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Review RPG Codex Retrospective Review: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (2002)

Discussion in 'RPG News & Content' started by Infinitron, Feb 15, 2017.

  1. Make America Great Again Infinitrongender: ⚧ I post news Patron

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    Tags: Bethesda Softworks; Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

    I'm pleased to present the next chapter in esteemed community member Deuce Traveler's chronicle of the Elder Scrolls series, coming nearly a year after his retrospective review of Battlespire (well we've actually been hoarding it since November). Released in 2002, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is widely considered to be Bethesda's last good game before their full embrace of the dark side. It's one of Deuce's favorite RPGs, so there are a lot of things that he likes about it, and a few that he doesn't. For example:

    After you complete the introduction, you are processed as a released prisoner and receive your first quest: go out and get a job. You can take up your first job offer to deliver a document to an Imperial official named Caius Cosades in a faraway town, but even when you meet with him he tells you that you need to go out and find more work before he'll trust you with additional errands. I took forever to deliver that first document, instead opting to travel around and explore, investigating the small dungeon close to the ship I'd arrived on and at the same time learning about the local politics. It is in that starting dungeon that you first run into slavers holding captured Argonians and Khajiit, highlighting that this is a game that takes the racial and political strife seen in Arena and Daggerfall and cranks it up to a new level.

    The Dunmer, Argonians and Khajiit have their tensions, but the stronger conflict is the one between the Imperial occupiers and the Dunmer who have lost their political independence. The game doesn't shove this conflict in your face, but you can see it everywhere, reflected in the architecture and the clothing of the different populations. The strange native architecture is found in the heartland of Vvardenfell, and the Dunmer of these cities are well-dressed and make up the overwhelming majority of the population. Argonians are more commonly found in the swamps and backwaters of the island, dressed in poor materials and living in squalor. The Imperials have several outposts and ports along the edges of Vvardenfell, which are heavily patrolled by armored soldiers. These locations have familiar Western European aesthetics, which look quite out of place next to the strange fauna and flora outside their gates.

    The Dunmer themselves are quite diverse, which is another source of conflict. They might be united in their dislike of the Imperial occupation and their feelings of superiority over the poor Argonians, but if you take those external targets away the animosity is quickly directed inwards. The Dunmer Great Houses are in harsh competition for dominance over the island, and the regions they control deviate sharply in cultural norms. House Redoran is martially inclined and its members live in traditional adobe domiciles, members of House Telvanni live inside giant mushrooms and are strong practitioners of magic, and House Hlaalu mimics Imperial culture to some extent while focusing on trade and stealth. And if that's not enough, there are also several nomadic clans of Dunmer called Ashlanders who despise their urban cousins as much as they do outsiders. The Dunmer outnumber the Imperials and could probably kick them out of Vvardenfell if they wanted to, but they can't seem to get their act together enough to do so.

    Moving onward, visiting Caius Cosades will initiate Morrowind's main quest, but as mentioned previously, he turns you away at first, telling you to go take some odd jobs and come back later. The game really encourages you to avoid the main quest at the beginning and to try joining up with the various factions and doing some side quests instead. These quests will beef up your character and earn you some coin to buy better equipment, so it's a good idea to take them early on. There are many joinable factions in the game, ranging from professional guilds to religious cults to Dunmer houses to the Imperial army. It's possible to rise in the ranks of a faction, but in addition to performing tasks for it you'll also need to show that you are talented enough in the appropriate skills. For example, you might be able to peform several important services for the Mages Guild using only the strength of your sword arm, but you won't get anywhere in that organization unless you also display some strong talent in spellcasting.

