Sunday, March 05, 2006

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition (Xbox) Initial Impressions

For a while now I've been itching to play through a new RPG, something I haven't touched before. So after a little poking around at what was available, I purchased The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition (Xbox).

In this fantasy world, you start as a prisoner released by the Emperor himself under mysterious circumstances, with an errand to deliver a package to an individual residing in another town. This game is old, with the original The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind released on the Xbox in June of 2002. In fact, I read somewhere that this is the first RPG to have ever been released on the Xbox, and it is indeed showing its age.

The graphics are very dated, and while the environments are certainly holding up well enough, the character models are pretty bad. The audio is also very basic as well, with the vast bulk of conversations carried out with text menus. Sound effects are typical sword and sorcery fair, and while the music is very well composed, it loops too often and is extremely repetative.

At present, the game's story isn't overly strong, however I believe this is done on purpose. Where the game seems to really shine is in its exploration and open-ended world. When I first played Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, the first world I went to once I had a choice was Manaan, and after I stepped into that first hallway I couldn't help but marvel at how vast the game's universe was in terms of explorable areas. The feeling I have with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowing - Game of the Year Edition dwarves my comments about Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic completely. I've only played for several hours, but the land of Morrowind is so vast, I've only scratched the surface. In almost every respect, I can truly go anywhere I want. I can swim out to islands, climb most mountains, venture down any path; there have been no conventional game path restrictions. In fact, I haven't touched the game's critical path for hours, and I've already gotten lost twice in my explorations. It is this open-ended play experience, this sense of adventure that has made it very difficult for me to put this game down. For all its technical simplicity, the game's scope is pulling me in.

Combat has been tricky, but I'm finally starting to get the hang of it as I deal with bandits and vile creatures. I still get my ass handed to me from time to time, but I have a feeling I'm wandering into areas that I'm not properly preped for yet. The game is also played form a first person perspective, which is something I'm not used to in an RPG. I'm presently playing as an Imperial (Human) Knight, so I'm using a sword/shield combo with a few spells.

Another thing I like is how people react to you and your actions. If you steal something and someone sees, they'll attack you. If you murder someone in town, the guards will arrest you. You can go to jail, pay fines, and even have a bounty placed on your head. However if you do a lot of good deeds, your reputation will get better and people will like you better. NPCs that like you will provide you with more info, and merchants will sell you things at better prices.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition also features the PC version's two expansion sets, however what's interesting is they seem to be incorporated right into the original game. After only several minutes of playing, an NPC mentioned an area from the second expansion set, and told me how to get there if I choose. While I intend to play a lot more of the original game first, I might head there before too long. With expansion packs, I'm used to them taking place after the main game, not during it.

Despite some aging technical aspects, I've taken a liking to The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition. From what I understand, there's potentially 200+ hours of gameplay here, so it'll take me a long, long while to get through with my limited time. However, considering the game was only $29.99 the odds are I'll get my money's worth in exploration alone, whether I actually complete the game or not.

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