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  • As of this video’s posting, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is fifteen years old.

  • Released on May 1st, 2002, Morrowind is still considered by many to be the favorite of the

  • series, myself included.

  • Although for me, I didn’t actually play the game until a couple years after it launched,

  • and it was with this Game of the Year Edition that I first experienced the land of dark

  • elves and silt striders.

  • And it's a nice enough box I suppose, but I much prefer the massive collector’s edition,

  • clad in matte black and embossed glossy artwork.

  • Definitely a centerpiece of any PC game collection, but good luck finding a complete copy of this

  • for less than $200.

  • Inside this edition you not only get the game and construction set discs, along with the

  • standard manual and fold-out map poster, but there’s also the phenomenal soundtrack by

  • Jeremy Soule on CD.

  • In addition you get the 48-page Art of Morrowind book, which is a real treat if you want to

  • see more concept art than the in-game loading screens provide.

  • And finally there’s the two-and-a-half inch pewter Ordinator figurine.

  • But yeah, the typical small box North American release is pretty tame in comparison, but

  • at least it comes with the map and full-color manual, both of which I admired and analyzed

  • analyzed endlessly back when I first played this.

  • However, if you were in one of the European territories where Ubisoft distributed the

  • game, you mightve had this fantastic bundle.

  • It has an inner package that slides out and unfolds, revealing more artwork, as well as

  • the manual, map, and CDs tucked inside in a way that’s much more visually appealing

  • than the ugly cardboard tray we got over here.

  • And of course, there were the two official expansion packs, Tribunal and Bloodmoon, which

  • I have thanks to a generous donation.

  • Thank you very much for that!

  • This content was included in the Game of the Year Edition, but theyre sweet little boxes

  • on their own, and they came packed with their own separate maps as well, a welcome thing

  • indeed for the cartographically inclined.

  • And finally, there’s the Xbox version, the only other platform Morrowind appeared on

  • outside the PC.

  • Despite its drawbacks due to hardware limitations, it was received rather well and

  • ended up being the fifteenth highest-selling game on the system.

  • And finally, there’s the Morrowind Prophecies, this one being the game of the year edition

  • which is a gigantic 416-page strategy guide by the venerable Peter Olafson.

  • Not a requirement in the days of online walkthroughs, but holy crap, the detail this thing goes

  • into is darned impressive.

  • Morrowind deserved it, too; this was a game with nearly a decade-long legacy in 2002,

  • with years of hype building up to it after Arena, Daggerfall, Battlespire, and Redguard

  • established the brand up to that point.

  • Crazy to think that it almost happened completely differently too, with Bethesda teasing it as far

  • back as 1997 with this note inside the box for Battlespire.

  • Yeah, a Morrowind in 1998 wouldve been quite a different beast indeed, but instead

  • they scrapped the XnGine used since Daggerfall and went with Gamebryo predecessor NetImmerse,

  • also used in games like Freedom Force and Prince of Persia 3D.

  • Whew, all right, are you still with me?

  • Good, because youre about to have an eargasm courtesy ofJeremy Soule!

  • *Morrowind theme eargasm plays*

  • Hearing just the few opening notes of the Morrowind theme, or heck ANY of

  • the soundtrack to this game, fills me with all manner of joy and wonder and adventure

  • and just augh! This game is so awesome and we haven’t even gotten past

  • the main menu yet!

  • Once you do get past this menu and start a new game, youre presented with a quote

  • and a creepy yet soothing voice whispering sweet ambiguities in you ear...

  • Disembodied voice: "Fear not, for I am watchful. You have been chosen."

  • Voice of Jiub: "Wake up! We're here."

  • "Why are you shaking? Are you okay? Wake up!"

  • Yeah, this is actually quite a departure from the preceding Elder Scrolls games in terms of introductions.

  • No hair metal, no cheesy FMV, no complicated stats screens.

  • Instead, in what would become a Bethesda game tradition, Morrowind starts you off as a blank

  • slate to determine your identity through the narrative, while also acting as a quick tutorial.

  • The setup is that youre an anonymous prisoner who’s just landed on the isle of Vvardenfell

  • within the Tamriel territory of Morrowind.

  • Youre about to be released, but first you have to fill out the required paperwork, which

  • sets you up to perform all the classic CRPG character creation stuff.

  • Choose your sex, your appearance, and your race, some of which will have long-standing

  • consequences throughout the game due to skill bonuses, special abilities, and the people

  • of Morrowind’s individual biases.

  • Youll also choose a class or create your own, always a lovely opportunity to completely

  • screw up your game before it even starts if you don’t know what youre doing!

  • After this youre given a set of final obligations to fulfill as an ex-con, which involves delivering

  • a package to a man in the town of Balmora.

  • And yeah, that is all you have to go on. You are on your own.

  • And wow, it does not seem like a decade and a half has passed!

  • Morrowind may not have the grandest opening act or the prettiest opening scenery, but

  • there’s still something special about stepping through that door for the first time and walking

  • out into the village of Seyda Neen.