    Morrowind's faction quests usually deal with increasing the wealth or power of the questgiver or acting against a rival, further fleshing out the game's setting. Going through a faction's entire questline is worthwhile, allowing you to earn a positive reputation through your heroics while gaining unique artifacts, such as the Skeleton Key, a high quality lockpick which is the reward for the final mission for the Thieves Guild. If I have any complaint about these quests, it's that their progression is anti-climactic. The early quests you can do for a faction are typically simple courier missions, which are usually quite low on risk if you pay to use the game's various transportation services. The financial rewards for these quests are generous enough to allow you to upgrade your equipment so that you can survive the harder ones later on. The mid-tier faction quests are the best. You might have to march deep into hostile territory to retrieve a holy relic from the body of a fallen knight, or delve into the bottom of a dungeon to retrieve lost technological marvels. But the final faction quests are too often overly simplistic, merely asking you to travel to another city and murder an NPC at their residence. By the time you get these missions, the cost of transportation will be negligible and your stats and equipment will make them utterly trivial.

    When you finish a faction's final quest you become the faction leader... and that's it. There are no more missions, and you can't order the faction to do anything or make any other changes. The designers could have added some sort of random quest system like in Daggerfall, or at least have you make the occasional administrative decision to make it feel like faction business was under your control, but there's nothing like that in Morrowind. I think the game would have been better off if your character was elevated to an honorary position in the organization instead of becoming a faction head who has no executive responsibilities.​

    Read the full article: RPG Codex Retrospective Review: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (2002)
     
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  2. Ivangender: ⚧ Arcane

    Ivan
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    Morrowind sucks cock. Gothic shits all over it, Gothic 2 especially.

    Never pirated Oblivion or Skyrim.
     
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  3. Make America Great Again Zed Duke of Banvillegender: ⚧ Arcane Patron

    Zed Duke of Banville
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    Morrowind rules; Gothic drools.

    Complaining that Morrowind does not allow you to teleport to any location?
    :updatedmytxt:

    Otherwise, excellent review! :salute:
     
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  4. evdkgender: ⚧ comrade troglodyte :M Patron

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    I think lot of the complaints about the tediousness of travel in Morrowind would be solved by divorcing the walking speed from the athletics skill (although I am somewhat unsure what other purpose that skill serves). Boots of Blinding Speed, while an amusing pun, do not really count as a solution.
     
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  5. AMGgender: ⚧ Arbiter

    AMG
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    They are a solution. Create a spell to resist magicka 100% and equip boots. Perma haste without blindess.
    But Morrowind is still trash.
     
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  6. almondblightgender: ⚧ Arcane

    almondblight
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    :hmmm:

    I eagerly await 2025 when the NuNuCodex talks about how Skyrim is widely considered to be Bethesda's last good game before their full embrace of the dark side.
     
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  7. evdkgender: ⚧ comrade troglodyte :M Patron

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    Having to use a one off joke item to offset shit design is not a solution. It's basically equipment slot taxation.
     
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  8. AMGgender: ⚧ Arbiter

    AMG
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    If you're put off by shit design you shouldn't be playing bethesda's games in the first place.
     
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  9. evdkgender: ⚧ comrade troglodyte :M Patron

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    I am a masochist.
     
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  10. Jedi Master Radekgender: ⚧ Arcane

    Jedi Master Radek
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    False. Rings teleporting players to the temples and the transportation network is an IDEAL way of doing fast travel in games like Morrowind. You can immediately return from wideness to the civilization and use transportation network to return to the quest giver or to find the closest point in the transportation network to the dungeon you want to visit and go there from that point by foot. This systems requires a knowledge of the world and some simple planning. If you use it well you can get fast to nearly any location in the game. The only places difficult to reach with this system are places that ought to be difficult to reach like volcano mountains in the middle of the map.
     
