Friday, November 15, 2013

Long Overdue: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC)

Disclaimer: The following article is written from the perspective of one who has only finished Skyrim and played parts (the beginning) of The Arena and barely started Daggerfall, so all judgements aside.  I would also like to disclaim that I am probably going to be all over the place and while this would normally fall under the "First Impressions" heading, after 35 hours, I feel like I've glided past First Impressions and moved to "OMG, here's stuff about how I've played the game," but that doesn't sound as classy.

I bought The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind sometime around the beginning of this year when it was X% off through a Steam sale (which is pretty much how/why I buy most/all PC games now), mainly because in the last year I've become a fan of the Elder Scrolls series.  I am also a fan of the composer Jeremy Soule, who a while back I found out was the composer for the Elder Scroll series, Icewind Dale I & II and the Neverwinter Nights series.

First off, So Morrowind was released way back in May of 2002 on both PC and Xbox, although I will only be referring to the PC release.  The in-game chronology takes place in 3E-421, whereas The Arena takes place in 3E-399 and Daggerfall in 3E-405.  For reference, Skyrim takes place in 4E-201 with the 3rd Era ending in 3E-433 after the events in the Oblivion Crisis (Oblivion 4E-433).  

Upon booting up the game, I was happily surprised that the Dragon Imperial logo was used here and I later found out is really the symbol for the Imperial Legion and Cyrodiil.  While playing Skyrim, I thought it was just a "oh, that's a nice coincidence that the Imperials have a dragon logo and LOOK!, there are dragons which have turned up for the first time in forever!"  That was my first thought upon starting up the game and I hadn't even played it yet.

With Morrowind, you can play in either POV or third person.  For me, most of the game I will play in third person but switch to POV whenever I use my bow (which isn't too often) or when looking through boxes for loot (the POV mode uses crosshairs).  The control scheme is pretty much identical to that of Skyrim, although I had to move a few of the keys around.  Since Morrowind moved away from the strictly POV mode that The Arena and Daggerfall followed, you now only have to "click" in order to attack and no longer have to drag the mouse to perform a specific attack.  However, you still have the option to chop/slash/thrust, which is determined by how you are moving at the time of attack.  Forward/back: thrust; left/right: slash; non-moving: chop.  Each attack, based on what type of weapon you are using bears different results and damage.  Like the previous and later games, you still have health, magic and stamina meters.

Now, for why you are all here, or maybe not, I now introduce you to my character the Nord, Valgrin of Markarth:
Hello there ladies. . .
His backstory is not very developed as I was not (and still am not) sure what the overarching story is here in Vvardenfell, the interior volcanic island in Morrowind, where Morrowind takes place.  You start out on a ship, travelling from the mainland of Morrowind to Vvardenfell and you are a prisoner, soon to be pardoned by Uriel Septim VII for reasons unknown to you and your parole officer.  The backstory I created, was that Valgrin was a prisoner in the Cidhna Mines in Markarth (in the Skyrim Province), possibly imprisoned for thievery; although chronologically this doesn't make sense, unless Cidhna Mine was used for prisoners before the Silverbloods took over after Ulfric Stormcloak retook Markarth in 4E-176, roughly 185 years earlier.  Because birth signs are an important part of your character, I will assume that Uriel Septim VII has been looking for someone born under a particular star sign and sending people off to Vvardenfell.  Maybe, I don't really know as I have yet to finish the game.

The first thing that I learned about Morrowind is that the game doesn't pull punches.  There's a cave right outside the starting town, I encountered a villain and was promptly killed.  I think I landed one blow on the foe out of many swings.  It turns out that my accuracy in hand-to-hand combat left something to be desired.  I quickly decided that I would play as a tank-like character, which was a good soul searching decision as that was how I set up Valgrin's attributes when creating him.

Unlike Skyrim, your character in Morrowind does not regenerate either health or magic.  Regeneration occurs only by consuming health potions, casting heal spells (which unless you have a decent Intelligence score, which is not below 30, you will fail casting your spell and thereby wasting your magic points) or resting until healed.  I'm sure a good portion of my time has been spent running out of a dungeon, finding a legal* area to sleep and sleeping off my injuries.  Every town I come to (which I'll get to in a minute) I always try to buy as many healing potions as I can.  And you have to be careful with those potions, as I have had potions "spoil" if I don't use them within a certain amount of time.  I think that's what is happening anyway.

*You can only sleep in legally designated areas, which means not on the streets of a town/village or within the near vicinity of a town.  If there is an inn or a guild that you are a member of you can sleep there

Another "no-holds-barred" example in Morrowind, is how often I have gotten stuck.  Stuck in multiple senses.  While climbing/walking over mountains, I have found myself in a rut that I couldn't get out of.  The only solution was to reload from a previous save.  I have since learned to frequently save before I go exploring.  I have been "stuck" in another sense when I was attacked by a blighted something-or-other.  I lost my strength, became encumbered and was unable to move.  I tried sleeping it off as I do with low health, but that didn't work, so I had to restart from a previous save.  Most recently (as in yesterday), I had to reload a number of times because an enemy I had to defeat so I could get to my bounty because he always summoned a creature that would drain my strength thereby making my carrying capacity down to 0.  After miraculously surviving the battle, nothing I used seemed to cure my ailment.  Reload.

This is either going to be a very long or very short battle.
Fast travelling!  Until recently, there was only one way of doing this and it makes sense in-game.  In Vvardenfell, there are large insectoids call Silt Striders, which have been domesticated and used to travel from town-to-town for a small fee (usually 35 -50 septims).  Upon looking up information about how to complete a certain quest, I discovered that members of the Mages Guild can fast travel to other Mages Guild houses.  If you're not a member, you can't use this free service.  Personally, I can't see Valgrin even attempting to be a mage, despite him knowing spells (healing spells).  So, the majority of travelling I do through Vvardenfell is done on foot.  Coming from Skyrim, that doesn't sound too bad.  In Morrowind, "by-foot" might bother a lot of people.  Un-modded, and without a lot of skill points put towards fast moving, this is what over 50% of my time is spent like:
Sorry for the not-so-great video quality.  I don't have a capture card, just a cellphone.

Yes, you have two modes of moving.  Walking and slightly faster walking/running.  Thankfully, when you run out of stamina, you are still able to run, but your experience in "Athletics" no longer increases.  Honestly though, this doesn't bother me at all.  I'm one for looking at the landscape and general adventuring.  However, there have been times where travelling from one end of Vvardenfell to the other has been tedious.

As you might be able to guess, having put 35 hours into this game, I am very much liking it.  And, even with all that I have said here, there is a lot more that I haven't even covered, such as leveling up, the vast number of skills and attributes, the way you have to talk to/persuade people for information (the scripting for dialogue), wear-and-tear on equipment, the different components for dressing (pants, shirt, body armor, greaves, L/R gauntlet/bracers, L/R shoulder pieces/pauldrons, helmet) and absolutely no GPS on your map (someone says "it's in the south-western region. . ." you have to go explore the southwest region looking for a cave).

So if you are looking for another game in the Elder Scrolls series that isn't Skyrim and are interested in a challenge with a very steep learning curve (your hand will not be held), Morrowind might just be what you're looking for.

I Saw The Coming of the End

And Now: A Dramatic Too Much Shit's Happening Selfie

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