Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Publisher: Bethesda (Zenimax Media)
Platform: Steam, Windows*, Macintosh*, Linux*, XBox (* = Open MW supported system)
Genre: Fantasy Roleplaying Game
OFLC Rating: M
The Elder Scrolls is an open world fantasy computer roleplaying game series, with an incredibly rich backstory and deep lore, the original game debuted in 1994 with it’s opening chapter “Arena”. Since then, it has become a household name among gamers. With exception to the spin-off titles and expansions, there a total of five games that make up the (canon) chapters of The Elder Scrolls saga. One of things that sets The Elder Scrolls apart from most series (book, movie, game, etc.), is that you can start anywhere within the series and continue from there – This is made possible due to the well established backstory that the game tells through books, that can be collected throughout the game world. To understand the lore within the entire series, I would highly recommend you checking out uesp.net and the Youtube video series by Shoddycast – However, I will do my best to give my brief interpretation of Elder Scrolls lore.
The Elder Scrolls takes place on the fictitious planet of Nirn and concerns the events that occur on the continental nation of Tamriel. The one thing you will hear a lot of is regarding spirituality of the land – The series manages to borrow from Greco Roman, Norse and Celtic mythologies (to name a few) to create it’s own pantheon. Of this you have “The Divines” (the main deities worshiped by the majority of Tamriel) and the “Daedra” (the “Underworld” deities, where worshipping them is considered taboo).
Tamriel features ten main races – The Altmer (High Elves), Argonians, Bosmer (Wood Elves), Bretons (Human-Elven hybrids not to be confused with the Celts of Brittany), Cyrodilics (Imperials), Dunmer (Dark Elves), Khajiits, Nords, Orsimer (Orcs) and the Redguard.
The Altmer are elves with a strong affinity to magic while being susceptible to it’s effects as well and they are often viewed as looking down upon races other than their own.
The Argonians are a reptilian race with a strong immune system with a natural resistance to poisons and display amphibious tendencies, as they are able to breath underwater.
The Bosmer are elves with a strong affinity to nature and are well renowned for their marksmanship.
The Bretons highly cultured cross-race of humans and elves, like Altmer they too have strong affinity to magic but are able to resist it’s effects.
The Cyodilic people (better known as “Imperials”) are humans who reside in Tamriel’s central capital province of Cyrodiil and are well versed in arm to arm combat.
Dunmer are elves known for their physical characteristic of having dark skin and red eyes, they are also known for their versatility.
Khajiit are a highly agile feline race with a natural ability to see in the dark.
The Nords are humans from Tamriel’s northernmost province of Skyrim, they have a natural resistance to the cold as well as being masters heavy weapons and armour.
The Orsimer (more commonly known as Orcs) are feral in appearance, strong and are renowned for their blacksmithing skills.
The Redguard are race of humans similar to Argonians have a strong immune system with a natural resistance to poisons and renowned masters of arm to arm combat.
Those are the races (more or less) in a nutshell.
So you eventually notice that Elder Scrolls uses a different calendar, this you will first see when setting your character to rest – If you’re wondering “What the (insert curse here) is this 16 of Last Seed business all about???”, that’s actually part of the series lore. Nirn has it’s own months and days of the week that are not much different to own according to the Gregorian calendar and they are as follows.
The Months – Morning Star (January), Sun’s Dawn (February), First Seed (March), Rain’s Hand (April), Second Seed (May), Midyear (June), Sun’s Height (July), Last Seed (August), Hearthfire (September), Frostfall (October), Sun’s Dusk (November) and Evening Star (December). The Days – Sundas (Sunday), Morndas (Monday), Tirdas (Tuesday), Middas (Wednesday), Turdas (Thursday), Fredas (Friday) and Loredas (Saturday).