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  11. Make America Great Again Zed Duke of Banvillegender: ⚧ Arcane Patron

    Zed Duke of Banville
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    Right, Morrowind already contains extensive fast travel options, which the review alludes to in mentioning "in-world transportation services" but doesn't detail. There are boats allowing you to travel between nearly every settlement on the coast, a silt strider service connecting a number of settlements in a line extending from the northwest to the southwest to the southeast, guild guides offering teleportation between the five branches of the Mages Guild (4 of which are located in the 4 large cities), a spell effect (Almsivi intervention) teleporting you to the nearest Tribunal temple, a spell effect (Divine intervention) teleporting you to the nearest Imperial Cult shrine, a spell effect (Recall) teleporting you to wherever you've left a teleport marker using the companion spell effect (only one marker allowed at a time), and finally one of the free downloadable mods added a chain of quests to activate the Propylon Chambers located in each of the ancient Dunmer strongholds that allows you to teleport to any of them via a member of the Caldera Mages Guild (which also contains the fifth Guild Guide) and back again from a Propylon Chamber to Caldera. Learning how to use the fast-travel systems are part of the game.+M
     
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  12. Cudgelgender: ⚧ Learned Patron

    Cudgel
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    Fast Travel is what made Morrowind feel like a world you existed in, as opposed to say Skyrim and Oblivion where the worlds felt optional.
     
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  13. Carriongender: ⚧ Arcane Patron

    Carrion
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    MW's fast travel system is one of the coolest examples of how you can make the player feel like he's growing in power without just making a bunch of numbers go up. At the start you'll either take the bus or go for a lengthy hike if you want to get somewhere. A few dozen hours later you'll know the different travel networks like the back of your hand and have spells and items that allow you to move around the map like a god (flying, jumping, teleporting, walking on water etc.), reaching even the most remote locations in an instant. Saying that Oblivion's instant fast travel system was better is a travesty, pure and simple.

    Aside from that it's a good review, although I'm not quite sure who it's aimed at. It doesn't really say anything new to people who are familiar with the game, but on the other hand it also contains a couple of major-ish spoilers that the people who've not yet played the game would probably want to live without.
     
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  14. Deuce Travelergender: ⚧ Prestigious Gentleman 2012 Newfag Patron

    Deuce Traveler
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    When I had written the review, I had just come from playing Arena and Daggerfall where walking was an option, but fast travel was simpler and more appreciated. Yes, there are travel options in Morrowind, but more limited than what had been given to the player in games previous. It's as if the designers wanted you to see their world. Luckily, that world is the most pleasing to the eye of the entire series.

    Edit: There were a couple of comments about Skyrim. I have recently finished that game and I have some notes to put together for a review, in order to complete my retrospective of the entire RPG series. I'm going to try the expansions before the review goes out. However, if I were to rank the games right now I would put them in this order:

    1. Morrowind
    2. Arena
    3. Daggerfall
    4. Battlespire
    5. Skyrim
    6. Oblivion

    I would also strongly recommend Morrowind, Arena, and Daggerfall. Recommend Battlespire. And not recommend Skyrim or Oblivion.
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2017
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  15. Zanzokengender: ⚧ Savant

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    Morrowind has tons of flaws but it does so many things right too.

    If Beth had learned from the mistakes and doubled down on the successes then the sequel(s) could've been among the best RPGs ever.
     
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  16. Make America Great Again Darth Roxorgender: ⚧ Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis, Hater of Eternity

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    :nocountryforshitposters:

    Walking in Daggerfall is an "option" in the same sense that walking from Lisbon to Vladivostok is an option.
     
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  17. Fenixgender: ⚧ Liturgist

    Fenix
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    I did it once, walked for 20 minutes I think, but arrived in town.
    I just wanted to check if it is honest travelling or not.
     
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  18. Make America Great Again Darth Roxorgender: ⚧ Prestigious Gentleman Wielder of the Huegpenis, Hater of Eternity

    Darth Roxor
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    Took you just 20 minutes to get to Vladivostok? Impressive!
     
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  19. Make America Great Again Zed Duke of Banvillegender: ⚧ Arcane Patron

    Zed Duke of Banville
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    Walking everywhere is a requirement for a true completionist run of Daggerfall.:M
     
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    Morrowind is my favourite game ever, and I look forward to Deuce Traveler validating my opinion once I get round to reading it.

