Welcome to the Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, developed by those talented folks at Bethesda Softworks, this is a truly monster slice of roleplaying game action and adventure. But as all great undertakings like this go, it's flawed in some places and these flaws drag you from the immersion of the game. Now I'm bound to attract those opinions that don't agree with me here, but remember, this is one person's view of a still groundbreaking and quite stunning game. It's just not going to be everyone's cup of tea.
There are those who prefer Dungeon Siege, Neverwinter Nights and other games for their roleplaying delights - And I will admit I'm much more fond of a gripping story that leads the player a little, than a wide open ranging story that offers very little in the way of pointers/markers and help to the newbie/would be adventurer. Morrowind is the third in the Elder Scrolls series of games that started with Arena and followed on with the same but bigger Daggerfall. If you loved Arena and Daggerfall then you're going to worship Morrowind because it combines the best of both worlds and produces quite a stunning title.
The problem is for me that after my initial 'wow' reaction to the graphics and the sounds, I was left wandering this huge 3d world with very little sense of direction. Now I'm used to these kinds of games but I'd expect a better pointer than a few lines in a strangely contrived conversation system - which is another gripe I've always had with the Elder Scrolls games. You have to wade through a lot of text to find out anything remotely useful, for some I'm sure that can be a great joy, but for others they're going to find it frustrating and long winded.
But enough of that for now, in my preview I spoke a little about the game and my hopes for it. Sadly when it hit retail there are a few things that really annoy the hell out of me in it. For the depth of the world isn't as rich as it should be, if you have a huge open 3d world like Morrowind you want something to pull you in and hold you there...I didn't really find anything that made me want to stay for very long. Which is a shame, because the preview looked as though it was going to be very promising indeed.
Still that said it's still one of the best rpg's of its ilk and you can take that to the bank (Steven Segal film reference for you all there). Morrowind is brought to life with a very powerful and absolutely beautiful 3d engine that renders the world in stunning detail, note that I say the world...but I'll come back to that in a bit. You're once again some kind of Imperial Prisoner who's been let out by the benevolent King and taken to a small Island where you are pretty much given the option of following the main Quest for his Majestic personage. Or you can go and do your own thing, killing, hacking and maiming your way across the world - as long as you can survive (Both the monsters. People and the combat system)
Oh and don't forget stealing everything that isn't nailed down, for the games that come from this series are built on the huge ideal that freedom is everything. Which are a big bonus and a huge downfall all at once. Once you've established who you are to the local government aka Character Generation, you're chucked out into this vast sprawling world and told to find some person or other, if you decide to do this you'll be told the next part of your Quest, still not enough detail for me though, guess I'm just a picky sod. You'll probably end up doing as I did and finding the local thieves guild, joining that and doing their missions - which are quite fun, if a little uninspired at times.
Chargen is quick and painless, with several options available to the player; this ranges from a detailed selection of skills and abilities or the most fun option, which is the series of questions that define who, what, and where you stand in the world. Now this is where this game and it's other games have always stood tall for me. I love the way you define the character that comes from the various answers, you can probably guess that my character became an Assassin since I went out of my way to rock the boat.
So you have your character and the Morrowind 3d engine renders up a truly stunning and quite beautiful world around you, but you'll need a serious PC with some kick ass horsepower to get the best out of the game - there are a few scalable options graphics wise but even then I've heard other gamers ranting about how powerful their machines are, until Morrowind is installed and it runs slow on their systems. I'm not surprised though, since the graphics are stunning and I haven't seen the like of these landscapes since the game Outcast a few good years ago. Day and night pass with a frightening realism and the weather is extremely well implemented, with vicious storms often raging from dark and overcast skies.
It's played in a first or third person perspective and unfortunately there doesn't seem to have been as much detail lavished onto the animation of the models for the People or the monsters, this I find quite a shame since the rest of the world is gorgeous to look at. There seem to be a lot of similar non player characters with the same old armour and voice sets, which leads me to another gripe of mine - sorry folks but the voice acting in this one is crappy...Gothic had much better voice actors and that's saying something. Once again this serves to drag the player out of the much-needed suspension of disbelief and into a mire of half heartedly spoken lines that drawl like an announcer at British Rail.
The rest of the sounds in Morrowind are pretty good, some nice spot effects and some nice world noises - once again these serve to compliment the lush environments perfectly. The thunder storms that rip from the heavens from time to time are beautifully orchestrated with clashes of thunder dancing alongside the crack of the white lightning - chilling stuff when wilderness adventuring. The music is pretty fine and has a good stirring feel to it that compliments the whole game and brings the world into stark relief.
It also comes with the TES Construction Kit, unlike Dungeon Siege where we waited for the tools and they were clunky and hard to use when they did arrive, Morrowind's tookit is pretty simple and provides some good fun when you get used to how it works - though sorry - while graphically superior in places, it doesn't compare to the illustrious Aurora Toolset of the excellent Neverwinter Nights (People take note, this is how a toolset should be) But the TES Kit is a welcome diversion to the main game, and I will admit I spent some time modelling a few locations from my still unpublished fantasy book.
I realise that I could go on and on like a broken record about the game and the features but you're interested in a summary of it. I'd say it's worth buying if you like a large but ultimately shallow gameworld to wander around in. I bet there are a lot of modders out there who are using the kit to create their own stories and tales, I'm sure someone has probably implemented a Jedi Knight or two, which shows that the game has a life beyond the shelf, but for me it didn't quite live up to the expectations I had...that said, it's still a damn fine game that I'd recommend owning if you like roleplaying games. I give it a resounding ArroOOo of approval and wait to see what Bethseda will do with their next game.