Saturday, June 14, 2008

Game Review: Morrowind

As promised, here's my just-for-fun review of the computer role playing game, Morrowind.

My computer role playing game experience goes back as far as my reading of fantasy fiction. My first-ever computer RPG was Ultima 5. When I get a computer game I like, I tend to stick with it for years. I loved and still occasionally enjoy Fallout (the first one, not the second one), which came out in 1997 and Arcanum, which came out in 2001. Fallout is an odd little game. It's based on 1950s nuclear apocalyptic novels, yet is set far in the future. Arcanum is perfectly described by its tagline: Of Steamworks and Magik Obscura. Steampunk. Great fun.

Fallout is the closest I've seen to perfection in a computer role playing game. The dungeons aren't too big (a flaw in all the Ultimas and in Arcanum) plus your character gets to run around wearing leather and shooting guns. And it has an engaging storyline.

Morrowind, which came out in 2002, comes close to the ideal achieved in Fallout, but it doesn't quite get there. It's biggest flaw is its conversation system, which is essentially a souped-up version of the badly-flawed conversation in Daggerfall, which is Morrowind's predecessor. However the game gets high marks from me for almost everything else.

Graphics. When I first purchased the game, it ran with no problem on both of our computers, neither of which were state-of-art at the time. I was very pleased when I purchased the game, because it didn't require all the latest and greatest stuff. I don't have the same praise for its successor, Oblivion.

Even so, the graphics are beautiful. I don't tend to require a lot out of graphics in my computer games, which is why I still enjoy Fallout. I'm more interested in the story and the interaction with the characters.

It's great fun to take your character for a swim, battling undersea foes while you are down there. It's even more fun to fly over the city and look down. And the city graphics are simply stunning--especially in towns like Pelagiad and Caldera.

Customizability. The faces are almost all universally ugly. I don't know what they were thinking. The hair tends to stick out in all directions and unless you go for the darkest or lightest colors, it has odd stripes. Since I tend to play warriors, I am only too happy to cover the entire mess up with a wicked looking helm.

You can customize your character to play any "class" you can dream up. Some are highly playable, some will quickly get you killed.

My favorite race is the Redguard, which is a dark-skinned human race. Redguards are incredibly tough and make great warriors. I also like playing Imperials when I'm looking to play a bard or a pilgrim, because they get personality bonuses. I never play elves because I have no interest in magic-using characters, but there are a bunch of elf options, from light to dark. You can also play a lizard character.

Story. The quests are great. Everywhere you go, someone wants to give you a quest. Some are very difficult and require you to hoof it across great distances. Not all involve bloodshed. Currently, my character has a quest to defeat another warrior in songs and poetry. The only trouble with that quest is I have to travel to the most dangerous part of the game in order to get there. I'm en route now.

There is an overarching storyline, which you can begin any time you want. In my current game, I have not yet begun it. I'm having too much fun advancing in the Imperial Legion and House Redoran.

Gameplay. Travel can be a bit slow. You can opt to use travel services, like Stilt Striders, ships or magic portal spells. But if there are no services to get to a destination, your only option is to walk. In Daggerfall, you were able to "fast travel" to any destination by simply entering the destination at a prompt. No such option in Morrowind, but the game geography is much smaller than Daggerfall.

Besides, if you were to fast travel, you would miss out on all the great stuff along the way. The roads are littered with adventure, including caves, tombs and mysterious "sixth house bases."

Otherwise, the gameplay is excellent. You can be as good or as evil as you want and still follow the main quest. You can become a vampire if you want, and then search for a cure. As your reputation goes up and down, people react to you accordingly. Right now, whenever my character enters the Mage's Guild, she is told that she is "almost a legend in these parts."

It can be a bit troublesome to remember all the quests. There is a journal, but there isn't a place in the journal that shows you all the active quests. If great spans of time elapse between gameplay sessions, its a bit difficult to catch up.

Role-Playing. As I stated above, I really don't like the conversation system in Morrowind. Everyone says the same thing about particular subjects. Each character has different subject options, but if you ask everyone about the same things, you will get the same paragraphs over and over. Certain key character have the ability to actually engage in dialog, but they are quite limited.

There is no opportunity to assemble a group of followers, or even to recruit a sidekick. The best you can do is have someone accompany you briefly on a specific quest. Games like Fallout and Arcanum provide excellent abilities to marshal a following.

Endgame. I can't tell you. I never play these game to the finish. They take way too many hours, hours that I never have. This is why I never play online games, either. I play these games every once in a while, just for a few hours of fun.

You can still find "Game of the Year" editions of Morrowind at places like Wal-Mart and Target for a measly 20 dollars. If you purchase a Game of the Year edition, I recommend that you only install Morrowind, not the other two episodes, which are Tribunal and Bloodmoon. Install those when you finish playing Morrowind or are looking for a change of scenery. They significantly change the game in Morrowind, and you probably don't want that at first.

Morrowind is a hugely entertaining and playable game, and I highly recommend it.


Kristen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kristen said...

Thanks for the review Tia! I actually have the console version of this game but haven't played it very much (not because I didn't like it, just always run out of time for these things). Your review makes me think I should make some time for it, though.

ThRiNiDiR said...

Ultima VIII, Baldur's Gate and Morrowind are one of my favourite games of all time. great review of a wonderful game.

kristen: you really should :)

Tia Nevitt said...

I never played Ultima VIII, but I played Ultima 4, 5 and 6 and of the three, Ultima 5 was my favorite, followed closely by Ultima 6. I forgot about Baldur's gate, but I didn't like any of the D&D based games as well as Fallout and Morrowind.

Kristen said...

Baldur's Gate II is my favorite game ever closely followed by Final Fantasy X. I've never played the Ultima games, so I might have to look into those sometime.

Tia Nevitt said...

Kristen, Ultima 5 and 6 are so old that you'd have a hard time finding a computer that will run them any more. You can use MoSlow to slow down your computer clock speed, but the last time I tried, my computer was still to fast to run it. There's Ultima Online nowadays, but I've never played it.

Anonymous said...

you should try Oblivion!!!

Tia Nevitt said...

I'd love to. I even have a copy. But it won't run on my computer. Which brings me to a rant.

The graphics were GORGEOUS in Morrowind. Why did they have to push the bar up so much that it requires a new computer or a Playstation 3 to run it? It drives me nuts. The story is the important thing, not the graphics.

Rant over.

Anonymous said...

You forgot the Khajit! Egad, I love playing the cat-people!! Great thieves. Of course, having a computer that runs Oblivion, I must say that the improvements over Morrowind make it worth the software upgrades. No more holding the control key down to sneak, for one, and the abilitiy to zoom in with the bow...priceless!!! The skill system has been slightly improved, and the journal keeps track of current and completed quests. The menu page is much easier to navigate, and beast folk can wear more armor. Plus, the dungeons are populated with level appropriate foes, and you can own multiple homes in various cities.

Of the D&D type games, I enjoy Icewind Dale the most. I'm a big fan of both Fallout games, myself, and I cant' wait for 3 to come out. Fave FF games are 3 and 7. As for online games, have you tried Guildwars? No fees, and you can go solo or group, as you wish.

Shutting up now.

Tia Nevitt said...

I've never actually played a Khajit but my husband loved them. I played warriors or potion-mixers of one kind or another.

As for hardware, I'm afraid I'd have to get a whole new computer. The video card I need will not fit into my computer.

Guildwar looks tempting, but I don't have time to spend with online games. I have made a promise to myself that when I retire--not for two decades, at least--I'm going to get into online gaming. I'll be a PK granny! Imagine what the games will be like then.