    :bro:
     
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  21. KyivAfter12amgender: ⚧ Learned

    KyivAfter12am
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    Morrowind is an excellent game indeed, despite bad combat and dialogue system that leans heavily towards info dumps.

    The beauty of the game is its setting. It starts out mundane, but if you put some effort into researching it, you'll find some wonderful weird stuff. It's a good thing that the main quest of the game is basically a study in the history, politics and metaphysics of the world. In a different game, it would be a painfully boring experience, and maybe it is in Morrowind too, if you're only interested in combat and minmaxing.

    Another good thing that the setting achieves, is that it manages to include some humor without breaking the 4th wall by real life references. As evidenced by Fallout 2 and Divinity Original Sin, it's not easy and definitely shouldn't be taken for granted.

    Although Bethesda has decided to abandon the interesting parts of the Elder Scrolls for good, it is obvious that they understand why Morrowind was successful. Both Skyrim and ESO have expansions that cater to the nostalgia. The Skyrim one was a bit boring, but still better than the original game. The new ESO expansion has just been announced.
     
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  22. Fenixgender: ⚧ Liturgist

    Fenix
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    YEah, but sadly with my completionicism I need to reavealall map, with no fog of war at all, it was pain to explore. ))
    Also, at some point I always met enemies I coudn't fight with (max 100 difficulty).

    And I remember I found some mode, that made Morrowind seamless, and you could see volcano from any point, I remember it required installing pyton, anyone of you heard about this?
     
    Last edited: Feb 16, 2017
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  23. fobiagender: ⚧ Educated Patron

    fobia
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    You mean the MGE? Morrowind Graphic(s) Extender or something?

    There you have the option, it's pretty tough on older hardware though.
    Also if you apply other graphic options that are available, like (somewhat) animated grass and stuff.
    I'd definitely recommend using it, makes being the obligatory stealthy archer much more fun. :cool:

    Also mage. Sucks to run into mobs you didn't spot from afar on lower levels.
     
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  24. Juggiegender: ⚧ Scholar

    Juggie
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    I never understood the love for Gothic series on Codex. Is this some kraut thing or what?

    From my experience (2 full playthroughs of Gothic and a near full playthrough of Gothic 2) the games are shit. I played it primarily because of the praise it gets here and I found it mediocre to terrible.

    Part of the reason might have been playing a mage type character, but why offer a major specialization option if it sucks horse balls? TES3 is the holy grail of gaming compared to this garbage.
     
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  25. Lord Azlangender: ⚧ Arcane Patron Shitposter

    Lord Azlan
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    Thanks for the review - it sort of got me teary eyed and romantic about the past.

    I don't think the developers ever realized what they created with Morrowind and only feedback from the fans highlighted desire to go back there which in turn led to decent and slightly lame Morrowind type areas in Oblivion and Skyrim. They still could not do the original justice though.

    Due to the way the Elder Scrolls handle leveling, I always thought the most critical aspect of character design was the birth sign rather than skills or race. Saying that, I thought even those were not well balanced and some were never chosen in my various characters. For example, the serpent curse also damaged your own character.

    The Nerevar/ Nerevarine character I think was quite inspiring. Around the time the game came out many players went about calling their forum characters a variation of that. The Lord, the General. The leader of his people. A lot of players loved all that. I don't think there is anything more inspirational in the rest of the Elder Scrolls lore.

    I disagree with you about the fast travel. I think that is what makes Morrowind the superior game in my mind. Don't forget we also had Mark and Recall. But making use of the games own in game lore and systems to travel around is inspired actually. I would think more developers use their imagination in this way.

    I remember the system making me mad as some key places were far from any of these in game travel points. But what that did is make you feel more part of the world. Even though you had to deal with a thousand cliff racers. Immersion +

    Turning off fast travel in Oblivion and Skyrim just led to some amazing adventures and locations as well as that long slow hiking feel.

    Noted what you said about the expansions. Not played them..much. On my to do list.
     
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