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The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Game of the Year Edition

Review By:  Jared Black

Developer:  Bethesda Softworks
Publisher:  Bethesda Softworks
# of Players:  1
Genre:  RPG
ESRB:  Mature
Online:  No
Accessories:  In-game Dolby Digital
Date Posted: 

12-17-03

When The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was released last year on Xbox, I rejoiced.  I was a huge fan of The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall, and didnít have anything close to the hardware required to play the PC version. Although buggy, it was the first time Iíve felt a PC style RPG was actually worth playing on a console since Kingís Bounty (which was more strategy anyway) for the Sega Genesis.  The freedom it offered was a refreshing change from most console RPGs, and itís still one of the few RPGs for any system that really lets the player roleplay the character.

PC gamers eventually received two expansion packs for the game in Tribunal and Bloodmoon, and for months Xbox gamers hungry for more Morrowind pleaded for a version of these.  Finally Bethesda has answered our prayers with the Game of the Year Edition (GOTY), which features the original Morrowind and both expansion packs in one complete package.

Since we discussed the gameplay in detail in our review of the original game, I wonít bore those of you whoíve played it with too much depth here.  Basically, Morrowind is an open-ended RPG where the player is in control of his destiny to an enormous degree.  There is a ďmainĒ storyline to follow, but the player can choose to ignore it if he wishes and still get 100s of hours of gameplay out of the numerous side quests presented by individuals, guilds, Great Houses, etc. 

While Morrowind takes place on the island of Vvardenfell, Tribunal and Bloodmoon add the areas of Mournhold/Clockwork City and Solstheim respectively.  Bloodmoon is the better expansion pack overall, as it features more locations and landmass to explore, a frozen terrain much different from Vvardenfell and just plain fun to explore, and a slightly better storyline than TribunalBloodmoon borrows heavily from mythology (it is home to Nords after all), and this shows in a better diversity of quests and story elements.  The landscape is littered with frozen lakes, standing monoliths, log cabins, and icy caves.  Bloodmoon also provides the opportunity to turn into a werewolf, which dramatically alters gameplay (even more than turning into a vampire in the original game) and adds a nice bit of variety to the Morrowind experience.

Thatís not to say that Tribunal is bad by any means, but the few new areas it provides are fairly repetitive and not much different than the original game.  I do like the fact that Tribunalís storyline ties into the main quest much more than Bloodmoon (including some awesome cameos of characters mentioned in the original), but unfortunately that means that the quests, characters, and locations often feel like a rehash of the original game.  The architecture in Tribunal is unique, but not diverse enough to stay interesting throughout the entire city of Mournhold (where most of the action takes place).

Both expansion packs are geared towards higher-level characters, although almost any level character can participate in them.  Lower-level characters should probably stay away from these for a while, as even with a Level 68 Wood Elf Iíve found a considerable amount of challenge in each.  In addition to providing new quests and enemies, both expansion packs add new armors & weapons to the mix.  These for the most part arenít drastically different from those found in the original game, but do have their own unique look and advantages.

They also address a few other complaints about the original game.  For instance Mournhold has merchants that carry considerably more money than in those in the original game, which solves the problem of having nowhere to sell expensive stuff collected during the game.  Mournhold also features a museum that will buy the most unique and expensive of artifacts for display.  The game also now displays an enemy health bar, which is a big addition because before it was a complete guessing game as to how much damage an attack was doing to an enemy.  If you still need a challenge even with the expansion packsí harder areas, thereís even a difficulty slider that can make the game a true challenge for even the toughest characters.

Speaking of combat, it takes place in real-time with the player using a variety of weapons (swords, axes, bows, daggers, etc.) and magic to dispatch foes.  Characters must be planned and developed smartly in order to maximize efficiency in the skills the player wishes to use.  Weapons are used with the right trigger button, with the length the button is held down determining how hard it hits.  Again, Iím barely scratching the surface here so be sure to read our review of the original game if youíd like more detail.

The additional content Bethesda added to the game is great, but unfortunately itís what wasnít fixed that hurts this game.  The dirty disk errors and freezes that plagued the first game are still here, although gladly they do not occur as frequently as before.  In fact, I've only encountered the dirty disk error once the entire time I've played - using my original character no less.  That's a big change from the original, where I got them daily.  Make sure you follow Bethesdaís advice before you start a new GOTY game though.  The loading times are even worse than before, with frequent pauses in combat, dialogue, new areas, etc.  This is most frustrating in the heat of combat, as youíll often find yourself frozen for a few seconds before getting the freedom to move again.  Itís also common for the timing of events to be off due to this, such as the sound of an axe coming several seconds after it actually hits.

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