The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind Review
Morrowind is the first RPG for the Xbox, and it's absolutely huge, which is both the most amazing thing about it and also the thing that means it's not the game for everybody.
Morrowind for the Xbox represents an unprecedented accomplishment. It's simply one of the biggest video games ever released. It exists today only because it's been in development for years, long before the Xbox system was ever unveiled. As the third installment in an ambitious and long-running computer role-playing series, Morrowind always promised to be a game of epic proportions. You'd be able to play it however you wanted to: go anywhere, do anything. You'd choose your own adventure and see everything through the eyes of the character you created. Make no mistake, Morrowind has next to nothing in common with Japanese RPGs like the Final Fantasy series, in which you're more of a spectator than an active participant in the storyline. There's a very different approach here. Open-ended gameplay is the lofty goal that many computer RPGs strive for yet unsurprisingly fall short of. But Morrowind doesn't fall short. Upon its release in May, the highly anticipated PC version received widespread acclaim from gamers and critics alike, who seemed to come up for air just long enough to sing its praises before delving back in. And the newly released Xbox version is identical for all intents and purposes. It's the first RPG for the system, and it's absolutely huge, which is both the most amazing thing about it and also the thing that means it's not the game for everybody.
For the most part, Morrowind successfully brings many of the proudest traditions of computer role-playing to the Xbox, with all the slick production values you'd hope to see in a first-rate game. If you've ever played a classic fantasy role-playing game for the PC, then you'll find yourself in familiar territory here, at least figuratively speaking. The actual world of Morrowind is original, and no experience with the Elder Scrolls series is required. The game's main plot, though it's presented mostly in writing, is quite engaging, and it involves first uncovering why your emperor has ordered you to the island province of Morrowind and then fulfilling your destiny there. The hundreds or even thousands of characters you'll meet along the way aren't all completely unique, but there's enough difference between them that they help give you a distinct sense of the setting and even the culture of Morrowind. It's a place with a surprising amount of political intrigue and a long history, and that history is described thoroughly in the dozens of different books you can pick up and read in the game. You're on your own through most of Morrowind, which makes you feel adventurous, but sometimes lonely. That's also in part because interacting with characters is a pretty detached process that boils down to scrolling through a list of available topics of conversation. You'll also notice how nonplayer characters in Morrowind generally just stand there, doing nothing. Even when you come visit them in a pub or in their homes, you'll never see them engaging in any activities whatsoever, which makes the world seem less alive than it could be. Some hidden gags provide a refreshing bit of comic relief, but these moments are perhaps too few and far between.
The characters you meet will respond to you differently depending on who you are, and who you are is entirely up to you thanks to the great deal of flexibility you get in creating your own persona. There are more than 20 different character classes to choose from, including choices like barbarian, spellsword, and assassin. You can either pick one of these, or, in a nod to the classic Ultima series, you can answer a series of moral questions, and the game will choose a class for you based on your decisions. The third option is to create your own class, and that's the best of the three. After all, the premade classes are really just templates rather than truly distinctive character types. They're examples of what can be done with Morrowind's character generation system, in which each character class has five major skills, five secondary skills, and a core specialization: combat, magic, or stealth. Your specialization determines which skills your character will initially be strongest in and can improve in the fastest. There are nearly 30 different skills overall, and even those that don't fall under your major or secondary skills are still available to you, though your character will be slower to hone them.
You could go out of your way to make a purely combat-focused, magic-focused, or stealth-focused character, but in reality you'll probably use skills from all three categories. That's because some of the skills are pretty basic. For instance, the fancily named "acrobatics" only governs your jumping ability and how much damage you absorb from falling. Using various weapons or wearing various types of armor gradually improves your skills in using those types of equipment, and that is also the case with using the various schools of magic. Whenever your character runs, you're using "athletics," which is classified as a combat skill. The walking speed in Morrowind realistically represents a leisurely pace, but unfortunately, it seems terribly slow in game terms. So you'll run all the time, which is easily done just by moving the left analog stick all the way upward. But running drains your fatigue meter, leaving your character less effective than normal, and even the running speed in Morrowind is fairly slow. The controls themselves are quite easy to grasp; the game controls just like Halo.
The most interesting thing about Morrowind's skill system is that it's tied to how you gain experience levels. In most role-playing games, you gain experience (and thus improve your abilities) mostly by killing stuff or maybe by solving quests. In Morrowind, you gain levels by practicing your character's main skills. Some RPGs tend to cripple nonfighter characters by still forcing them to fight to gain levels. But in Morrowind, if you play as a thief, then you gain levels by thieving. If you play as a magic user, you gain levels by using magic, and so on. This is a clever system that makes perfect sense.
- Player Reviews: 220
- Game Universe:
- The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (XBOX, PC),
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion (PC, X360, MOBILE, PS3, PSP),
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine (PC, X360),
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles (PC, X360, PS3),
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Game of the Year Edition (X360, PC, PS3),
- BioShock & The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion Bundle (PC, X360),
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Mehrunes' Razor (PC, X360),
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - The Fighter's Stronghold (PC, X360),
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - The Orrery (PC, X360),
- The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - The Vile Lair (PC, X360)
- Number of Players: