The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Bethesda's third mainline entry in their open-world, fantasy RPG series

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date published: 3.15.24
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I follow video games pretty closely. I read articles published on video games news sites, I listen to podcasts about video game news, and I read books about video games and the video game industry. That said, there is only a single video game in history that I know the release date for. All other release dates have escaped my memory - probably because the information is trivial, but that is beside the point. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was released on 11.11.11. Skyrim was set to be the most immersive fantasy video game experience ever created and in more ways than one, it was. The game was (and is) loved by many. So many, that the developer has released the game 17 times on 10 different platforms. Skyrim is part of the long-running ‘Elder Scrolls’ series and it was really the first one to hit home for a wider, more mainstream audience. For round 9 of GameClub, we played an earlier game in the series that gave a little insight as to why The Elder Scrolls series didn’t really take off before Skyrim and we also got to see the DNA of these games at an early stage. The game we played was Bethesda’s

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is an open-world, action roleplaying game by Bethesda Studios. The game takes place on the continent of Tamriel in the province of Morrowind - home of the dark elves. The player starts by creating their character, stepping off a boat into the town of Seyda Neen, and getting told to find a man named ‘Caius Cosades’. And that’s it! After that, you are cut free from any sort of handholding. No waypoints on your map, no NPC saying “Follow me! This way!”, just your trusty journal and some road signs.

Artwork of a Morrowind Landscape

Artwork by Dario Marzadori

In Morrowind, there are three meters on screen at all times - health, magicka, and fatigue. The health meter’s purpose is pretty obvious. Magicka is spent when casting spells, and fatigue is used when jumping, attacking, etc. While in combat, a fourth meter will appear that shows the opponent’s health.

Combat in this game is extremely similar to that of later Elder Scrolls games, but in Morrowind, different melee attacks are performed depending on the direction the player is moving. If the player is standing still, the attack will be a ‘chop’. To slash, move left or right and to thrust, move forward or backwards. An interesting system, but difficult to get used to in my opinion. For example, I used a slashing weapon and the best way I found to deal high damage to my target was to constantly be strafing around them, which became very tedious. Even then, I would still accidentally trigger a trust attack here and there by pressing the attack button at the wrong time.

Artwork of a Morrowind Landscape

While combat (for the most part) plays out like a dated elder scrolls game, Morrowind really shines in other areas. If you give enough effort into learning the game’s systems, you will be rewarded. As mentioned before, there are no waypoints on your screen, so you need to be reading road signs in the game and looking at your map to be able to know where you are headed. This alone makes the game’s exploration so much more gratifying, because you feel accomplished when you actually make it to the correct destination. It also works well because Morrowind is filled with dungeons, side quests, and characters. You will probably be wandering around more and stumbling into people or places you wouldn’t have if you had just beelined it to your destination.

Leveling up in Morrowind is done by using your major and minor skills, which are selected during character creation. Skills govern just about anything you can do in the game (ex. Athletics, Sneak, Axes, Mercantile) Use a skill enough and it will gain a level. Gain 10 levels in any combination of skills and your character will gain a level. At the time of a level up, your characters stats will increase at a rate dependent on which 10 skills brought you to the level up. This system works extremely well and makes the player feel like they are really training a character in whatever skills they are actually using.

Screenshot of a landscape and pretty skybox in game

One of the most incredible things in Morrowind is the world itself. The dark elves’ homeland is unlike anything else I have seen in a fantasy game. Giant mushrooms litter the landscape and strange beasts are everywhere. This area of Tamriel evolved differently because it is surrounded by ash and positioned near a large volcano. The ‘fast-travel’ in Morrowind is essentially a taxi service that uses massive beetle-like creatures with skyscraper-sized legs to transport you between towns. They are called Silt Striders and they are awesome. I was incredibly impressed with how much thought went into designing this part of Tamriel. It is unlike any of the other areas we have been able to explore and that makes it so much more interesting.

As with the later Elder Scrolls games, Morrowind gives the player a ‘main quest’. In this game’s case, the quest revolves around the rulers of Morrowind and their battle against ‘Dagoth Ur’. Of course, a majority of the development resources went into fleshing out the main quest of this game, but here is the incredible thing about Elder Scrolls games: you can get so much enjoyment out of this game without ever going anywhere near the main quest. The world is littered with things to do, dungeons to delve, and people to meet/help/kill. Like the later games, there are factions to join in Morrowind, but here, some of the factions are opposed and you need to think carefully on which one(s) you will pledge allegiance to! It is truly incredible how many distractions have been inserted into this game. There is potential for the player character to be the reincarnation of a legendary hero, but hang on - this woman promised me 15 gold coins if get rid of the three rats in her house.

Artwork of a Morrowind Landscape

One of my favorite games of all time is The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. I’ve sunk countless hours into that game learning the ins and outs of its systems. This made it kind of difficult for me to play Morrowind - a game that in some ways is proto-Oblivion, but I’m glad I did. The Elder Scrolls DNA is visible, but many of Morrowind’s systems are simpler/cruder, while some are much more complex. It was really interesting to compare the two during my time with Morrowind and I am glad to say I enjoyed it enough to where I know I will be revisiting it in the future. I was thoroughly impressed by the variety of things to do in this game - it has so much to do/solve/uncover and all of it was hand-crafted. I would take Morrowind over Bethesda’s ‘Starfield’ any day and I am sure I’m not alone in that.

A scene of the game glitching out


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