Sunday, March 26, 2006
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition (Xbox) Updated Impressions
I have found my new addiction, and it is The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition (Xbox). When I picked up the title at the beginning of the month, I wasn't sure what to expect exactly, I only knew that I was looking for something new and hopefully immersive to kill a little time. Well that little time has now become a marathon.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition takes place in the fantasy world of Tamriel, specifically the island of Vvardenfell in the province of Morrowind. Your character is a prisoner who was sent to Vvardenfell and released under orders from the Emporer himself. Why he chose to send you there is a mystery (one I have yet to solve), however once you leave port you are given something few games truly grant their players: Freedom.
Vvardenfell is a very, very large place, and you can go about exploring it in almost any fashion you choose. While you are given the loose outlines of the main quest to follow, there's no time limit or pressure to do so right away. In fact, the designers, Bethesda Softworks, encourage you to wander, explore, and experience the world they've lovingly created. The moto of The Elder Scrolls series is to live another life, and in a sense you can truly do this. Like many more current RPGs, you can create your character by choosing Race, Gender, various appearance options, Class, etc. My character, for example, is Angrin II, a male Imperial Knight born under the Sign of the Lady. Imperials tend to have strong personalities, so they're great at socializing with NPC's, and Knights are rather combat focused with some Restoration Magic skill. As you explore the world, you can try and solve various people's problems, thieve, assassinate, and generally do whatever you want. Almost everyone in the game can be interacted with, and almost everyone can be killed (if you're strong enough).
There are also many different kinds of factions and Guilds that you can join should you feel like it, or you can ignore them entirely. There are Mages Guilds, Assassin Guilds, the native Dark Elven Great Houses, etc. I've presently signed on with the Fighter's Guild, and am embarking on a bunch of side quests for them. Doing side quests, as in many RPGs, will help you level faster and they also tend to lead you to good treasure.
Released in early summer of 2002, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition is beginning to show its age aesthetically. While the environments are all very beautiful and sport weather patterns, cloud movement, and day night cycles, character models are _very_ dated and have somewhat awkward movements. The audio sports some great (but repetative) music, and almost all the in-game conversations are text based, so you'll be reading a lot (and by a lot I mean pretty much any time you're not killing something).
However, it is the world of Tamriel itself that is the main appeal and overall addiction that comes with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition. While many recent RPGs have more detailed, cinematic, and dramatic storylines and characters, Vvardenfell is just such a richly detailed and living world. The map is massive, and so much of it is accesable. You can climb mountains, delve into tunnels, swim under lakes all in search of new crypts, dungeons, and ruins to explore. There are large towns and villages to explore, all populated with a good number of NPCs, and every area is connected to the main world, and by that I mean you can sail from port to a far off island, or if you feel like, you can actually swim out to it. You can be teleported to a distant location by a Guild Guide, or you can simply huff it on foot, however you want to play it, you can do it. And you'll want to experiment and experience the game in different ways. It is so hard to stop playing once you start, as you always want to find that one more item, barter with that one more Merchant, or see what's over that one last hill; it doesn't end! New challenges, new enemies, and new quests, they just keep coming.
And of course, you don't need to be a Knight as I am. You can be a Sorcerer, a Healer, a Scout, or any of a number of different classes who focus from magic to stealth to combat and who'll need different approaches to take on the various quests of the game. And depending how you play, different quests will become available to you that weren't before, so I expect the replay value to be quite high.
Despite all this praise, though the game isn't perfect and there are a few things that bug me. For example, your Journal, which keeps track of your Quests, is awful in its sorting, and you often have to flip through dozens of pages to find that quest you started a few days ago. There are many items in the game, so many that it becomes daunting keeping track and understanding them all. Heck, I still have potions that I don't know what they do as I'm not good in Alchemy and the game doesn't really give summary descriptions for certian items. Also, no one in Vvardenfell seems to sleep as everyone is always up either standing or walking around, and while guards will arrest you if caught stealing, you can break into someone's house and they'll chat with you like nothing's out of place.
Merchants also have a limited supply of Gold for which to buy items your selling. While this is more realistic and a rather neat feature at first, it begins to get annoying when you want to pawn off some really expensive stuff and simply can't find anyone who can afford the damn thing. It's also a good bit frustrating that should you choose to murder someone and you land the first blow (making it a crime), that every guard in every town or villiage on the entire island of Vvardenfell knows about it instantly, and they'll arrest you on site. Completely unrealisitic.
Another major frustration is loading times. While the game itself sports rather fast loading times for the scope of the world, save game load times are absolutely horrendous, sometimes taking a good minute or even a bit more to load up. This can become a real problem if you're facing a tough opponent and you simply keep dieing.
Still, the above are simple critiques that can't mare what a great experience The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition is. In fact, the shear size of the game, its rich lands and cultures, remind me of the concept that many MMO's try to employ, except this is Single Player only and doesn't feature a bunch of idiots blabbering on about their elite skills and trash talking all the time. Now the only question is how do I stop playing the game so I can begin accomplishing things in real life again?