reviews\ Jun 25, 2002 at 8:00 pm

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - XB - Review

Everywhere you turn there is a quest begging for your attention. So you gather them up, store them in your journal and enjoy the sheer joy of exploring the land.

Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, a Bethesda Softworks release for the Xbox, is a single-player role-playing game that can be a touch overwhelming initially. So much is thrown at players as the game begins that unless you set your own standards for play, you may find yourself running in several directions.

But that is a good thing. The Morrowind world is huge, fraught with danger and while it may not appear so initially, there is a purpose for your place in this world ­ not just that of a Samaritan running about helping people.

The game begins with your arrival at Vvardenfell. It seems you have been released from prison and sent to the island, though few know why. Your introduction to the world begins as you select your avatar. There are 10 races to choose from and 21 character classes (you can also create your own class and give it a name). Should you want to jump in and play as quickly as possible, you can answer a series of question which will put you into a class.

Armed with only a knife, a limited amount of currency, and told to report to Caius Cosades in Balmora, you are loosened upon the world in the village of Seyda Neen. Talking to everyone you meet is not a bad idea. You will gain a lot of information about the world, and its characters. You will also be besieged with requests for help. Of course, you can say no and continue along with your initial quest.

Getting to Balmora can be difficult or easy. The hard way is to try to walk it. You are hardly equipped with the skills and armament necessary for the task. The easy way is to spend some of your money and hop the local transport system, which are Silt Striders, giant bugs with space carved in their shells for passengers. You won’t actually have the opportunity to enjoy the scenery on your journey, but you will arrive in Balmora.

Tracking down Cosades proves an easy challenge, but what he reveals to you is part of your reason for venturing to Vvardenfell. You are a Blade, which is basically a spy for the Empire. Your cover is freelance adventurer, and you will need to join a guild.

Not only will Cosades have duties for you to perform, but also so will your guild. For example, you have joined the Mage’s Guild and are assigned to collect mushrooms. Along the way to collect mushrooms, you run into a woman who has become lost in the wilderness while on a pilgrimage to the Fields of Kummu. She offers a reward if you will take her there. Since you have a world map for guidance, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Your journey will take a while, and this is the first introduction to the size of the Morrowind world. There are no shortcuts in the game, and you will have to walk it, fending off any creatures that attack you, while protecting the woman as best as you can. When you finally arrive at Kummu, you will find another person there, who asks you to find his lost friend.

And so it goes, one quest after another.

Morrowind is anything but an easy undertaking. The game is not only quest-rich, but there are numerous other aspects you have to keep your eye on. You can battle monsters, and collect items from them, which can be sold. Weaponry and armor can wear out, and different places offer varying items and prices. The game may seem very open-ended, but there really is an underlying story, one which deeply involves your character. You will have to level up your character and that can take time.

Fortunately, the game has a save function will allows players to periodically update where they are at, thus avoiding the dreaded restart from the beginning.

The game is played with real-world dynamics. There is a day and night. Daylight can vary in terms of brightness and the night can be so incredibly dark that you couldn’t see your hand in front of your face. Wind is likely to kick up debris, and your character (if you choose the third-person perspective over first-person) will actually walk shielding the face.

The game also has an inventory system and you can equip your character easily with items carried. The barter system does take some time to get used to (if you avoid reading the manual on it), but you can level up your skills if you are often successful in paying under the asking price. That means you will get better deals down the road.

The graphical elements of this game are extremely impressive. The environments are superb; the NPCs are too generic, and the animation is a little suspect at times, but overall the look of this game is amazing.

The conversations are text-driven, and as you ask questions you can open up other avenues for inquiry. The musical score is very good and does foreshadow events within the game.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is an adventurous undertaking, but one that delivers in almost every facet of the game. If there is one word that best describes this game, it would be depth. Morrowind has a terrific storyline, enough quests to keep players busy for a long, long time, and exceptional environments. This game is a delight to play.

Morrowind is rated Teen.


Gameplay: 8.8
There is slight lag as players make the initial foray into a new territory. The mapboards are huge and it can take a long time to walk from one area to the next.

Graphics: 8.7
There was some stuttering in the animation of some of the NPCs. By way of example, when your avatar makes the journey to the Fields of Kummu, the woman you are escorting (Nevrasa Dralor) can get stuck or move rapidly in place. Pull back to a third-person look and your avatar moves in a very wooden fashion. However, the environments are amazing.

Sound: 8
The game has text-driven dialogue, but there are decent ambient sounds and the musical score is superb.

Difficulty: Medium
This is not the kind of game for the casual role-playing fan. The game is tough, and you will need to level up your character in order to survive the ordeals that lay ahead. The control elements are well designed and allow for ease of play.

Concept: 9.5
This game has depth. Not only is the storyline well conceived, but the sidebars (quests) use simplicity as a distraction. Morrowind has combined the best elements of fantasy RPGs in a very compelling manner.

Overall: 9.2
The game has some flaws, but still has to be seen as one of the best RPGs of the year. The game has depth, the world is huge and the plot is compelling. This is the type of game that role-playing fantasy fans will enjoy.


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