Review: The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind
Welcome to the volcanic continent of Vvardenfell! Yes, more than 15 years after its PC release, gamers can finally revisit the most Ibizia-esque tourist hotspots in The Elder Scrolls universe. Stock up at the first-class shopping facilities in Balmora!
Party like an animal and hit the skooma bottles hard, because what happens in Vivec stays in Vivec! Morrowind truly is a land of magic, mushrooms and magic mushrooms (probably).
Shitty Spring-break marketing spiel aside, Bethesda faced a real challenge with this expansion: how do you reimagine this beloved area so as to fit with the current MMO aesthetic of TESO? It can’t be unrecognisable to Morrowind veterans who played it in the numbered series, but having it just as it was in 2002 would leave TESO players feeling hopelessly out of the loop as strangers in a very strange land. We think a good balance has been struck.
The dangerous Daedric ruins and towering mushroomscapes we fondly remembered have been preserved. So too has the warm hue of the original Morrowind colour palette (though, thankfully, none of the hideous old depth-of-field fog makes a return).
The feeling of returning home to Vvardenfell is unmistakable and there’s a warm wave of nostalgia to be had here. That said, the continent has shrunk. The massive walking distances between major settlements (which were so often bypassed by a silt strider Uber) are nowhere near as gruelling.
Likewise, the generous smattering of caves and dungeons which pockmarked the original Morrowind have been filled in to favour of simple point to point questing. Your usual M.O. in TESO, basically.
This being set 700 years before the Morrowind means a whole new group of trials and tribulations to solve for XP. Your main concern is Lord Vivec, a living god and the only being who can prevent an incoming asteroid from “Majora’s Masking” this place.
Plot-twist: a mysterious illness is sapping his powers, and so it’s time for you to equip your stethoscope of +50 Gregory House. Unravelling his mess involves a lot of intrigue filled with assassins, fruit loop cultists and Great Houses across some 35 hours of playtime.
You’d think a moon poised to smear all life into paste might bring this community together; doors would open, and everybody would just hand you what you need to get the job done. Yeah, nah. Doesn’t happen. Do errands, pleb.
The quests are basic dot-to-dot connections, but they are remarkably well-written and the VO is as solid as anything seen in the main game. You’ll spot the usual daisy-chains of other player characters following the same invisible goat trail to a big brawl that’s the final objective.
The only new switch up to the action is the new Warden class, the tree-hugging hippy of TESO. Their main schtick is weaponising the natural world: summoning dive-bombing cliff racers to harass foes, melting miscreants with groups of Shalk or Fetcherflies, and using the power of a Falcon to zip about like a ninja.
Leeching off Mother Nature won’t make for especially showy displays of raw power, so don’t go in expecting a light show that will wow your guildmates. You’ll be a useful and effective team-player, though, especially when your Ultimate abilities conjure up a grizzly bear (Animal path), a crowd-controlling Sleet Storm (Winter’s Embrace), and who doesn’t love the spontaneous sprouting of a Healing Forest (Green Embrace).
When all’s said and done, existing TESO players will be thankful they took some vacay time in Morrowind. However, it’s just the same old story for potential newcomers who are eyeing this after finishing their remastered Skyrim. The MMO grind-questing, rather than nuanced combat and emergent fun via exploration, will prove to be too much of a culture shock for most.