The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - game review

Date: 2002-12-16 11:51:00
The review was based on the PC version.

This is the third installment of Elder Scrolls, a series that made a real sensation among role-playing lovers. Daggerfall (part two of the series) was an incredibly developed program for those times (and to a large extent as for today). A huge world and full freedom to explore it, hundreds of cities and towns, hundreds of tasks, orders and missions, enormous, multi-level (notice the word: multi-level! It was a sensation at that time) labyrinths full of enemies. Penetrating this wonderful world drew me so much that I forgot about the right mission and only focused on exploring, trading and gaining higher and higher status in guilds. The authors kindly allowed such an operation and did not force the player to necessarily follow the scenario path they invented. Daggerfall also became famous for another reason. Due to the unprecedented in those good times number of errors made by programmers, it was named Buggerfall. Not only true, but also funny ...

Understandably, as a Daggerfall lover, I waited with hope and anxiety for Morrowind. Eventually, the RPG world sped forward like a hundred-foot chariot, and I was very interested in whether the authors of Bethesda would be the ones who drive the chariot or the ones who are dragged on the sand and have no idea what is actually going on with them. I think that after the rather unpleasant experiences with Pool of Radiance II and Might & Magic IX, these thoughts were quite justified. In addition, the atmosphere was fueled by the fact that many screens were presented on the Web and in computer magazines, which promised the owners of good cards and fast processors a real feast for the eye.

First act: the shotgun is hanging

So now let's get to the most important question: Has Morrowind lived up to my hopes or not? And as for most difficult questions, the answer cannot be unequivocal. Let us consider for a moment what is Morrowind anyway? Is it a boxed game with instructions, a program you install and play? When we talk about computer games, 99 percent of the time, the answer is obvious, and the question seems pretty dumb. But with Morrowind, it's not that simple. The game has grown into hundreds of more and more professionally prepared mods. I looked through the websites devoted to these mods quite carefully and was totally amazed. New cities, new worlds, new monsters and artifacts, new buildings, new opportunities, different scenario lines. You can choose the color. For the purposes of this review, however, let's forget about all of these. Here I am reviewing the game you bought in the store (author's product), not its potential development opportunities. The article about the Morrowind phenomenon, the gaming community and mod building is a different story altogether ...

I see my world huge

So I will start the review primarily with what the players were most intrigued with: will I get a free hand in exploring the world, just like in Daggerfall? And the answer to that question is yes. And even: very, very much :). Your hero can explore the Morrowind universe, complete hundreds of missions and orders, gain experience, unravel the intrigues with which this land is completely devastated, and do all this slowly and detached from the main plot. I know people who decided to take part in the right mission only after reaching very, very high levels of experience. There is so much to do before then! Commissions for all kinds of guilds (more or less secret) and gaining a higher and higher status in them, participation in conspiracies and intrigues, helping local residents, exterminating all kinds of filth, talks, trading, alchemy, learning and creating spells ... and mind!

Morrowind's world is not only vast, but also rich. Cities, towns, villages, mines, undergrounds, mysterious temples - everything is waiting for the brave traveler. It is also important that it is a living world. There are political parties, guilds, shops and associations in the cities. Many people will gladly take advantage of the help of a well-trained mercenary who can remove their enemies, provide them with valuable items, convey important messages, etc.

The protagonist enters the scene

The hero, as befits a decent role-play, is created by yourself. You decide about its strengths and weaknesses, advantages and disadvantages as well as interests. You have a really big choice, and to make the fun more attractive, you can take part in a specific psycho-test, thanks to which the program will select the character that best suits your character. However, although this is a review and not a guide, let me give you a little advice: develop your hero's character yourself from A to Z, choosing his race, traits, abilities and marking the sign under which he was born. Before that, read the instructions carefully and make sure you understand them.

