Madness, treachery, and conspiracy, oh my! Tribunal is no walk down the yellow brick road, but it certainly paves Morrowind in and extra layer of gold, and is a journey worthy of the fantasy genre.
One thing about Morrowind is that upon completing the main quest things can get a little... boring, running around trying to do faction and miscellaneous quests. Tribunal fixes this problem by giving you a whole new set of challenges to approach and conquer.
As with Morrowind you're still the prisoner born to uncertain parents on a certine day, under the stars and the Goddess Azura's watchful eyes, but instead of going out to claim your heroic destiny Tribunal makes you take a serious step away from Morrowind's main story, gone are the sleepers and the dreamers, to be replaced by the Dark Brotherhood that you've probably read about in the books scattered about Vanderfell. As mentioned before, Tribunal isn't the kind of expansion that lets you choose to play either the original game -or- the expansion as if it were some kind of sequel, Tribunal makes you play the regular game, either form start or by loading a save game, and then starts throwing curve balls at you to try and drag you into it's story... and they're pretty effective too.
The first way Tribunal grabs you by the head to say 'lookie lookie!' is by sending a Dark Brotherhood assassin after you, waking you from peaceful slumber to try and skewer you. It's a bit of a fight if you're a new character, but it can be done. After defeating the assassin your journal will update, giving you an idea of what to do, eventually this will lead you to a mage that will teleport you to the mainland, and straight into Mournhold City, Almexia's Capital.
The manual tells you right off that Tribunal is meant for higher level characters, although I successfully took a first level character in to the city of Mournhold, I soon discovered that I would have some serious growing pains. The major adventuring area of Tribunal is the sewers beneath the city, accessible through various hatches throughout Mournhold, thankfully the enemies down there are controlled by your characters level, so there are plenty of rats and ancestors ghosts if you're a lower level type and as you progress, they'll get replaced by tougher and tougher baddies. Now this doesn't mean you can wander wherever you want in the sewers at level 3 and except to see only rats nibbling on your toes, you're much more likely to get spanked by a goblin with a club in only one shot, as I was, many times.
The visuals of Tribunal are quiet different from the main setting of Vanderfell. Instead of dirty ashlands, bubbling swamps, European castles, and mud adobes you get dark green interiors, large leafy trees, green stone houses, and a temple that's reminiscent of the Sydney Opera House. Your surroundings haven't just changed either; take a look at those royal guards in their spiffy red armor, and the Ordinators of Vivic fame have been replaced by High Ordinators complete with some slick new armor of their own. In all an extremely pleasant change of scenery.
Tribunal offers more then just new eye-candy; there are swaths of new weapons and armor to choose from, new enemies, new unique items and vendors that are loaded with cash to sell you're ill begotten loot too. Of course there's also what the manual boasts, a new quest based journal, an atoneable map, pack animals and mercenaries.
The new quest section of the Journal is a wonderful improvement, letting you sort your entries simply by opening the journal and clicking 'options' then 'quests' giving you a list of all the merry adventures your currently on.
The new map is pretty simple, open up the local map and double click the point you want to note, and then type it in, the noted point appearing as a red dot on the map, just mouse over to see the full note.
Pack animals I found quiet useful, they can carry as set amount of weight and can be told to stay where they are, or to follow you around. The first one I encountered was a Pack Rat (bad-dum-ching) and the little fella could hold 100 weight and could attack my enemies, though not horribly effectively sometimes.
Mercenaries however, cannot be bought permanently; instead you hire one on contract for 30 in game days for a set amount of gold, like pack animals they can be told to wait, or to follow. When following you the mercenaries will attack who you attack, or whoever attacks you. They can also be used to carry heavy burdens and you can upgrade their equipment simply by having them carry it, The merc will decided what's best to use, and use it, same goes for things like potions, if they're in battle and carrying restore health, they'll use it. However, don't ever clean out their inventory, mercs keep track of their profit based on their starting equipment and gold, go below that and they quit unconditionally.
There are only a few troubles with pack animals and mercs, one of the most common ones is how they often to get stuck in place occasionally, snagged on some little bump or where the arch of a ceiling gets to close to the ground, thankfully the mercs alert you to things like this by saying 'where are you going?' if you've left them behind and simply walking past them again is usually enough to unstuck them. Another quirk of mercs and pack animals is getting them into places where even you the player need to fly to get there, if there's a way then it remains hidden from these prying eyes. The last, and easily the greatest disappointment about companions in Tribunal is there seems to be no way to take them from Mournhold, back to Vanderfell with you. Oh well, after the Mourhold sewers, Vanderfell should be ripe for the taking solo.
For some people though, all the weapons, armor, eye-candy and things to kill just aren't enough, what people like me crave is story, plot, and quests, which Tribunal has them in spades. The city of Mournhold is a veritable treasure chest full of things that need to be done. Indeed many times I felt like a cross between a gumshoe and Indiana Jones stuck in a fantasy novel, and I loved every moment of it. Allot of Tribunal's quests involve running around in those sewers, so things might seem to get repetitive going in and out of the same piece of tunnel, but the sewers are extensive and all interconnect, sometimes in complex twisting ways. Other quests however, require you to sneak around the city itself, performing daring feats of thievery and assassination rather then hacking your way through a watery maze. Others still will need you to even return to the island of Vanderfell to retrieve items that can't be found in Mournhold. Generally which type of questing you do will depend on whom you side with, the recently appointed King who appears to have gotten where he is by murder, or the Tribunal Temple who'd like nothing more then to get another puppet king on the throne.
Of course Tribunal has inherited many of Morrowinds problems. The character models still leave something to be desired, but to be fair; you're not supposed to see them naked very often. The combat sounds made by your character are still the same, everything from the *gasp* to the stoooooopid! Which sound outright silly sometimes.
Alltogether Tribunal makes for an excellent addition to the Morrowind experience, plenty of action, quests, new items and eye-candy to make Morrowind players happy, and I look forward to getting my hands on Bloodmoon, the next expansion lined up by Bethesda Softworks.