure, and not as just another typical video game. You have to role-play here to have fun, not just… play.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind  on PC

To be more specific: yes, it's hard to slay even a measly rat if not careful with your stats, and it's also very easy to become a super-duper-ultra-oh-my-god death machine if you carefully plan a character by paying attention to the underlying mechanics… but that's part of the pleasure of being free to play as you want to. Want to create a staff that insta-kills, a ring that enables flying, a spell that damages and heals in order to train faster on an enemy, a pair of boots that lets you jump like The Incredible Hulk? Once again, it's all up to one's imagination and willingness to experiment.

Furthermore, Morrowind has a few things that its two younger brothers don't: character, atmosphere, and a strong feeling that this place is unique. Instead of the generic fantasy worlds of Oblivion and Skyrim, this is a bleak, post-apocalyptic dark fantasy land; a diverse landscape with weird plants and creatures, and inhabitants that see you as nothing more than a filthy stranger, an enemy, an N'wah! Remember the previous criticism about how hard it is to tell tough enemies from weak ones? What feels as an irritating flaw, turns out to enhance the overall immersion, by making everyone act like a survivor in an unknown, hostile realm.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind  on PC

The final reason, and for some, the one that makes all the difference, is the fact that Morrowind has a strong sense of its own mythos - it doesn't just have a plot, but a history! Each conversation, piece of text, or even ancient ruin, has something to "say," there are numerous factions with their own unique customs and lore (as well as their own quest trees), and, generally there are lot to learn here, even after completing the main mission a lot of times.

In many ways, it's sort of like how the Silent Hill games or even the Dark Souls series handle their storytelling, as well as their respective universes. Those who'll just focus on the gameplay aspect itself won't really enjoy this to its fullest. Take the main mission, for instance: while it starts of as a generic kill-the-awakened-evil kind of quest, the story behind it is actually quite complex, and will provide tons of pleasure for the eager-to-read and ponder-on-the-fine-details gamer out there, and, most of all, make you feel as part of a real world, not just a big, non-linear level with monsters to kill on it.

In conclusion, Morrowind's Vvardenfell feels alive and breathing, realistically unforgiving, varied, original. Besides monsters, player must be aware of political schemers, violent natives, devious, untrustworthy deities, and many, many more. There's no pointer to show where to go next, no way to restart a failed task, and no better strategy to reach a certain objective than really trying to… and few if any restrictions on when to do what and in what way. In other words, this rough diamond could surely be far better, but it's definitely one of the finest by-RPG-aficionados-for-RPG-aficionados bundles of fun out there.

Screenshot for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind  on PC

Cubed3 Rating

7/10
Rated 7 out of 10

Very Good - Bronze Award

Rated 7 out of 10

The world of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is a hard one to survive in, it takes time to understand and conquer it, and, even more importantly, it takes a special kind of mentality to enjoy. As a 'game,' it has an enormous amount of problems, ranging from bugs to balance issues, but strictly as a role-playing adventure, it's a highly engrossing experience, with a world that has a fantastic level of attention to detail, and a strong sense of its own history. The best game? No, but certainly the best The Elder Scrolls has to offer.

Developer

Bethesda

Publisher

Ubisoft

Genre

Real Time RPG

Players

1

C3 Score

Rated $score out of 10  7/10

Reader Score

Rated $score out of 10  6/10 (1 Votes)

European release date Out now   North America release date Out now   Japan release date None   Australian release date Out now   

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