The hero is characterized by basic features and several dozen skills divided into the most important, important and less important. The value of a given skill can vary from 1 to 100, but each 1 point is additionally divided by 100 percent. Let's say you are still fighting with the sword. Each hit increases the percentage of your sword skills. Finally, it reaches a hundred and you get an additional, correct skill point. If you get 10 "big" points in the skills you chose as most important or important, the character will move to the next level of experience. I do not know if what I wrote sounds understandable, but believe me, in practice it turns out to be very easy to understand. Anyway, as I wrote, before starting to create a character, it is worth reading the instructions very carefully, because if you create a hero unskillfully, it may turn out that he will not be able to gain new experience levels or it will be difficult for him.

The funny thing is that you can gain experience without doing anything special. All you need to do is jump or run or cast "empty" healing spells, and the statistics are growing at an amazingly fast pace. Of course, any "reasonable" actions are also rewarded. Each blow, spell, cover with a shield, trade transaction, successful conversation, alchemy treatment - everything makes the character smarter in a given field.

The hero wants to fight

Role-playing games are divided into those where combat is an inseparable element of fun and those where armed conflicts only complete the whole. Morrowind definitely belongs to the latter species. After the eternal chop in Diablo II or Dungeon Siege, it may even be a moment of respite, but then the player wonders (or at least I started to wonder) if these clashes are not too few? You go, you go, you see a rat ... Then blow it in the skull. You see a crab, hit it in the armor. And you go again, go and go. Sure, there are places more or less "potty", but the coefficient of "potty" in Morrowind is extremely low (oh, where are these majtendmajik fights with dozens of monsters at once !?). Worse, in terms of the species diversity of the hostile creatures, Morrowind looks extremely miserable.

Combat allows you to independently decide on the nature of the blow to be inflicted or allow the program to choose the optimal hit. Either way, it's nothing more than a chop, where reflexes and finger dexterity come in handy. During the fight, you can use special abilities, artifacts and spells, but the weapon is the argument that works most effectively against all hostile creatures. Especially weapons that have been magically enhanced (e.g. being hit with it paralyzes or causes an explosion). I have no idea how to use ranged weapons effectively in Morrowind. My attempts in this area ended so pitifully that it is a pity to even talk about it. First of all, I missed most often, secondly, if I already hit, the enemy would immediately run up and let me stomp. Therefore, I decided that there is nothing like a sword in a strong hand and from time to time using an appropriate spell.

In Morrowind, magic has been divided into standard role-playing types. Thanks to spells, you can hit the enemy with magic projectiles, paralyze him or reduce his skills. You can also heal all kinds of illnesses, but also magically travel to distant regions, levitate, and even summon helpful creatures or create quite a good weapon.

The hero wants to talk

One of the basic assumptions of Morrowind was to create a rich interaction of the hero with the world. Speaking as a human language, the idea was that the inhabitants of the universe we were visiting would behave intelligently, had interesting things to say and that their reaction would change depending on what the hero does or what skills he has. It may not seem complicated at first, but so far no one has managed to create a fully interactive world governed by reasonable rules. Unfortunately, it did not quite work out in Morrowind, as the reactions of many encountered characters are simply irrational, and some NPCs resemble frustrated schizophrenics who change their attitudes faster than the weather in April. Worse, in order to get interesting information, the player sometimes has to work their way through tons of idiotic conversation. For example, a character has ten lines that are answered as standard, and only the eleventh line brings some interesting news. Or it doesn't. I admit that struggling through this nonsense bored me for the hundredths and led to the fact that simply with standard characters (who at first glance do not show that they are important or that have not been described before) I did not want to talk at all .

We hang the eye and it turns white

Morrowind's graphics are an example of how you can make a fantastically beautiful 3D game. But you will appreciate it only if you have a very good graphics card and a fast processor. And under the words "very good graphics card" I understand at least GeForce 4 with 64 MB of memory. Otherwise, it's playable too, but the painting sometimes loses its fluidity and you can't admire certain details of the scenery. Praise the authors for thinking about owners of weaker computers. These unfortunates can choose to hide details (the game then becomes smoother). In practice, this manifests itself as if your hero is nearsighted and can only look not too far ahead. The horizon for him is then quite close, and distant places are lost in the fog.

