Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind

When Morrowind came out, it totally smacked my expectations of what a game could be up-side the head. Never has a game provided me with the sheer epic scope of that in Morrowind. Console-oriented gamers may confuse my definition of epic and think I am talking about the scope of the game's story, as it is referred with most console RPGs. But no, do not make that mistake. When someone calls a Final Fantasy or a Dragon Warrior epic, it may be due to their respective stories, but when you call Morrowind epic, you're talking about it's world. Instead of a linear, go-where-you're-told story of many a console RPG, in Morrowind is instead replaced with an open-ended, do-what-you-want life. Gone are the spiky-haired, melodramatic, whiny lead characters, replaced in Morrowind by you. Gone are the lifeless towns, characterized by single traits among them, in Morrowind given life, recognization, worth in their whole.

You see, Morrowind's story is only as good as you put into it. Morrowind doesn't tell you how to do your business, but gives you the opportunities and tools to find out and delve into this world of theirs and make the story good. You're not forced to read anything or listen to anyone, but the more you do, the better the rest of the game gets. You can literally find hundreds of actual in-game books with pages and pages of entails into the history, civilization, lifestyles, towns, people, and places of Morrowind. Almost any insignificant thing in Morrowind is given significance and worth in the writings found across the land, every book you read gives you even more incite into something you would have no idea would even be worth giving a second look otherwise.

If it hadn't been driven home yet, let's put it in dead center; Morrowind is a living, breathing, world. Everything in Morrowind weaves together so, so well, threading you into it's vast expanse. You really come to 'learn' this world of Morrowind, through books, through traveling, through battle and trade, everything in Morrowind is so well defined as if it were an entire game in itself. Traveling really feels like traveling, you'll often find yourself traveling for days (in-game time) when going by foot from one town to another. Fighting actually takes work, if you want to be any good in fighting, you actually have to train with each weapon you want to use and actually do well with it, not just rely on a weapon's attack rating. Everything feels like an entirely new aspect of game play, all of it coming together to make this world come alive, and make you feel more like you're playing in the game than any other game before it.

And that my friends is the beauty of Morrowind. This game lets you play it how you want to play it, not how you're directed to play it. If you want to be an honest, law-abiding warrior, you can. If you'd rather fancy yourself a master thief, robbing and back stabbing for your self-gain, go right ahead. Want to live the dangerous life of a wealthy contraband trader?

Yes sir. Powerful sorcerer? You bet'cha. This is just but a tiny example of the vast array of life-styles you can live in Morrowind, or of course, you can live them all. This is what makes Morrowind so unbelievably good. It's the unprecedented freedom you're given, the ability to make of yourself what you wish, and do as you please.


Now with the insane amount of ambition that went into this masterpiece, you may be asking yourself how the game can possibly keep itself contained and balanced. Well rest assured, they've got Morrowind thought out to the nth degree. Despite the insane freedom, all that you can do aside, the game still manages to keep everything in perspective and never makes you feel like you're 'cheating' the design. How does it do it, you ask? Well, whoever designed the stat-system in Morrowind really did an excellent job, as the stat-system always keeps your character in check. For instance, if you've been a warrior during your entire game, despite being able to slaughter nearly anyone you so choose, if you suddenly get the urge to work on your magic skills, you're magic abilities are still at square one. So even if you're exceedingly powerful in one craft, you're still going to have to work your way up if you want to be good in another. That doesn't mean of course, that if you're in a clinch while wielding your magic, that you can't just pull out your sword and mop up the place again. No, the system doesn't make you drop one style for another, but instead welcomes you to become proficient with as many skills as you like.


Now getting into the graphics; it quickly becomes apparent that yes, the ambition of the game has taken a hit somewhere; in the aesthetics department. While technically Morrowind is extremely impressive, sporting an absolutely monumentus world, with sprawling, huge towns, ruins, mountains, oceans, and even a fully dynamic weather system, the game still looks by and large, very dreary and mundane. While this does offer some great atmosphere, a good deal of the time it is just plain ugly. The character models are also nothing to revel at, especially your own character, who (in 3rd person view, as opposed to the default first person) animates like a stick of celery with limbs.

Morrowind's frame-rate is also problematic. While generally working fine, it can often get jumpy enough to get you dizzy, and when mixed with muddy textures and pop-up that becomes a constant in the distance, the nauseam can get to you. Last, but not least, the game has some pretty bad collision detection as far as jumping and running into things is concerned. The collision detection during a fight is great, but jump into a wall and you'll be trying to get off of it as the rat behind you gnaws at your feet. Though the game's low point is in the graphics and technicalities, the game play utterly eclipses the downfalls of the graphics to a point where the graphics are almost meaningless.


Recovering from the graphical low point, the game picks up some points in the sound department. While the game honestly seems to have barely a half-dozen BGMs in total, they just fit the game so well that you never seem to get tired of them. The atmosphere they provide definitely adds to the whole experience as well. The sound effects in the game are also generally top notch, from the wide range of weapon clashing sounds and monsters, to the huge array of high-quality spoken dialogue (especially from your character --cliche grunting never sounded better!). Though I still have no idea where they got the sound for the jump.

Bottom Line:

Morrowind is an unbelievably good game. I don't think I can recommend this game enough, though I must stress, if you're planning on getting this game, you had better plan on putting a TON of time into it. And when I say that, I say it because you WON'T be able to put it down. Social lives, girl friends, school, work; they'll all be damned when Morrowind's crack-laced disk of love is put into your big black box. It has consumed me, and it will consume you!

-Andy Wilson