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Oct 15 2018 16:51:45
       

Morrowind Review

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When you play Morrowind, you’re left with no doubt that the developers had a lot of vision in developing it, the question we face then, is how well has that vision translated into the final product? Well, from one point of view, very well – players have exceptional freedom to define precisely what they want to be and do in the world, which is lush and large, with a huge amount of background littered around. From another point of view though, we feel that the story isn’t compelling enough to drive you through the game and that several elements of the game detract from what would otherwise be a game with consistently very high standards.

 

Let’s start with what Morrowind does right, and what type of game player will really appreciate it. The basis of Morrowind, as is explained in the manual, is to provide players with a world where they can do what they want and dip back into the story whenever they want, if they want to at all. To that end, skills are provided that would allow you to make your fortune or fame in any number of ways, from spell caster and fighter to thief, assassin, trader or diplomat. In fact, the whole system is purely skill based, classes are provided, but are in no way rigid, allowing you to develop the skills to suit your own preference of play.

There are probably quite literally hundreds of quests for you to take as you find your way around the world, some part of progressions in various guilds or orders, others simply given out by individual non-player characters (NPCs). Most of these quests, as is fairly normal in RPGs involve finding and talking to someone, finding an item, or killing something/one, but there is a lot of variation simply because of the sheer number available for you to find.

The world itself is almost seamless and is really quite huge, meaning that often, instead of a long hike, you’ll find yourself exploring the network of transportation of silt striders and ships. I wouldn’t recommend doing this the whole time though, as you’ll miss out on finding the various small quests that are littered around the world as well as many of the dungeons and crypts.

A large amount of back story, history and information exists in many tomes that can be found, either usually in book sellers or in homes which describe in varying detail and focus the world, its inhabitants and its history. The most valuable of these tomes will teach your character things about various skills and improve your abilities in them.

If you like to explore a massive world where the crest of each hill may reveal a new quest or dungeon, this game really has your name on it.

I find it a disappointment though that the story isn’t more involving – I always liken the escape offered by role-playing games to books that you take part in, and an old adage for books is that you must capture your audience’s imagination from the first paragraph. Morrowind singularly fails to do this, as many of the initial parts of the story involve you being told to go off, join a guild or order and gain prominence in it. It’s the equivalent of being told to go off and level up before you come back.

Conversation in Morrowind quickly becomes a chore, since it involves a list of topics you can ask NPCs about, which grows as you do more and learn more about the world. Eventually, you list of topics will become really quite long, meaning you have to do quite a lot of scrolling to find the pertinent questions to ask each NPC you need to interact with. Additionally, ask any NPC about something they may not know any specifics about and you’ll get a canned response that will be verbatim what many others will say to you – it makes you wonder precisely why you need all of these topics included for conversation.

There are a few pitfalls that are easy to fall into in character creation too – while the world is wonderfully big and a joy to explore, if you find yourself with a character who has a low speed and athletics score, your running abilities will be the laughing point of many a snail, and moving about even in a house will be an exercise in frustration.

At which point we get on to combat – no matter what profession you choose to explore the possibilities of, you’re likely to need to fight in some way or another during the game, especially if you follow the story, which may leave people who choose a diplomatic class feeling slightly hard done by. Fighting and magic are very simple to get the hang of though, you select the mode you’re in (normal, combat or spell casting) and use the primary mouse button to attack or cast in the latter two modes respectively. Unfortunately combat is as lacklustre as it is simple, since you eventually learn that (as you would expect) weapons have different modes of attack, some of which are better suited to that weapon than others (which you pick is actually determined by your direction or lack of movement, similar to the system in Jedi Knight 2, but without as much variety). Eventually though, it becomes a matter of picking the mode of attack, clicking the mouse, holding it down to power up a stronger attack, releasing and hitting or missing, complete with a fairly mundane animation.

Spell casting is similar, and in fact, magical weapons enchanted with spells will use the same animation on hitting as the spells they’re enchanted with use. Unfortunately, many of the spells suffer from having a very short range, meaning that spell casting combat can easily degenerate into a parody of normal combat where you wonder why you didn’t just get a sword and heavy armour instead. The animations for spell effect can be fairly laughable as well, in such a beautifully rendered world I hardly expected to see a small animated 2d image of an explosion when I hit someone with a flame sword, but that’s precisely what you get, and it jars somewhat with the rest of the game.

While not wanting to labour a point, character animations suffer somewhat too, while characters are decked out in a variety of wondrous armour or clothing, guards tend to look as if they’re trying to take the largest steps they possibly can while walking about, and other animations are similarly unnatural.

The counterpoint to the freedom and depth of the world is then that while the world is beautiful, deep and interesting, the story is unlikely to deeply involve you, character animations tend to look rushed and poor in relation, and the magic and combat system is weak and uninteresting.

 

Morrowind has no multiplayer options.

 

The world of Morrowind really is stunning, especially on a high end graphics card where you see the water for the first time. Banners in cities and towns sway in the wind and flap about in gales and the varying forms of architecture around the world are beautiful, interesting and well designed but animations and spells effects look out of place in comparison to the quality of the rest of the world.

Some dungeons however, are so dark that you’ll find yourself turning up the gamma options so that your eyes can stop straining when you don’t have a torch in your hand.

 

Morrowind has a decent sound track, but any of the sound effects are lacking, and rain sounds very tinny, even with a decent soundcard and speakers / headphones.

 

Morrowind is a good game, but to our minds, it really suffers as an RPG from the lack of development of a personality for the main character, the dull un-involving storyline at the start and combat that lacks subtlety, depth and fun. We would advise that you read a good number of reviews before making up your mind if it offers as an RPG what you want from it.

Daniel 'Inept' Speed (inept@the-nexus.co.uk)

In Short
 
Depth of World
Player Freedom to do as they choose
Stunning Graphics

Weak Story
Poor Animations
Combat and Magic system lacks depth and variety

 

Score
 
 

7/10

 
 
Links
   
  www.morrowind.com  
   


 

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