What can be accused of Morrowind's graphics? Unfortunately, a certain schematicism. I have traveled this world from midnight to noon, and the real pain was that it is basically the same everywhere. Yes, you will notice differences in vegetation or architecture of houses, sand blizzard will blow your eyes, you will enter rivers or lakes and observe the local fauna or flora, but ... it is still not enough. I would dream of a journey that would lead from the icy deserts of the north, through meadows, forests and swamps of the temperate zone, to equatorial jungles and sunburned deserts and savannas. This is what the world of the Might & Magic series looked like. Here, unfortunately, everything is drowning in some bursts and grays. And can you imagine, with the potential graphic capabilities of Morrowind, what kind of pleasure diving in a coral reef, for example, could give? Or traversing the equatorial jungle full of life and colors? Well, maybe in Elder Scrolls IV?

However, in the case of 3D graphics, these are only my wishes and willingness to change good for the better. Worse when it comes to 2D graphics, that is, imagining all the props, objects, artifacts, etc. This part of the program has been broken in a way that is difficult to imagine. The items you keep in your backpack are just disgusting and, what's worse, they differ very little from each other. Here, Morrowind looks like a show from a long time ago. I admit that when I saw these small, greyish, hideous icons, which supposedly represent weapons, armor or robes, empty laughter overwhelmed me and fear. On the manufacturer's site, I would not have let a program so carefully developed in terms of 3D graphics be so damaged by 2D graphic designers. Therefore, using the inventory (and at some point you have a lot of items) becomes unpleasant and burdensome. Unpleasant, because (I will repeat it again, and what!) The images are hideous, and burdensome because it is difficult to distinguish what is a sword and what is a potty :).

I have already written about the schematicism of the presented world (those greynesses kept in a similar atmosphere). Unfortunately, this also applies to various types of labyrinths and dungeons, which are often built of standard modules and after visiting several of them you already know what to expect, and even who will be standing around the corner and waiting for your life. Sure, there are some really beautiful locations, with monumental sculptures, arches suspended in the air, and corridors winding at bizarre angles, but that's the exception to the rough rule. I have not seen such architecturally fantastic places in Morrowind as in Daggerfall, which in this respect simply dazzled. And Morrowind is just so-so. Sometimes better sometimes worse.

The last act: the shotgun fires

Morrowind is a very interesting game. A role-playing lover will certainly spend many or even dozens of long evenings with it. But is it some kind of revelation, the eighth wonder of the world and a program that will set new canons in RPG? In my opinion no. Among other things, because it is a product intended only for a hermetic group of recipients, and "Sunday" players will quickly get lost in this world and intimidated by its rules. This is not even a defect. Morrowind is simply the Name of the Rose among the games. Difficult, ambiguous reading, which cannot be reached once in a while between Bar and Idol, but which requires the recipient to devote a lot of attention and a lot of life to it.

As for the Polish location, it was an extraordinary challenge for CD Projekt. After all, we are talking about 5,400 pages of typescript, an enormous amount of texts and dialogues that took translators seven long months to develop. Therefore, it is simply not appropriate to "sell" this enormous amount of work with a few enigmatic sentences, and therefore a separate article will be devoted to Polonization.

Oh, and finally following the rule that the shotgun suspended in the first act should fire in the third, I'll answer the question I asked at the beginning of this article. Besides, I assume that you have already forgotten what the question was, but I will remember it :). Has Morrowind lived up to my hopes in him? Time to define yourself unequivocally. Yes or no. Not like that :). Okay, let's tug the beast by the tail, and honestly, it didn't. But perhaps my professional turmoil and overload with computer games are reflected here. As of summer this year, the only game I play for fun, rather than for having to review it, is Medieval: Total War. Morrowind went into storage right after I installed M: TW, and I don't think he will come back from this exile anytime soon. My friend, an avid player, and a reviewer with quite a lot of experience had similar impressions, who quickly brought the character to some 40th level of experience, and then, not even trying to solve the main plot, put the game away ... So Morrowind - a girl for one night?

Jacek Piekara