The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind Preview

Eschalon: Book II

Publisher:Bethesda Softworks
Developer:Bethesda Softworks
Release Date:2002-05-01
Genre:
  • Role-Playing
Platforms: Theme: Perspective:
  • First-Person,Third-Person
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When One Can Go Anywhere

Lest this become a walkthrough, I'll sum up the rest of my legitimately spent hours and briefly go into how I spent the next several hours exploring the wilds of Morrowind. It was time for Balmora and I was going to take the easy way: Silt Strider. Getting a discount for mentioning the name of someone in town, I hopped on the back and landed in the second largest city in Morrowind. After some exploration and profitable gathering of coins in the many scattered crates, I found the man I was supposed to see. He partly let me in on why I was sent there, and then sent me to find some comrades-in-arms who gave me some nice equipment and sent me off on another mission. Things were starting to unfold, and I still hadn't yet joined the Fighter's Guild of which I heard many good things about. It was about this point that I cranked up the detail in the graphics, and went exploring... and what I did find!

One can go amazing places when invulnerable, which is why I don't recommend it if this is still in the game when it ships. I would say over the course of the next several hours I explored about 1/70th of the land of Morrowind. On the world map, you start near the bottom left of a humongous map. When I accidently (after all that time) hit the "quick load button", F9 - because it was dark and I was fumbling for the F12 button for taking a screenshot high in a tower somewhere in a Mage's well-organized room - I saw everything I had accomplished flash by. At that point, I was on a small island at the very north tip of the world map.

Here's some of what I found: At least 5 fully functional cities, all different in architecture and style... all wanting a piece of me after I innocently defended myself on several occasions. Underwater oysters spread out on the seabed that contained pearls. I went pearl diving! A multitude of large and distinct solitary buildings, hidden throughout the land. At the end of one swimming excursion I came across a lone shipwreck in a small alcove. When I went inside, there was a skeleton with a large sword there to greet me and some extra booty deeper within the ship. Upon entering one seemingly abandoned city, I went into a house door, which of course led to a cave entrance (hehe they don't usually, but it's funny nonetheless and I don't mind it a bit), and to the following screenshots of this part of the adventure. I considered showing you the stats of the Battle Axe I found at the end of the cave adventure, as I snapped off a nice full profile character shot along with its details (including worth), but instead I'm just going to show you what it looked like as I don't want to spoil the fun. From then on, I had no trouble mopping up any creature that stood in my way in a few hits. Of course, I haven't explored but a sliver of the game... and my axe skill was at 100 at that time... and, I was invulnerable. The most magnificent places I went to were the Shrines. Incredible stoic statues stood tall inside of enormous intricate buildings, bathed in glowing light from a magic cauldron above... guarded by powerful beings that also didn't seem to like my company. The shrine statues themselves didn't look like they wanted the offerings of diamonds and rubies given to them at their base... else why would they still be there? So I decided to do the statues a favor and clean up the area. Moments later my Battle Axe was swinging.

After all of the above, one might think I would mention how it sounds on the state-of-the-art sound card purchased just for this game. However, despite being thrilled that I no longer had any issues to deal with on the sound front, I only want to touch on this subject. It's apparent there is still some fine-tuning left to do. The short of it is that the game delivers much more than I had hoped for aurally. The composer of the music did a wonderful job. It's thematic and symphonic, and fits each situation almost surrealistically. The sound effects are all superb, and though there are some volume and mismatch issues, the QA folks at Bethesda assured me that sound is a top priority at the moment.

Morrowind is set to shatter many of the boundaries of what single-player RPGs have been like up to this time. It's going to set standards in immersiveness, graphics, and bring back that "Ultima" feeling that everything is hand-placed and interactive, even though you can't attack successfully with a fork. Most every item has a name, a weight, can be picked up, and the land is very rich in lore. There are countless small books you can pick up and read, areas that don't appear necessary to finish the main quest, and realistic, often stunningly attractive cyclic night-day patterns. The game has a very organic feel to it. Lost are the straight symmetrical buildings of the past, and ever present are the curved, soft, natural-looking structures that one might realistically expect to find in a fantasy world such as this. And this is precisely what they were aiming for at Bethesda... this is the game they intended - a rich and deep, very satisfying diversion from reality.