As this a roleplaying game you have a zodiac which grants certain bonuses to your attributes and skills, these will give descriptions as their effect. Not only will these give you possible attribute and skill benefits, but they also (for roleplaying purposes) serve as kind of date of birth for your character. These are the constellation as follows…
The Ritual (Morning Star), The Lover (Sun’s Dawn), The Lord (First Seed), The Mage (Rain’s Hand), The Shadow (Second Seed), The Stead (Midyear), The Apprentice (Sun’s Height), The Warrior (Last Seed), The Lady (Hearthfire), The Tower (Frostfall), The Atronach (Sun’s Dusk), The Thief (Evening Star) and The Serpent (Tamrielic superstitious equivalent to being born on Friday the 13th).
I could go on about Elder Scrolls lore, but I will recommend you check out the previously mentioned sources if you are looking for deeper insight.
Getting back to the subject at hand we have Morrowind, the third chapter in The Elder Scrolls saga and arguably the most beloved. Obviously you will have those favouring the more recent chapters like Skyrim and Oblivion, but it is the majority of dedicated enthusiasts that keep returning to this chapter in particular.
Morrowind is set on the island of Vvardenfell where you begin as a prisoner in exile – Fun Fact those new to this series, (with exception to Chapter II: Daggerfall) it has been a common theme where character begins the story as prisoner of some kind with little to no explanation as to why. You are greeted by a fellow inmate aboard a ship who asks what your name is and you immediately recieve a prompt for your character’s name. A guard escorts you off the ship and you are instructed to make your way to the census office – From the time you give your name to leaving the census office, you building your character in stages. Being a roleplaying game you have classes that offer certain playing styles, each of which categorised under a role or specialisation. The Elder Scrolls typically being a “Lonewolf” CRPG of sorts, features the three combat roles – Combat (Defender), Magic (Controller) and Stealth (Striker). When determining your class, you are given three options – Answer a class matching questionnaire that presents a scenario where you answer with a choice of the possible solutions, each one linked to the roles. Select from the assortment of classes available. Or build your own by picking role, attributes and skills. After picking your class, you are asked which constellation you character was born under. As I have said previously regarding reviews of other CRPGs, the key to getting best experience comes from playing to your character’s strengths – In The Elder Scrolls would involve either picking a race, class and birthsign that provides you with the statistics to compliment your playing style. Otherwise selecting an appropriate class and birthsign combination to race you want to play. However, for the more advanced roleplayers who enjoy a challenge – mixing things up for example by playing a race interesting to you, picking a desired class (that may or may not suit) and using a birthsign resembling the player’s birthday may make for an interesting challenge. Once you are let loose into the world, you are free to tell your story how you see fit – that is Morrowind’s greatest strength.
Whilst your character’s movement may feel clunky and the other characters appear likewise, the world of Morrowind is a treat for your eyes and ears – with a diverse collection of ever changing environments and the first in the series to feature an orchestral soundtrack by Jeremy Soule, these are some of the reasons that stand out as to why Morrowind remains a firm favourite. This chapter offers a degree of unparalleled freedom known to The Elder Scrolls and not seen in the sequels since.
Should you choose to follow Morrowind’s story, your first priority will be getting out of the starting town and checking in with an agent in a city to the north. Chances are with no “leash”, you will quickly realise that “Morrowind is your oyster” – more likely than not, players will want to explore their new found freedom. Eventually, anyone looking to see how much mayhem they can get away will quickly realise that Morrowind can be very unforgiving – especially when you don’t know what you’re doing.
One of the things that manages to erk casual CRPG players are the inner workings of this game. Leaning toward a more traditional roleplaying experience, Morrowind uses the mechanics of your typical tabletop RPG. Like most roleplaying games, your actions are decided by both the governing set of statistics pertaining to any given situation against the roll of the dice, giving players a shot at achieving favourable outcomes. Even though your actions are controlled with a click of the mouse, these mechanics play their part when performing them. When a casual player goes to attack a rat for example and misses, they fail to understand that their attributes and skill for the particular weapon they’re using is lacking when squaring off against a more agile foe. These are the same inner workings of Morrowind that allow players to enjoy an uncompromising degree of freedom, allowing them to bend the laws of nature within the game to their will – meaning, a player can create powerful enchanted items that grant them godlike powers. With an understanding of how the game works and a creative (or destructive) imagination, players can accomplish anything in this world of Morrowind. However, this is not a world without consequence as those with appetites for mayhem and chaos will quickly learn. Key characters in the more recent chapters are made “Unkillable”, but in Morrowind there are no such restrictions – Should you take the life of someone critical to the game’s main story, you will have this brought to your attention and politely told to live out the consequences of your actions as you are no longer able to follow the main story. In said instance players are free to complete any available side quests or continue doing their own thing.
