Bling Blingin up in Vvardenfell

Oct 21, 2002 (Updated Oct 21, 2002)
Review by  
Rated a Very Helpful Review

Pros:Amazing story, awesome singleplayer experience, lush graphics

Cons:No multiplayer, some seriously 'broken' aspects of gameplay.

The Bottom Line: Highly recommended. Some gameplay flaws detract from the overall experience, but still an amazing game.

I'll admit, I'm not a real hardcore RPG player. I'm fairly well acquainted with the Final Fantasy and Fallout series, but that's about where my experience with RPG games end.

I was stuck on dialup for an extended period of time over the summer, and needed a game with a fulfilling singleplayer experience to fill the hole in my gaming needs that a lack of broadband interweb access left. I'd heard good things about Morrowind, and decided to take the plunge, and shell out the 45 bones for a copy. I can say now that it was worth every lousy red cent of that $45. Anyway, without further ado, here's the Patented Action Snark Rundown of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.


The plot of Morrowind is without a doubt the deepest and most involved plot I've ever run across in a videogame. Taking a page right out of LoTR, Bethesda has invented an entire world with Morrowind. Everything from flora, fauna, and races, all the way to religious and political strife within the land of Morrowind. Anyway, read on, noble goon, for the ever so tasty potted plot summary.

Potted Plot Summary: The player begins the game being released from a prison ship, and given orders to report to an Imperial official in a nearby town. After you are unceremoniously dumped off onto the Isle of Morrowind, you dive right into the plot. As the pot simmers, it becomes apparent that Caius Cosades, the official you were sent to report to, is actually head of The Blades, the Imperium's spy organization on Morrowind. Things simmer a bit more, and you find out you are the Nerevarine, the reincarnated soul of one of Morrowind's greatest heroes. It is then set upon your shoulders to stop the evil, nefarious, and downright lowdown plotting of Dagoth Ur. Dagoth Ur is sort of the devil of Morrowind, and of course, he wants to resurrect an ancient god, and go about doing nasty things, like stomping on cities and kicking puppies and such. Anyway, rest assured that Bethesda are far better storytellers than I. Plot scores a perfect 10 out of 10 for being one of the deepest, and most engrossing game plots ever.

Graphics and Sound Graphics and sound are quite well done in the game. Characters sport huge polygon counts, and are animated fluidly. Effects such as transparency and atmospherics are done amazingly well. Water and storm effects are truly top notch, lending an almost scary degree of realism to the game.

Of course, with all the visual bling bling going on up in this piece, your hardware pays the price. A Geforce2 GTS is the minimum price of admission to get some decent eye-candy in this game, and even my Krakenesque GeForce 4 ti4200 is pushed to it's limits to run the game in full detail at 1280x1024x32.

Sound is also top notch. 90% of the interaction with NPC's is done through a text-based interface, but what speech snippets there are are suitably crisp and fit the atmosphere of the game quite nicely. Envionmental and action sound effects are well done, though not as over the top as one would expect in a fantasy RPG game of this sort. Sound effects are wholly adequate to the task, though I feel they could have been spiced up just a tad.

Anyway, overall, graphics and sound rate a very solid 9 out of 10. Graphics are amazing, if you have the requisite ponies under the hood. The sound effects are very solid, though not stellar. However, the sound does a very good job of adding to the atmosphere that the graphics set.

Gameplay Ah, gameplay, the great equalizer. A beautiful game with pathetic gameplay is little more than a very resource-intensive screensaver in my book.

Gameplay in Morrowind takes place from a first or third person perspective, depending on your preferences. The player is free to do basically whatever they want, but they will find themselves being drawn along by the plot, and actually wanting to complete the quests needed to advance the storyline.

Pretty much all styles of play are viable in Morrowind, though the hack 'n' slash melee fighters and higher level mage characters tend to fare better than theif/merchent characters.

Character creation and leveling are very well done. With the avalible combinations of choosing race/skills/birthsign for a character, the player has thousands of possible combinations for an initial build. Couple that with the ability to create custom enchantments on gear, and the choices for the player are limitless.

Leveling is also different from most popular RPG games out there. Insted of an experience point system, the player's skills increase the more they use them. Increase 10 levels in any combination of tagged skills, and the player gains a level. The players stats are then combined with 'multipliers' which relate to which skills were used to level. (EG, if a player increases their swordsmanship enough to level, the stats that control swordsmanship can be improved more than other stats.)

If I could stop reviewing gameplay right here and now, it'd score a perfect 10, and I'd walk away happy. However, there are several portions of gameplay that are seriously 'broken'. Certain aspects of the game, such as alchemy and theft are either very wonky, or so easy for a player to exploit that it's not even funny. It's insanely easy for a player to abuse the alchemy system to inflate their wallet and stats to insane levels, and that really ruins the game. Also, the difficulty level of the game needs to be seriously tweaked, in my opinion. Once you get beyond level 15 or so (Using 'power leveling' tactics, a player can do this in a matter of minutes) the game becomes so simple as to become totally banal.

Overall, I'm going to give gameplay a 7 out of 10. It's hugely in-depth and stimulating to play this game, but there are so many aspects that need a serious overhaul that it takes away a lot of enjoyment.

Extendability: One item I nearly forgot to mention was the extendability of the PC version of the game. The PC version ships with a full-featured editor, and it's quite easy to make huge changes to various aspects of the game. 'Plugins' for everything from difficulty to new weapons and items can be downloaded and meshed with the game's executable. The plugins really add a huge amount to the game's lifespan. Everything from harder creatures, new races, and even purely cosmetic differences can be put into Morrowind. (Note my member pic. It's of my current primary character, using Curry Monkey's "Recolored Armors and Weapons" plugin to give some Glass Armor a more Master P flair to it.)

Overall: Overall, Morrowind earns a big, fat Snark Seal of Approval. The story is incredibly in depth (There's several good-sized books worth of material in this game). Gameplay has some serious limitations, but even in light of those, it's still a hoot to play. Graphics are eye-popping, and the entire game has a great atmosphre and flair. So, my final answer would be as follows: If you're looking for an involved singleplayer experience (No MP in this game whatsoever), want gratuitious eye-candy, and are willing to overlook a few flaws in gameplay, definitely check Morrowind out. For those of you who are more nit-picky about gameplay issues, you should still give Morrowind the benefit of the doubt. This game is a true gem, but a gem with a few glaring flaws in it.

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