The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind Review

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After producing the first two games in the Elder Scrolls series (Arena, and Daggerfall), Bethesda is at it again, making the series a trilogy with the stunning installment of Morrowind. After the first two games, the series had developed a following of people, all of which begged for a third adventure. They weren't let down either. It starts you off in the hold of ship, where you learn you are a prisoner about to be set free on the island of Vvardenfall, in the province of Morrowind. Once off the ship, one of the game's most unique aspects comes in to play. You are asked a series of questions, all hypothetical. Depending on how you answer, it will determine your class in the game. This can be bypassed, however, and you can choose a class for yourself, if you wish. After you have given your character an appearance, and a class, you're ready to begin your adventures in Morrowind.

The graphics engine of this game is one of the most visually stunning engines I have ever seen. Having become accustomed to engines such as the Quake engine and Bioware's Infinity engine, this one blows them all out of the water. The graphics of the game are incredibly detailed, truly making this game come alive, and feel real to the gamer. When traversing the vast countryside of Morrowind, you'll often find yourself becoming lost in the richness of the landscape and surroundings. Remarkably, the player interface does little to obstruct the scenery. Unlike most other games, the inventory and stat screen of Morrowind has included a transparency option, allowing you to keep your surroundings in view, as well as being able to resize the windows. The interface is just as easy to use as any other game you may have come across, and even the most inexperienced player will be able to catch on to the slight differences. Lastly, one of the greatest aspects of Morrowind's graphics is its diversity. Unlike most games where you select a class and are then given a couple generic looks, Morrowind allows the player to create a unique appearance through the use of over ten faces, and an equal amount of hair types, for each gender and species available. Also, as you acquire new gear, it will be visually represented on your character, something that is often lacking from other games released.

The sound seems to be overtaken by the vast areas and graphics, but is no less an important feature of Morrowind. When playing through, you can hear even the smallest sounds. From the footsteps of your character, to those of the townsfolk, and even the ambient sound of the wildlife, no sound has been overlooked. Each area uses appropriate music, switching between a pleasant sounding melody while in a town, to a more urgent sounding one while traveling dangerous areas. The sound can also warn you of danger. Whenever a creature is about to attack, the music picks up. While the sound itself doesn't stand out over other games, it does make itself known. But when dealing with such rich landscapes, you'll often times find yourself forgetting about the sound and music..

The gameplay in Morrowind is one of the most open, non-linear types you'll ever come across. Unlike other games where the player will be prodded along through most of the game, Morrowind gives you complete freedom. It offers the player to move about as they deem fit, allowing them to explore every aspect of the world. Instead of being given objectives that must be finished, you are just suggested to do it. The player may never have to do that specific quest, and instead delve into one of the games many smaller quests, of which there are over three hundred. The open-ended design of the game is a refreshing touch, especially after being bombarded with dungeon crawls, and other such linear hack-and-slash games. The freedom allowed in this game is unparalleled among the single player CRPG community, and even rivals that of the MMORPG's being developed.

Morrowind is solely real time, giving you the choice of progressing through the game in either a third or first person perspective, both of which will affect the way you handle combat. The game allows for three different types of standard combat - an overhead chop, a left-to-right slash, and a thrust. The animations for these attacks are well done and look very fluid. The only choppy-looking animation I've found in the game is the one for jumping, which looks like the character merely floats of the ground, then crouches somewhat on the way down.

The NPC's in the game are also some of the most unique ones I have ever seen. Each one will react differently towards the character, depending on what they think of you. Unlike other popular games like Baldur's Gate, where people's reactions depended on reputation, each NPC in Morrowind has a separate reaction towards the player. How they regard you is dependant upon what you've done directly and indirectly towards the NPC. Some NPCs may loathe the player, while others may love him, thus creating interesting conditions to play in. All of those factors are governed by your personality stat, as well as your ability to speak (speech craft) to people.

Lastly, Morrowind uses an interesting punishment method. If you decide to play as an evil character, and kill everything, you'll be presented with three different choices. You may pay a fine, serve time, or resist arrest, each of which has its downsides. Serving time will dull your skills, while paying a fine will force you to hand over a handsome sum of money, and any stolen goods. Resisting arrest will often result in your death. Also, the people don't just forgive and forget. If you kill enough people, or commit enough crimes, you will eventually become black listed, and have a bounty placed on your head. While there are methods of removing a bounty, they are few and far between, making it all the more interesting. Eventually, guards will begin to attack you on sight, and many people won't even talk to you, making it one of the most realistic NPC interactions around.

Because of the open-endedness of the game, Morrowind seems to be the type of world people will return to again and again. The freedom and richness of the land will keep players immersed in the game, and leave them wanting more. Also, the large amount of quests included in the game offers over 100 hours of gameplay, and that is without including the aspect of creating your quests using the included construction set CD. Morrowind will leave gamers wanting more, and most definitely returning for more.

While visually stunning, and amazingly well designed, the game does have its own bugs and issues to deal with. While they are nothing too annoying, they can cause frustration if a player steps into a glitch or experiences a slight freeze. Even on high-end computers, Morrowind tends to become jumpy when loading up new areas. The only major bug I've noticed has been a slight issue with the clipping in some areas. I have found myself stuck in places that I have been unable to work my way out of, but this can simply be fixed by opening the console and typing (fix me). As long as you keep your eyes open for areas such as these, though, players should be fine.

One of the finest aspects of Morrowind is its construction kit, which is included with the game. This kit opens up the entire game to people, allowing them to customize every aspect of it. They can add new NPCs and areas, create new equipment, and even add in their own quests. Bethesda created Morrowind in an infinite expanse of ocean, so you even have the ability to create a whole new continent to explore, if you so wish. This feature will surely keep the game fresh and exciting for players. They can either create their own plug-ins for the game to keep themselves going, or they can download one of the many plug-ins (both official and user-made) from the internet.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is both a graphic feast and gaming joy. The time and dedication spent on Morrowind will surely be reflected in the hours spent playing it. It is a must-have for any fan of the RPG genre, and I highly recommend it to gamers of any kind. Its unique features and freedom will have players continuously coming back for more, and will always be able to hook new players. If you haven't added this game to your collection yet, I strongly urge you to do so.