Whilst many know the Elder Scrolls series from the recent MMO, the beloved Skyrim and the popular Oblivion, its roots go much further back. The story truly began with Arena but the world-building and lore wasn’t properly introduced until the cult-hit that is Daggerfall. However, I would argue that the series hit its peak with Morrowind, a game that is treasured by its fans but sorely overlooked by the masses.
Morrowind‘s winning charm is that it does not draw inspiration from generic medieval European settings but instead from a vast array of Asian cultures. This lends its hand in creating the alien world of Morrowind with its architecture, politics and wildlife being so vastly different to anything seen in any open world game before it. Morrowind felt like a dystopia but Vvardenfell was anything but – it was a thriving land despite the ash and pessimistic plague.
There’s armour that is crafted from the remains of gigantic insects; the people are at each other’s throats and have a lofty sense of elitism; there’s a volcano with a gigantic forcefield wrapped around it. To say that Morrowind’s world is excitingly refreshing would be an understatement. It’s truly sublime and, all these years later, it still serves to impress. The risk that Bethesda took with undercutting familiarity and normality paid off tenfold.
Despite my praise and adoration for Morrowind, I must admit that the gameplay has not held up well and, even at the time, it was questionable. Hits are based on a dice-rolling system meaning that you can swing your sword endlessly at an enemy but, if your skill and stamina are too low, you’ll continuously miss despite being right in their face. Whilst your stamina is low, you’ll also find yourself getting knocked over repeatedly which makes combat a bit of a drag and mostly infuriating. However, once you figure out how to design a character right out of the gate, fights are much less frustrating. What this means, though, is that Morrowind is the opposite of intuitive and, by extension, incredibly off-putting to new players.
Despite the flaws of the combat, it still excels with its magic system. There are so many fantastic spells on offer that are perfectly woven into the games’ design. For example, there’s no fast travel and so being able to create portals is a brilliant skill which makes being a mage feel all that more useful. However, by following one particular playstyle, you end up neglecting other skills. This makes it nearly impossible to be a jack-of-all-trades but I would argue this is a much better path for an RPG as it pushes you to truly roleplay.
You have to design your character carefully and hone their capabilities depending on what you want to do and use. When you first get into the game, you pick key skills that will level up faster and build a custom class. However, if that’s too complicated, you can choose from a list of pre-made ones. In designing your own, you get to pick a custom name and write a description which is something that I adore as I truly feel a part of this world with my own creativity allowed to flourish.
-> FINAL THOUGHTS
Morrowind is a great RPG with lots of choice, customisation and a brilliantly unique world ready for exploration. The story is fantastic and most of the drawbacks are with the combat system which is a common staple for Elder Scrolls anyway. It may be old, it may be hard to get into, but its worth fighting through those difficulties as, once you become more familiar with this entry, you can lose hundreds of hours in the wasteland of the Dunmer people.