The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind Review
With the release of The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind, ZeniMax Online Studios has finally brought the MMORPG to the shores of Vvardenfell. Due to the fact that my computer at the time couldn’t handle the original Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, I took this as an opportunity to introduce myself to the world attached to arguably one of the best entries in the long-running series.
You begin the game with the customary act of creating your character. The options aren’t as varied as other games I’ve played (such as the immersive customization options in Black Desert Online), so you’re likely to come across yourself in the form of an NPC. Such is the nature of these types of games. But don’t let that dissuade you, as the multitude of various arms and armaments you discover will allow you to further individualize your avatar.
You have your choice among five different character classes, which each have their own set of skills, that are simply differently-named traditional archetypes. These include the warrior-like Dragon Knight; the mage-like Sorcerer; the thief-like Nightblade; the paladin-like Templar; and the newly-added druid-like Warden.
Unlike other games of its ilk, the choices given will only determine your skill set. In true Elder Scrolls fashion, you are able to use all types of weapons and armor no matter what you choose. You simply spend your earned Skill Points building up specific aspects of your class in order to tailor it to your preferred playstyle. Each archetype is better suited for certain types of situations, but you could challenge yourself (and your eventually disgruntled teammates) to tank as a Nightblade or storm the frontlines as a Sorcerer.
For the expansion, you are dropped in a new tutorial from the regular game. Right after customizing your character, you only get a short time to read a letter that offers a bit of context as to why you are on a ship heading to Vvardenfell. You meet a very drunk passenger for a few seconds before a gigantic rock slams into the side of your ship, wrecking it. You wake up on Firemoth Island, having been captured by the same slavers that launched the aforementioned boulder.
You then wake up in, of course, a jail cell, a common theme in most of the Elder Scrolls games. You are greeted by Naryu Virian, a Dunmer who eventually turns out to be an assassin from the infamous but respected Morag Tong guild of assassins. The whole tutorial quest line involves assisting her in freeing the other slaves and pulling off her plan for getting off the island.
You are then dropped into the world and given several options on where to go. But the main questline will take you throughout a Vvardenfell that exists 742 years before the namesake of the expansion takes place. This means you’ll come across smaller versions of the towns that you’re used to, from the beginner town of Seyda Neen to the still-under-construction grand city of Vivec. You’ll also experience more lush and vibrant flora and fauna due to Red Mountain, the great volcano in the center of the continent, still lying dormant.
For those new to the landscape of Morrowind, such as myself, it can seem almost alien to those of us that are used to normal fantasy fare. Looming mushrooms and other plant life, dreary swamplands, and dry and foreboding badlands populate the landscape. The towns are sprawling and some of them are built into nature itself. This offers up a varied and striking world to explore.
The release of the One Tamriel update last October has broken up the usual mundane style of most MMORPGs of its type. You aren’t limited with where you can do and what you can do with what level you are at. This means that you can experience the content that Morrowind brings no matter what level you are at or how familiar you are with your surroundings. You can simply get right into it.
But that doesn’t mean that you’ll find it easy to get acclimated to it. The combat is still its low point, after all. Only minor improvements have been made over the lifespan of the game’s existence. You have to make strategic use of the two weapon bars you are given to fill out your role in either solo or group play, and even then you’ll wish you had a few more hotbars to take advantage of any arising situation.
Add to that the very exaggerated combat animations by the enemies you face as well as stun markers, and you’ll feel that you are utilizing a system that seems amateurish in comparison to the likes of games like Final Fantasy XIV.
One of the new features that the Morrowind expansion brings with it is a team-based PvP arena mode called Battlegrounds. In it, three teams of four players each compete against each other in deathmatch, capture the flag, and domination battles. Unfortunately, there is a balance issue here. While Champion Points (a system put in place a year after launch wherein you put points into passive skills to further customize your character) are disabled, armor and weapon set bonuses are not.
This means that in the mode, it all comes down to what you’re wearing, rather than how good you are at playing your character. This results in multiple scenarios where, rather than trying to fill a niche in your party, you’re instead being destroyed by an enemy that’s wearing gear that only those that have spent hundreds of hours of game time have acquired.
While the storytelling is great, and the highlight of the game, that usually isn’t the reason why people play an MMO. It’s the social aspect and the interaction with others. However, the game never really encourages you to team up with others, since most of the content is either solo-able or close enough to it that you’ll find it easier to just do it all yourself rather than waiting for the group finder to do its job.
The Elder Scrolls: Morrowind is a great nostalgia trip for those that experienced the original main series game. Other than that, though, what it has to offer is outclassed by better, more popular games. However, if you do want to experience the oft-talked about Morrowind setting in a more modern game engine with more modern gameplay mechanics, and are able to look past its flaws, this might be a good time-waster for you.