Morrowind is the third installment of the critically acclaimed Elder Scrolls series. The series promotes open-ended role-playing where the decisions of the gamer will affect the whole world. Wanna become an evil necromancer? Well you can, or maybe you will become an out and out thief, or possibly a hero to fulfill the legends. If you want another opinion of the game, Wolf has previously reviewed the PC version of the game.
Now I'll be honest from the start, your going to get out exactly what you put in, because this game can only be described as being 'epic'. Forget your Final Fantasy games and other similar games because they are tiny compared to the lands of Morrowind. If you want to get the most from the game, your gonna have to put a serious amount of time in.
The game casts you in the role of a prisoner who is freed for apparently no reason. Your pardon has been handed down from the Emperor. If you wish, you can find out for what reason you were pardoned, but if you don't fancy it then you don't have to. This is the beauty of Morrowind, you're not forced to do anything. You can follow the games main plot or go off and do your own thing. There are loads of opportunities to become your own character and even if you follow the plot your encouraged to explore the games many locations. Firstly, there are several guilds that you may join. The main three are the Fighters Guild, the Mages Guild and the Thieves Guild. You may join all three of these institutions and carry out the missions and advancing to eventually become the master of the guild. You'll probably find your favorite guild and stick with that one because, to advance there are specific requirements, e.g. Mages will need good magic skills to reach some of the higher ranks in the Mages Guild. Gaining Status within a guild will offer many advantages, such as cheaper training and the admiration of other characters in the game, this allows you to gain the upper hand in bartering or trying to get information. Also you can join one of the games three great houses, who are constantly at war with each other. The open ended nature of the game means that you can tackle many of the dungeons as you please. Though you may need to improve your skills before tackling some of the more difficult places.
Gameplay takes the form of your normal hack and slash adventure, whereby you walk through the games environments hitting things with big swords and casting spells at them if you wish, the more you use a skill the better it becomes so if a mage starts using a sword and heavy armour, then they'll gain skills in longsword and heavy armour, this will allow them to become on par with a fighter. The game features alchemy, thieves skills, conjuration, destruction magic and many, many other skills. Unfortunately the fighting system is very, very simple, and you'll find yourself repeatedly hitting the attack button and waiting 'til your enemy perishes. Magic users are generally more fun because later in the game you can design your own spells, and the number of spells at your disposal from the offset is more than most role-playing games.
The graphics are a bit of a mixed bag. When your out in a valley and the weather effects kick in you may gasp at the beauty. Then you might walk in to a town a find the frame rate take a nose dive and the character animations look extremely poor. To be honest most of the characters look like they've taken a dump in their trousers and are struggling to walk properly. The graphics could have been so much better and I personally don't expect to find such graphical disappointments in an Xbox game.
There are many other issues with the game, NPC's always seem to say the same thing. Many of the dungeons are uninspired. Even though there is a wide range of things to fight in the game you're always fighting bloody cliff racers. In fact the majority of the game will see you fighting only five or six different types of enemies. Also there don't seem to be enough dungeons in the game, I found myself trying to find the various Dwemer (dwarven) ruins in the game, so I could do some traditional dungeon trawling. Also the games themes are limited and 'samey'. I would have liked to have seen the lands differ to a greater extent. Yes, Ald'ruhn is made of animal exoskeletons, Vivec is made up of towering cantons and Balmora is your traditional medieval type city, but they all feel too similar, and as soon as you step out of these locations, the dungeons that you will face are near identical. A lot more could have been done with the games environments, as beautiful as they are. Also due to the size of the game the journal, that records the game events can be a bit hit and miss, and also the directions that you are given for locations, can often be very confusing.
The game suffers from a whole host of flaws, but if you can see past them you will realize just how much has been achieved, a world greater than any other, a fantastic character generation system, free-form open ended role-playing and a great game. Also Ubi Soft have hinted at extra content for the game, this would probably be in the form of Xbox live downloadable content and/or content on the cover disc of Official Xbox magazine or possibly even a retail expansion pack.
In all the game has set a new standard for open-ended role-playing games, though if the company were to make a further game in the series (and I hope that they will) it would be nice to see an improved graphics engine, more dungeons, a greater range of environments, plus all the extras you expect from a sequel (more skills, weapons, spells etc).