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Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

Bethesda Softworks

Bethesda Softworks




The most anticipated (and so far only) RPG for the Xbox has finally arrived. We rip open our copy and report on what we find.

Morrowind is definitely not a game for everyone. (What a way to start out a review, eh?) If you are truly interested in appreciating all that Morrowind has to offer your going to have to dedicate a significant amount of time to really appreciate the work that Bethesda put in the game. There never really has been a console RPG like Morrowind and if you're a fan of the Final Fantasy type RPG then Morrowind may not be the game that you are looking for. Morrowind is ultimately about freedom: the freedom to do and play the game as you see fit.

Playing through Morrowind is a huge undertaking, thousands of NPC characters, thousands of individual locations where the player basically can make his own way and make his own adventure. Sure there is a main quest but players can spend as little or as much time as they would like with the main quest. At first, at the very beginning of the game I can see why many players will be overwhelmed. The players start the game weaker than pretty much anyone. It isn't till players spend the necessary time in leveling up (done by improving your major and minor skills, which you can set and customize from the very beginning) that things get really interresting. Players can choose their character from 10 different races each with their own unique skills and abilities. Then players can further customize their character by picking their class. And from their they then can pick a birth sign, which gives the players even more abilities.

The Xbox version looks very comparable to what Morrowind looks and plays like on a pretty hefty PC. The texture details looks great from afar but once you get closer the textures don't look that good. The water is very nicely done, as are the lighting effects - all do a great job of establishing the mood. Some of the underground caverns are downright spooky. One of my favorite Morrowind moments was when I was climbing a hill, finally reaching the precipice and saw the sun setting over a lake. It was a very nice moment. Morrowind is filled with these types of moments.

The frame rate in Morrowind does stutter a bit, however, since I lack the PC that can properly run Morrowind even on its lowest settings, the Xbox version is more than adequate for me. This won't really detract from your enjoyment of the game however.

Players can choose from either a first person view or a third person view. The problem with the third person view is that it lacks the cursor so it makes it difficult to look at a specific item. It can help though with combat. Find your own balance.

Draw in is another problem that I noticed while playing the game but with a game world as massive as what Morrowind features it's an understandable problem that can be easily overlooked. The animation while in third person mode is also a bit jerky and not as smooth as it should be. With those small nit picking items aside, Morrowind is a beautiful title and while the graphics are not the best, it still can be appreciated with the over all scope of what Bethesda tried to accomplish (and for the most part succeeded) in Morrowind.

The controls are very much like they were in Halo. The huge menu system is a breeze to go through with the Xbox controller. A problem that I have noticed however is that combat can be an iffy proposition even at the best of times. It just does not feel as intuitive as it should be. The game provides very little feedback on how much damage or how much health an enemy creature has. And with the amount of time players will spend in combat, this portion of the game could have been done better than it turned out. The term quality over quantity is an appropriate slogan that the developers should have followed. However, with the overwhelming amount of things and places to do, the control and battle squabbles can be forgiven.

The music score has a sweeping feel to it. The music goes very well in establishing the mood that a game like Morrowind needs. The sound effects are also done well. Morrowind features a ton of voice acting and most of it is top notch.

In Morrowind, no 2 players will play the same game. With all of the different races and tasks, and quests and adventures that you can choose to go on, Morrowind feels like a different magical world. The replay value of this game is basically as limitless as the players' imagination. If you don't like the character that you are, you can always make another. That was the main reason why I had to drag myself away from my level 10 Nord Barbarian to write this review. With an open ended, non-linear story line most players should expect to dedicate a significant amount of time in completing the game. Even after you complete the main quest, the game is not officially over and there will still be plenty to see and do. Morrowind is a game that the sum of the whole is greater than the individual parts. It's obvious that Morrowind was a labor of love by the developers who produced this title. Morrowind is a game for the hard core players of RPGs, and if you're used to playing typical console RPGS like Final Fantasy and the other ilk you may want to stay away from Morrowind.

There have been some comparisons of Morrowind with Grand Theft Auto 3. In some ways, that would be a correct comparison. Both games are all about freedom and giving players a chance to live in a different world and playing a small or in some cases a large part in the history of that world. Morrowind is a genre setting title and I really see more games like Morrowind being released in the future. Once developers give players the freedom that Morrowind provides it will be very difficult for players to settle for games that do not offer that same amount of freedom.

Mike Regan
Diving back into the fray.

Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind: The Scores













The Final Word:  Morrowind is different things for different people. It definitely wins the award for the largest game on the console. Bethesda should be congratulated on bringing a title like Morrowind to the Xbox. If you're a hard-core RPG fan and looking for a game that doesn't lead you by the nose like Final Fantasy then Morrowind is the game for you.

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