Even though the Xbox One is having all sorts of problems with regards to its exclusive games, with questions being asked as to where Microsoft’s God of War equivalent is, at the very least the console has its back catalog of classic games sorted. Recently, Xbox users were pleased to see a new wave of original Xbox titles hitting the Xbox One backwards compatibility program. However, for some RPG fans the most interesting game on the list was The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind – a game that is now available on Microsoft’s console.
First released in 2002, Morrowind has since gone on to be one of the most well-respected RPGs of the modern era. For many players, it was their first foray into The Elder Scrolls altogether, with the title hitting home for some who had missed out on previous entries Arena and Daggerfall. It helped set a precedent for what Western RPGs could be, and as such it’s no surprise to see it returning on the Xbox One.
That said, modern players used to the comforts of sequels Oblivion and Skyrim may find Morrowind to be something of a more difficult experience. The fluidity that the later Bethesda titles include isn’t really here, with a much more stats-based system than the action-oriented gameplay of parts IV and V of The Elder Scrolls. This is further compounded on consoles, too, without the amendments that the modding community has been able to provide for PC players.
In spite of this, though, Morrowind‘s reputation precedes it. It may be clunky by modern standards, but there’s something about the game that helps it retain an impressive status. For many Elder Scrolls fans, it still remains the best game in the franchise, and to this day the game holds an extremely passionate community of players. Even sixteen years later, Bethesda can’t quite compete with what it offered so many years before.
This can be seen by the actions taken by the developer itself. Skyrim‘s Dragonborn DLC took the player to Solstheim, an island that itself made its first appearance in Morrowind‘s Bloodmoon expansion, and the Morrowind-esque setting drew plaudits from those looking for something more akin to the series’ third entry in terms of style and setting. Meanwhile, The Elder Scrolls Online also has its own Vvardenfell-set content, with the MMORPG spin-off again trying to emulate that same tone. Within the community, projects such as Skywind aim to bring the entirety of Morrowind into the modern day, too.
Those unfamiliar with the game may see such moves as quaint, or nostalgia-driven, but to this day Morrowind includes things that follow-up games in the series simply have not. In the end, a lot of it comes down to tone, depth, and setting. In Morrowind, Bethesda created something truly strange, and Vvardenfell is an island full of locations equally beautiful, grim, and bizarre. It contains everything from large, creeping organic dwellings and major cities to ramshackle huts, and living, breathing coastlines to ash wastes.
Those creatures and people living in Morrowind are different, too. Whereas Oblivion felt more like a straightforward fantasy world and Skyrim‘s nordic influences ran heavy, this third Elder Scrolls game felt altogether different, with an opaque culture and strangely-designed beasts. Morrowind set up the hero as a stranger, an outsider, and as a player it felt exactly like that. They were cut off from what they knew and understood, and had to make sense of this mysterious island, speaking to friendly characters and reading up to understand the lore and the politics of the world around them. Morrowind may be substantially smaller size-wise than its sequels, and have less of an emphasis on secrets, but it’s certainly deeper and richer.
Its story, too, feels better paced. Whereas in Skyrim you’re surviving a dragon attack within minutes and killing fearsome creatures with ease, or in Oblivion witnessing the death of the Emperor as part of its tutorial, Morrowind has a much more humble start. It takes time and perseverance to become a formidable opponent, and its opening, with the player character simply stepping off a boat on a small coastal town, feels much more suitable for an open world game where player choice is key. There’s a build up in Morrowind that feels much more epic, and its rich plot has an impenetrable nature makes it all that more engaging.
Its not perfect, of course, but what game is? Instead, Morrowind is one of those few games that genuinely gave players a sense of immersion, and a sense that its inhabitants lived lives of their own, even if they may appear crude from a graphical perspective by today’s standards. Even to this day, it’s a game that Bethesda will be looking to emulate, and that long awaited Elder Scrolls 6 will do well to live up to Morrowind‘s giddy heights.
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