The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind Review
publisher: ZeniMax Media
developer: Bethesda Softworks
PIII 500, 256MB RAM, 32MB Video Card, 1GB HD
|ESRB rating: T
release date: May 01, 02
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This has never happened to me before.
Being a game reviewer is an enviable job. Think about it, you get a chance to look at the greatest (and worst) games ever and then write about them. It requires the ability to be objective when you look at a game, regardless of any and all hype surrounding it. It requires being able to notice subtle nuances that make or break gameplay. It requires the technical skill of detecting and taking note of minor flaws - bugs, if you will.
But the most important trait of a good game reviewer is the ability to translate all of these facets of the game to you, the reader, so that you can make an informed decision on whether or not you, the reader, should or should not buy this game.
Hey, buddy. Who does your hair?
Me climb tree...Scout area, armed with only huge balls.
So, that being said, let's talk about Morrowind.
I have no idea what to tell you about this game.
This is not because there is nothing to say about it - quite the opposite. There's just so much that when I think about the experience of Morrowind, my mind goes into sensory overload and shuts down. There is that much going on with this game.
Where do I begin to talk about this game? There's so much to cover - the limitless combinations of character skills/classes/races/attributes; the scores of NPCs - 100% of which are killable, and 99.9% of which you can slaughter recklessly and still win the main quest; the absolutely gorgeous visuals - so well rendered that you can practically feel the grass under your boots; the 6 entire novels of text just waiting to be read in the libraries of the world before you; not to mention the fact it comes with a complete construction tool set allowing you to reshape the world according to your will. This game offers so much, it's mind-boggling. My mind is boggled. Boggled, I say!
Okay, breathe. Deep, cleansing breaths. MMMMMMMMMMhaaaaaaaaa. Yeah. Much better. Okay, lets get this review started and see where it goes.
If there's anywhere to begin, it's at the beginning - Character creation. Most RPG's that I've seen that allow you to configure your character do so before the gameplay begins. Not so. You awaken as a prisoner on a ship bound for the island of Vvardenfell, where another doomed soul asks your name. You provide it, and a guard escorts you off the ship to a waiting guard who asks you to provide your sex and race information for the census office. Here's where the fun starts - there are a good 10 races to choose from, each with their own intrinsic benefits and (in some cases) drawbacks. This is where you also customize your character's facial features. Afterwards, you establish your birth sign, which adds even more bonuses and (in some cases) drawbacks, which add more to the potential pot of character types. As far as the facial features go, there's not really a whole lot to choose from here, but given the expansiveness of what's to come this really doesn't matter.
Once you finish establishing who you are, its time to enter the census office and explain what you do. The game provides three methods to do this - You can pick from the available class list, (which provides 20 or so pre-generated classes), make your own class by filling in the blanks, or allow the census-taker to ask you a few questions. Your answers to these seemingly inane questions will give the census taker a certain idea of who you want to be, ending up with a class being assigned to you. Once you make your decisions, you have an opportunity to change any (or every) thing you had previously selected, so nothing's concrete until you say so.
After that, you walk down a hall, pick up your complimentary dagger and you're off. You get a pat on the head, a few bucks, and a parcel to deliver to a man named Caius Cosades in Balmora - a city that is a short stilt-strider jaunt away and that's it. From there on out, your adventures are entirely your own. You can go to Balmora and start the main quest, or not. Strike out on your own and gain some levels if that's what you want to do, join a faction or two (or three), it's your choice. The quest will wait until you're ready to start it.
Vvardenfell may be an island, but it is enormous. Complete with varying environmental conditions such as forests, jungles, plains, volcanoes, coastlines, marshes, mountains, cities, villages, (not to mention the obligatory dungeons, crypts, graveyards, shrines and fortresses) and wide open spaces that make up its terrain - all of which was lovingly handcrafted by the developers - this makes for hours upon hours of simply exploring the terrain. Really, people, it's very difficult for me to put it into words how good these visuals are. They're astounding. It is an entire world on an island, and what a world it is.
But what kind of world would it be without people on it? Not much of one, that's for sure, which is why the populace of Vvardenfell have pages of dialogue, all waiting to be uncovered. A million people (not really) on the island, and most of them have stories, just waiting to be told. Of course, who you are affects if a person wants to tell you a story, so be prepared to get the cold shoulder. As a Khajit character (Basically a walking tiger), one of the Dunmer Elves in the town of Pelagiad wouldn't say a single word to me - giving me a rude comment, and allowing for no response. I visited the same village as a Nord (Viking look alike) and they were a little less stiff with their responses, though it did seem as though they were staring down their pixilated noses at me. I went and gained a few levels, some notoriety and a reputation point or two, and that same character's reaction to me increased. I went back to my Khajit character, and did the same thing - this time the elf's reaction to me was barely tolerable. From this we can assume that every character will react to you by whatever means you make your living, and the race you choose.
Limitless gameplay, excellent visuals, complete construction tools for would-be DM's;
Crash bugs exist, sound is monotonous, steep system req's.