9/01/2008

Games of Legend : The Elder Scrolls III Morrowind

Introduction

Bethesda has a real winner on their hands with Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Their latest offering to the shrine of non-linear RPG is a true masterpiece. Before I start the article let me tell you that I'm not a RPG loony , thus I don't play and rate 10 any RPG I get my hands on . Morrowind, however, plays more like an MMOG than anything else, with its enormous world scope and first-person gameplay. Given the history of the franchise, I was initially wary of game-stopping bugs; for the most part, though, I had a stable gaming experience. The game is immense and really sets the standard of content for all RPGs to come. I whipped through Dungeon Siege in about 2 or 3 days; similarly for Diablo I & II as well as BG:2. Yet it took me about 2 weeks of constant play to even get to the end of Morrowind, and I didn’t even come close to doing half of the quests/storylines in the game. But more on that later.

Story

There is an epic quest story line, as well as hundreds of side quests and story lines. In fact the game has so many side quests and land to explore that I was well established and had considerable power before I even started the epic quest line. The story is your basic fantasy story of Drizzt the Dragon Reborn fighting the evil of Doctor Octopus in Mordor. While not the most inspiring tale ever crafted, there is so much to do and so much to explore I can forgive the skimping.

Morrowind map . The biggest , non-instanced world ever created .

Gameplay

The best way to describe the character creation process is ‘interactive’. While it does lend in immersion from the get-go, after a few restarts it gets tedious as there isn’t a way to speed up the process. Basically, you ‘wake up’ next to some dark elf in a loincloth (no, this isn’t an Everquest fan-fic, it’s still a review), and this is the part you choose your name.

After a bit more interaction you choose from 10 different races ranging from your standard dark elves and barbarians to more exotic races such as the lizard race or the furry-friendly cat people race. Each race has its own perks in the form of special skills, i.e. lizards get water breathing and the black human race gets a skill that turns you from Al Sharpton to Michael Jordan for 60 seconds. Each race has separate stats for males and females, which is a novel idea if not a bitstereotypical as women are weaker physically but usually have higher starting mental stats. There is an acceptable amount of customization of character looks but certainly not the plethora I was hoping for. You can choose between several different faces and hairstyles for each race ranging from a vicious lizard to Marlon Wayans.

With your race firmly set in stone, you go on to pick your class and astrological sign. You can choose from preset classes, customize your own, or going back to the Ultima days, you can answer a list of questions and get a character template based off your answers. Overall it’s a pretty simple and intuitive process that allows for good customization of a template. Be advised, however, that if you like to get the most bang for your buck you may want to restart a few times to find a template that suits you.

Combat is pretty simple; you can slash, thrust or chop at an enemy with melee weapons, fire at them with a bow/crossbow, or unleash a variety of spells with ranges varying from touch to reach out and touch someone. It took a bit for me to get used to this style of combat, but once I did, I have to say I like this a lot more and wouldn’t mind seeing this in future MMOG’s. You can buy spells from priests and mages and some even offer the ability to make your own spells through a simple interface. Other merchants offer the ability to enchant weapons or items with soulstones (using magic to trap a monster’s soul into a gem) which in theory is really great. However, later in the game when you have slain more powerful creatures and enslaved their souls in top-end stones, you could create very powerful artifact level items which had the effect of making the game very easy. Which brings me to about my only gripe with the game; it got too easy. During the later stages of the game I was basically indestructible and I could quickly kill almost every monster/NPC in the game. While it's fun to wade through a sea of primates like Ash with a boomstick, it is even more fun to have a challenge. I would have liked to see the critters scaled upwards more, especially towards the end.

Aesthetics


Incredible detail

The graphics were pretty damn good. Even on my GeForce 2, I had no problems keeping great frame rates in all but the most graphic-intensive areas and situations. The terrain is well designed and the foliage is incredible and completely interactive, meaning you can pick mushrooms or flowers for alchemy or to sell. The wild beasts of the land seem a bit to alien for me, even though their models and animations were smooth. The cities are incredible and the NPC’s each have their own individual factions with you and treat you accordingly. You get greeted with a "What is it, peasant?" to a "Oh what a lovely treat! How are you?" depending on your faction with an NPC. You can raise faction through bribery, through the use of the Speechcraft skill, and even by the quality of clothes you are wearing. Combat animations and spell effects are also amazing. Spell effects range from noxious green vapors of poison clouds to arcing lightning to beautifully colored explosions from fire-based attacks.

Sound

The ambient sounds are fantastic, as are the sounds for the NPC’s and monsters. A lot of NPC interaction involves voice clips and the quality and emotion is actually surprisingly good. Battle is definitely better with sounds ranging from the wet thunk of an arrow to the ring of a sword parried by a shield. Many times you can tell a monster is around the corner simply from the heavy breathing or grunts they emit. Overall I think the sound was great and it definitely added to the immersion into the world of Morrowind.

Value

There are some stability issues, so frequent saves are a must. I would crash to desktop on average about once every 3 or 4 hours. It also has been reported that there are some memory leaks with the game. I do believe there are several bugs that allow you to exploit things in the game, however this is not really much of an issue since you can summon any item or start any script within the game from the console. Morrowind also comes with an Editor that allows you to do almost anything you want. If someone were dedicated, they could write entire modules and insert them into the game. On one of the Morrowind message boards I read, there was a project starting to write an alternate ending to the game. The replay value is potentially endless.


Guard of Vivec


Conclusion

Overall I would recommend this game to everyone regardless of your particular gaming tastes as it has something for everyone. The completely non-linear style to the game as well as the immense area to explore is a huge plus in my book. It really has the feel of an Everquest or Dark Ages of Camelot without all the hang-ups of forced grouping, other assjack players, and you can even save your progress. The game really never felt tedious to me, though I do have a strong dislike of those damnable cliff racers now, but that is easily worked around with a little in-game ingenuity and a little toy I like to call my Daedric Crescent Sword. On a scale from yokel to ubermensch, this has Nietzsche written all over it.

Translation : Go and buy this game !

Rating 9.1



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