On the subject of “Quests” – These are tasks with an RPG that progress a particular part of a given story path. In today’s mainstream CRPGs, players practically have the entire quest spelt out for them leaving no room for player initiative. Morrowind will only document your journal as your character records all conversations, books, notes and any observations of interest. Unlike modern CRPGs that conveniently break the quest down into an easy-to-follow checklist complete with having each objective marked on your map Morrowind leaves your to figure everything out for yourself – about the only convenience offered is a journal entry filtering system that allows you to find information relating to any quest or topics of interest. Beyond that, players must take the time to read their journals in order find out the exact details of their quests. In fact, by reading books and letter you can gain clear directions that can help in various quests. A lot of The Elder Scrolls as a whole involves reading, as both lore and any useful information can obtained by doing so – You will definitely find this to be a necessity in Morrowind.
Of these freedoms to be enjoyed in Morrowind includes the use of alchemy to make potions, enchanting items and crafting spells. These more or less mean selecting the desired effects for the finished product – For more information you can either check out wikis and YouTube video guides on the subjects.
Whilst on the subject of skills, character progress in Morrowind or any (canon) Elder Scrolls game is really quite simple – Each class relies on a particular skillset and by advancing those skills your level experience progresses. Advancing skills is as simple as actually practicing them, alternatively you can either pay for training or read various books that give advancement in a particular skill. There are three types of skills, based on how they are practiced – Active, being ones that require you to perform the action associated with a given skill. These are usually weapon and spell skills, that require you to fight using a particular type of weapon or cast a given spell type.
Utility, being those that associated with either tools or crafting methods. Examples being, you would advance your Security skill using a lock pick or (as previous covered above) Alchemy, by crafting potions to advance the skill.
Passive, these are skills associated with actions that are typically taken for granted. For example, Athletics and Acrobatics will advance simply by running and jumping or Speechcraft will advance the more use persuasion options during conversation (this will almost always involve bribing someone for something you’re after).
Skills like classes are categorised as either Combat, Stealth or Magic. To give an example of character class, here’s one I play quite regularly – The Assassin. Specialising in Stealth. Focuses on Strength and Intelligence attributes. Major skills are Marksman, Shortblade, Light Armor, Sneak and Acrobatics. Minor skills are Security, Long Blade, Block, Alchemy and Athletics.
Going by this build, you can see that each class (whether preset or player created) has two governing attributes, five major skills and five minor skills. For those of you who like myself enjoy playing the Ranger (from both Dungeons & Dragons and previous Elder Scrolls canon titles) – Unless you create the build for the aforementioned, the above example is closest preset equivalent on offer.
One thing I appreciate most, is that the series never restricted you from developing skills outside your chosen class. Whilst you are able to advance any skill, only those that which you specialise in will advance your character’s progression as previously mentioned. So (for example) those looking to become a Thief (normally associated with descrete play styles) clad in steel plate armour and packing a battle-axe, you can!
The Elder Scrolls as whole, is by far an awesome CRPG franchise but knowing where to begin can make all the difference – whilst many may suggest starting with Oblivion, Morrowind is an ideal point to begin without missing out on too much of the story.
If you enjoy CRPGs and are patient enough to see past a game’s flaws, Morrowind is a worthwhile purchase.
However if you are not much of a reader, The Elder Scrolls’ lore can leave you feeling a little lost as the majority of it is contained within the in-game literature.