Hello you lovely, lovely people! Joe here again with another brilliant Retro Review! This time, I’ll be looking at a lovely little title from my childhood that set off the fantasy-oriented spark within me! That title is Morrowind, originally released for PC systems back in 2002, and re-released on Xbox later in the same year, being the third (And first, fully 3D) Elder Scrolls title, succeeding The Elder Scrolls II: Arena.
Morrowind, at the time was within a league of it’s own given the time it released, and the technologies available at the time, it’s easy to see why – Morrowind set the standard for open-world RPGs, often only seen in MMORPGs at the time, giving PC and console gamers a large, varied environment to mess around in, experiment with, and explore; this was also bolstered by the inclusion of the TES3 Construction Kit on PC, which allowed players to manually edit their world, and add new buildings, characters, mods, and much, much more.
Morrowind starts you off as a prisoner emerging from a slave ship within the region of Vvardenfell, from where you’re released as a free man (Or woman…Or cat…Or lizard…), set off to join a faction known as the Blades, and to investigate a number of odd occourances happening around the island. Other than that, there are a massive number of side quests, guilds, factions and oddities to explore around Morrowind, with it often poking fun at it’s own lore, events and characters. One such event happens just outside the starting town of Seyda Neen, where you can find a wizard falling from the heavens after testing his “Scroll of Icarian Flight”…Little moments like these make Morrowind the game it is, and are just a part of why it’s still remembered fondly to this day.
All in all, however, the main plot is rather…Dry, as per most Elder Scrolls games – You get set up with a big baddie to defeat, find an ancient artefact to cripple them, then go do the dirty deed of disposing of these dastardly delinquents. It’s one of the first TES games to follow this formula, however, so in ways it can be excused, however when comparing it to later Elder Scrolls titles, it’s easy to shift the blame to Morrowind.
The world of Morrowind is also incredibly diverse, offering a large array of differing locales and environments to play around in – From the volcanic sand of Red Mountain, to the smooth stone walls of Balora, to the cracked and aged aqueducts of Vivec, and the massive mushroom forests to the north of Vvardenfell – Yes, you heard that right. Mushroom forests. The local wildlife of Vvardenfell also follows suit, being typically anti-fantasy and looking more and more like something out of a sci-fi novella – Cliff Racers, Alit, Sleepers, Netches, Clannfear and Dreugh all look like something you’d find in an 80’s comic about Mars or something, but oddly enough the less-than-typical environments of Vvardenfell just seem to make it…Work. Somehow.
Ontop of the variety of locales and enemies, there’s also a rather admirable amount of diversity within the game’s weapons, armour and enchantments, with every piece of equippable weaponry, clothing, armour and jewellery being modifiable in some magical form – This allows players to build upon their chosen class, choosing to become a well-rounded character, excel in one field, or even just to boost stats abnormally to make their characters run super-fast or jump super-high – There aren’t really all that many bars holding back players.
It’s interesting to see these design choices echo throughout Oblivion and Skyrim, Bethesda’s sequel titles, especially given the expansion of player choice and self-exploration; despite the somewhat aged visuals, clunky combat and bad story, Morrowind still holds a dear place in many a gamers’ hearts as being the progenitor of modern PC RPGs, opening up many people to the world and lore of The Elder Scrolls, and let loose a franchise that has no signs of stopping any time soon.