Morrowind Game of the Year Edition Preview
We go hands-on with a near-finished build of Bethesda's updated version of its ambitious first-person RPG.
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Typically, when a publisher releases a "Gold Edition" or a "Game of the Year" version of one of its games, it's simply done to put the product back on the shelves. Sometimes the product's even offered at a discounted price to encourage more people to check it out. However, Bethesda's soon-to-be-released Game of the Year Edition of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind has a lot more to it than that. Exclusive to the Xbox, this updated version of one of last year's best role-playing games features so much new content that even those who've already poured dozens--or even hundreds--of hours into the original game should sit up and take notice. In fact, this updated version of the game is probably best suited to Morrowind fans.
That's because Morrowind Game of the Year Edition features the complete original game, plus all of the content and enhancements that Bethesda patched into the PC version of Morrowind--subsequent to the release of both that and the Xbox version of the game. Additionally, there are two full-on expansion packs, The Elder Scrolls III: Tribunal and The Elder Scrolls III: Bloodmoon, which were released for the PC after the original game. Each of these boasts dozens of more hours' worth of gameplay. The latter of the two expansion packs, Bloodmoon, was particularly well received. All told, you're looking at, literally, close to 300 hours' worth of gameplay in Morrowind Game of the Year Edition. That's definitely enough to make the diehard RPG fan swoon.
Some Morrowind fans may snub their noses at the thought of having to buy the game all over again just to access the new content. Shouldn't Bethesda have just patched this stuff via Xbox Live or something? To put it into perspective, Tribunal and Bloodmoon each, in turn, retailed for around the same cost as Morrowind Game of the Year Edition at $29. So, again, even if you've played a ton of Morrowind already, the new content in the Game of the Year Edition should be more than worth the price of admission, assuming you've enjoyed what you've played thus far. And most Morrowind players have enjoyed what they've played, since this open-ended and ambitious first-person RPG gives you such a sense of freedom. You can essentially go where you want and do what you want. It's unrivaled by virtually any other game.
Though the inclusion of Bloodmoon and Tribunal is the obvious main attraction to Morrowind Game of the Year Edition, the additional inclusion of the patched changes to the PC version is arguably just as important. These tweaks make Morrowind more playable, and they address some of the main criticisms leveled against the otherwise very well received game. For example, you now see enemies' health meters in combat, whereas in the original version of Morrowind, you had no way of knowing just how close you were to defeating a given foe. Unfortunately, while the patched changes to the PC version of Morrowind also improved the game's quest logbook, making it much more manageable, this particular enhancement could not be brought to Morrowind Game of the Year Edition due to technical reasons.
Of the two expansions, Bloodmoon is the more appealing, as it lets you transform into a werewolf. If you're stricken with lycanthropy, you gain all the advantages and all the disadvantages that classically go with it. As a werewolf, you are extremely fast and strong and can strike fear into your foes, even as you rend them with your powerful claws. However, should you inadvertently change forms within the line of sight of any humanoid characters, your cursed state will be reported, and you'll be attacked on sight by anyone and everyone. So you'd best keep your little secret to yourself. You'll also venture into new, snow-covered territory and battle creatures like ferocious wolves and snow trolls.
Tribunal, meanwhile, lets you venture to Morrowind's capital city of Mournhold, the heavily fortified home of two of Morrowind's god-kings. Additionally, Tribunal features much larger dungeon crawls than were available in the original Morrowind.
Fortunately, Morrowind players will be able to import their saved data into the Game of the Year Edition, so they can pick up playing with their powerful characters wherever they left off. They'll no doubt find plenty to see and do in this updated version of the beloved RPG--and, at the same time, Morrowind Game of the Year Edition will give Xbox owners, who might have missed out on the original, a chance to play one of the biggest and deepest games available for the console. Look for Morrowind Game of the Year Edition in stores by mid-October.
Editor's note 09/15/03: When the preview was originally posted, it stated that the game would include an enhanced quest logbook, which is incorrect. GameSpot regrets the error.