  • It’s just you, some basic inventory, and a journal against the entire rest of world.

  • You have a map, but other than a few vague markings and territorial outlines

  • it's empty.

  • Furthermore, there are no quest markers or arrows pointing you in a certain direction,

  • it’s completely up to you as to what to do next and how to get there.

  • Heck, you don’t *have* to go anywhere, since every single village, fortress, town, and

  • city is packed full of stuff to do and NPCs to talk to.

  • It’s easy to feel overwhelmed when a CRPG throws you into the deep end from the beginning like this, but

  • in this case I wouldn’t have it any other way.

  • The volcanic, mushroomy world of Morrowind is downright enthralling to explore from the start

  • and the sense of freedom and self-motivated advancement is a continual pleasure

  • even after all these years!

  • Welllllll, for the most part.

  • I like to think I’m not completely blinded by nostalgia when it comes to Morrowind even

  • if it remains one of my favorite games.

  • But there are tiresome quirks and major aggravations all throughout its 60+ hour main storyline,

  • with plenty more if you continue onto the countless hours of side quests and expansion

  • pack territories.

  • And I'm not just talking about bugs and glitches of which there are quite a few still, but

  • a lot of it really is just how the game is designed.

  • Some of these issues I don’t find as bad as their reputation suggests,

  • namely the combat.

  • As with prior games in the series, the combat in Morrowind is based on percentages and stats;

  • so just because you see a visual representation of you swinging a sword into some dude's

  • face, it doesn’t mean youll actually hit them unless the invisible dice rolls in

  • your favor.

  • It also evolves the mouse cursor swiping of Arena and Daggerfall and meshes it with typical

  • first-person game controls.

  • So when combining your attack with movements and held-down keys, youll get different

  • animations and attacks.

  • The options menu lets you override this and always use the "best attack," which I typically

  • do because I’m lazy, and also because I don’t find it any more rewarding or beneficial

  • NOT to use it.

  • Naturally, players have debated the merits of this for years, but either way

  • youre stuck with the same animations playing over the same dice rolls that lead to the

  • link between the player and the combat feeling loose at best.

  • I find that this is mostly a problem in the early hours of the game where youre still

  • a 97-pound weakling, since once you level up past a certain point and boost those sweet

  • combat skills, the fighting becomes a whole lot more enjoyable.

  • Not exactly what I’d call excellent or anything, but a bit more satisfying at least.

  • And since the vast majority of Morrowind’s gameplay takes place after youve gotten

  • good, I genuinely don’t find the combat to be this ultimate deal-breaker.

  • Unless were talking about freaking cliff racers, because screw these guys.

  • They gang up on you, follow you around forever, and are harder to hit than seemingly anything

  • else, even with all the high-level combat skills you can find.

  • And speaking of skills, in Morrowind your skills are increased by using them rather than, say,

  • picking from a list of upgrades when you level up.

  • Instead, while leveling you increase your primary attributes and these in turn determine the maximum level

  • of their associated skills, but the skills themselves are upgraded by simply playing

  • the game.

  • A common exploit of this system is to run and jump absolutely everywhere, which will increase your

  • athletics and acrobatics skills pretty quickly.

  • And with as slow of a runner and weak of a jumper you are at the start, you absolutely

  • will want to take advantage of this just to make getting around in the game that much less of a slog.

  • There are also trainer NPCs dotted throughout the world, which is fine and dandy, but not

  • only is it an annoying string of menu options to go through each time, but the only thing standing

  • in your way of epic skills is money.

  • Talk about missing the point of a strict skill system where you only learn by doing, since

  • most of it can be ignored entirely by being rich.

  • And thankfully, getting rich is a ton of fun and is the entire point of the game, at least

  • as far as how *I* play.

  • It doesn’t matter what kind of grandiose plans I make for myself, or what kind of totally

  • new character I generate, I always end up becoming a sneaky, murderous kleptomaniac.

  • It’s just, dude, there’s so much shiny stuff just lying around, who can resist!

  • And if your character is good at talking to people on top of that, then a bit of flattery

  • and bribery is par for the course when fencing your stolen loot.

  • This stuff is seriously like, 90% of why I still go back to Morrowind, because the gameplay

  • loop of sneaking, stealing, and bartering is just hugely entertaining.

  • About the only thing bringing it down is the experience of bashing your head against the

  • UI trying to actually sell stuff and keep track of what you have.

  • This brings me to my next big gripe with Morrowind, the user interface.

  • Just, all of it.

  • Youve got these windows you can drag around and resize, which is fine, but the actual

  • information contained within leaves a lot to be desired.

  • Not only is there a lack of really detailed sorting abilities,

  • but the same vague icons are often repeated for items with completely different attributes,

  • and the way theyre laid out here seems scatterbrained and an inefficient use of on-screen real estate.

  • Same goes for your quest-tracking journal, which was improved through the Tribunal expansion

  • to allow filtering by active quests. But even then it’s still only what I’d call a tolerable experience.

  • These chronologically-sorted pages make it a bit easy to get flustered trying to find an obscure

  • piece of information you received forever ago, making me wish for a search function

  • and maybe even a way to add your own notes in-game.

  • But by far the bigger pain when it comes to managing text is the speech and conversation

  • system, which is about as pleasant as a wet fart in an elevator.

  • To be clear, I’m referring to the interactive dialogue, not the short barks and phrases

  • NPCs speak when you move close by.

  • "KHAJIIT HAS NO WORDS FOR YOU."

  • In a step back from Redguard, Morrowind does not feature fully-voiced dialogue, which makes

  • sense seeing as this game is orders of magnitude larger.

  • But when combined with the awful text windows you have to navigate, conversations end up

  • being more overwhelming and annoying to navigate than ever.

  • There's tens of thousands of lines in-game, and I swear, it seems like a single NPC can

  • contain half of them at once!

  • In theory, I have no problem with copious dialogue, but when it’s a chore to deal with I just tune out.

  • And that’s unfortunate because there is a slew of captivating lore in Morrowind, but

  • hell if I’m gonna waste my time sludging through it with this bland wall of hyperlinks.

  • Compare this to the conversation system in Fallout as an example, where you have similar

  • amounts of dialogue, yet because of the way it’s divided up and presented it’s friendlier

  • to interact with and feels much more conversational.

  • But enough complaining for now; once you come to terms with Morrowind’s strangeness, its

  • sheer awesomeness shines through and it is something special indeed.

  • Whether youre going through the main storyline or creating your own destiny being sidetracked

  • by wayward women, it seems like there’s always something new and enjoyable to experiment with.

  • A lot of this comes from the various guilds and organized groups you can pledge allegiance to.

  • Got trouble dealing with pent-up rage?

  • Join the Fighter’s Guild!

  • Have a penchant for magic and trapping souls?

  • Join the Mages Guild!

  • Can’t keep your hands off of anything, ever?

  • Join the Thieves Guild, if you can find them!

  • Tired of having BDSM dudes beating you up while you're trying to sleep?

  • Track down the Dark Brotherhood and be sure to bring your own whip.

  • And who can forget the various Great Houses, religions, and cults that you can join and

  • take advantage of.

  • Each one of these comes with their own set of rules, duties, advancement opportunities,

  • spells, potions, and skills to learn, and personally I find completing these questlines

  • to be far more intoxicating than the main story.

  • That’s not to say that the main story is boring or anything, far from it.

  • I won’t spoil it here, but lemme just say that once you find out what the disembodied voice

  • was droning on about in the beginning of the game, the journey youll take

  • to fulfill your destiny is quite the fantastical thing indeed.

  • But you know, good luck keeping focused when there are spells to mix, valuable items to

  • enchant, Dwemer artifacts to collect, and frozen barrows to raid.

  • You can even turn invisible, spawn monsters, walk on water, and fly away using levitation,

  • it’s just absurd the amount of stuff you can do and the combinations of cool

  • things you can come up with, with magic, and skills and all the items; I just love this stuff man!

  • This kind of open-ended, player-driven gameplay is happily reminiscent of classic tabletop

  • role-playing games, while remaining approachable and just challenging enough to keep you engaged

  • for hours on end.

  • Later Elder Scrolls games tend to be a bit simpler in this regard, and while clearly

  • some aspects of Morrowind *needed* streamlining, it can be argued that they went too far in

  • some ways later on, and that Morrowind is the last of its kind.

  • And if you want to play it today and have a PC that isn't made of turds, it’s

  • incredibly straightforward and easy to do so.

  • Unlike several of the older Elder Scrolls, Morrowind has never really been far from reach,

  • and is still playable on modern operating systems.

  • And it's currently for sale sale on digital distribution platforms like GOG and Steam.

  • There was also the Elder Scrolls Anthology released in 2013 that contained a physical

  • copy of the Game of the Year Edition, alongside all the other mainline Elder Scrolls to that point, so

  • it's a decent little jump-start to your collection if you don’t want the individual boxes.

  • And finally, I have to mention the modding scene, which has always been a key part of

  • the Morrowind experience due to Bethesda bundling it with The Construction Set.

  • This is a comprehensive bunch of editing tools, and is the same SDK Bethesda used to create

  • the game itself so it allows you to do pretty much anything you can think of.

  • And the modding scene is still thriving through sites like Nexus Mods, complete open source

  • engine revamps like OpenMW, and large-scale content compilations like Morrowind Overhaul.

  • There are fan-made mods, patches, and tweaks to address practically every shortcoming I

  • mentioned throughout this review, so if you look in the right places and spend a certain

  • amount of time you can basically forget everything negative I said and make Morrowind the most

  • perfect game in the history of time.

  • All right, maybe that’s a bit much, but my point is that this game’s player-guided agenda