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An Elder Scrolls Retrospective: Morrowind

Morrowind box.jpg

Our look back at the Elder Scrolls series has finally reached the game I think most people are familiar with, not to mention my personal favorite entry in the series, Morrowind. Taken first by carriage and then by boat from the Imperial Prison and sent to the distant land of Morrowind, your hero steps out onto the bleak marshes of the island armed only with a name (and anything you could steal on your way out, naturally). What opens up from there is completely up to you in one of the most detailed, quest heavy, dialogue saturated games ever. The thought gives me chills. Make the jump.

Morrowind's greatness lies in the rich detail Bethesda brings to their work, which this game set a new standard for and finally brought to consoles. Gone are the cut and paste landscapes and randomized dungeons, replaced with carefully measured monsters and even pacing for all quest lines. Within the first few minutes of starting the game, you can clear a den of smugglers, spy on a secret loot stash, and watch a man fly a bit too close to the sun (Scrolls of Icarian Flight, anyone?). More than ever before, the things to do never end. And when you get tired of a landscape, the island offers diverse areas to explore, from snowy northern towns and eastern plains to cities where mushrooms have grown a bit out of hand and serve as buildings. Those crazy Telvanni mages...

Morrowind shacks.jpg

The best part? Even years later, Morrowind continues to foster a thriving mod community on the PC. Wanna bash faces with Cloud's Buster Sword? Done. Think the graphics could use a tune up? Try a mod that makes it look better than Oblivion. Finished all the quests? Like hell you have. There's no end in sight to the fun when the players are in control of the content, but Bethesda also got in on the action by releasing two full scale add-ons, Tribunal and Bloodmoon.

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Tribunal started off by having players battle the Dark Brotherhood after someone puts a bounty on their head. This draws players to the city of Mournhold on the Morrowind mainland, where they quickly get absorbed into the politics of the new king Hlaalu Helseth and one of the Dunmer man-gods, Almalexia. Filled with extremely high level challenges for players that have already finished the main game of Morrowind, Mournhold gushes the same detail gamers expect from the base game. The city itself offers a distinct New York cosmopolitan feel, with five distinct sections to explore and an intricate underground system filled with goblins.

Bloodmoon, on the other hand, takes your hero far from the settled and prosperous areas of Morrowind and tosses you into the ice-coated forests of Solstheim. Players can help the East Empire Company, an obvious parallel of Britain's East India Company, establish the new settlement of Raven Rock and build their stock portfolio in the new guild. Or, they can venture north chasing rumors of men turning into wolves, and maybe meet the God of the Hunt, Hircine, himself. But watch out, because Hircine is always looking for new wolves to add to his pack.

Hircine.jpg

Bonus fun fact: A long standing mystery in the Elder Scrolls world centers around the disappearance of the dwarves. The ruins are everywhere, but where did they go? What happened? Well, in Morrowind, you can meet the last living dwarf, or Dwemer, as they were called. He lives in the basement of Tel Fyr on the eastern coast of the island and looks a bit...freaky. Being infected with the disease Corprus, he lost his legs and has replaced them with mechanical spider legs. Kind of like the villain in that Will Smith movie Wild Wild West, actually, but less stupid.

3 Comments

Ryhmeswithglue said:

Still my favorite game of the series, even after playing through Oblivion several times and now making my way through Skyrim. I still believe Morrowind was absolutely massive compared to Oblivion, since you didn't have fast travel, only spells to teleport you to one of the two cult shrines or the stilt striders, or the Mark and Recall spells.

Dryden said:

Mark and Recall were the *best* spells, hands down. I'm actually amazed that they've been axed from the series entirely. Not only were they just so useful for doing quests or looting dungeons and getting back to your house, they could save you from situations where you're stuck between or inside an object due to a graphical glitch (which we all know are stupidly common in these games) and fast travel isn't an option.

WhyteTyger said:

This has become my favorite of the series as well, though Skyrim is actually doing admirably well so far. I loved the sheer number of questlines built into the game. I had a Khajiit thief who took it upon himself to free all of the slaves he found (I later downloaded a full-on Twin Lamps quest set to flesh that out too). My Redguard knight aided the Imperial Legion before heading up to a small island off of Solstheim and marrying a jarl there. My dunmer assassin was caught between guiding the Morag Tong (who have made it difficult for me to ever join the Dark Brotherhood. I like my killers to have a code of sorts), and fulfilling this supposed Nerevarine prophecy.

A few years later I came back to the game and was thrilled with the new mods available. I was a little disappointed with Bloodmoon's werewolves, so I found a mod that made that more believable, and actually added different clans of werewolves. With the same character, I was able to make my altmer a stunning looking young man, and he has gone on to be my avatar is most games, when it is possible to have a gold-skinned black-haired pretty boy. He went on to join both the Imperial cult and then then Tribunal Temple. He was sort of a religious scholar.

And despite all of these (and more), I never fulled explored the Fighter's Guild, or the three Houses questlines. This was the biggest issue I had with Oblivion (the character creator was pretty atrocious from the outset, but I knew mods would fix that); Four Guilds, and the main questline and that is about it? Skyrim is technically not a lot better, but the guilds have been more engaging at least so I haven't noticed it to be as bad.

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