After what seems like forever in development Bethesda Softworks have finally managed to get the third installment in the Elder Scrolls series out the door and onto the highstreet. The game has been available in the US for a few weeks or so now but here in Europe we’ve only just managed to get our hands on the game. For those less initiated in the Elder Scrolls series, this third installment is a single player affair. ‘Single player!’ I hear you cry. Yep, you heard us right, there’s not many games these days with just a single player option, especially an RPG, but Bethesda have wanted to create a huge world that will pull any avid adventurer in.Curiously the game starts with your character leaving a prison ship on a dockside at Seyda Neen one of the settlements of Morrowind. There’s no hanging around for you though, as soon as you’re off the boat it’s time to head to the census office. It’s at this point you create your character in a couple of ways. Not all of us like to get bogged down with the nitty gritty of numbers and stats so to make the process seem a little lighter you can create your character by answering what can best be described as moral dilemma questions. Based on your answers, the game chooses the best setup for you character. If you like to tweak you character a bit more then you can do that yourself using the other method of character selection which lets you get down and dirty with the character dynamics.Once you’re registered you take you first steps into the world and what a world it is. There’s no doubt about it, the game is visually stunning right from the start. Bethesda wanted to create a believable world with a realistic feel, well as realistic as you can get in an RPG. The game is a stunning piece of work, it’s one of the best looking RPGs around. Without the constraints of online options Bethesda have been adventurous with Morrowind and the graphics are a testament to that. As you move around the world changes constantly, passing in and out of day and night cycles. You can’t help but look up and gaze at the stars, it’s pretty breathtaking stuff. The game’s beauty does come at a price you’re probably going to need something pretty beefy to run the game. It performed OK on a 1.4 Ghz Athlon with 512 RAM and a GeForce 2 but it did get sluggish in places.As with any RPG character development is a core part of the gameplay. At the start of the game your character has core skills which you choose based on class. The good news for those that like to fiddle is that as the game progresses you can try out variations to develop the character further. While this may be tough going, p***verance can pay off. It won’t be easy but it’s worth the challenge if you have the man hours to invest. The ability to tweak your character in so many ways will really appeal to the more hardcore RPG fan and is a real plus point. How you choose to align your character in the game is pretty much up to you, and right from the start you’ll make decisions on what guilds to join which will effect what quests appear. The game is just filled to the brim with quests and if going it alone without any allegiance is how you’d prefer to play then go right on ahead.Once you have accepted a quest from an NPC character it automatically logs in your journal. Your journal is probably one of the most important features of the game storing all important information as you progress. There is a drawback though, as you move through the game the journal gets bigger and bigger and with so many names and places to remember things it can get confusing at times. Be prepared to do a lot of re-reading, it can get complicated, although you can take a look at the html version of the journal in your Morrowind directory which is a little easier to follow/Dialogue , of which there is a h** of a lot, is handled by a text based interface that pops up at the bottom of the screen. On the right hand side of the box are keywords which you can ask NPC characters about. Some characters will be cooperative others not but nevertheless this was essential especially when trying to find directions to a quest location. In the main dialogue when a character talks important words that may be helpful come up in blue, these can be clicked for more info on that subject. While the system is simplistic it works well and it’s a good way to point players in the right direction.The game world is vast, in Morrowind you have to do the leg work which means talking to characters to find quests and explore as much as possible. Because the world is so huge you can utilise transport to move around but there’s still a lot of walking or running to do between areas. This can be hard going at times, the characters movement is not the quickest which can cause frustration, Linford Christy certainly has nothing to worry about. The areas between key locations can seem a little sparse and similar after playing for a while which is one drawback with having to move about at slower pace.I’ve already mentioned the vastness of the world and that also includes the games many characters. The world is full of towns to explore each with their own population who will interact with you as much as possible and respond to your actions in the game. This dimension of gameplay means you do have to be on your guard, not everyone will like what your up to. The NPC characters are well done but the towns in the game can feel sparsely populated at times which is disappointing. Also, many of the characters tend to just stand around, it would have been nice to see settlements a little more alive.Controlling your character is pretty standard with a forward/back and left/right step key config. Your character can also jump which was pretty handy at times as you can get stuck behind objects in narrow places. The right mouse button brings up an interface which shows the world map, your inventory and spells. The spells can all be hotkeyed into the number keys which makes combat a little easier but be warned. For some reason I kept clicking the left mouse button to talk to characters which in fact attacked them and on more than one occasion I found NPC characters grouping up and giving me a swift kicking. I learnt the hard way, in Morrowind you need to use that ‘quicksave’ key and save often or you could find a rather long hike on your hands. Overall the controls were pretty good and the character was much easier to control in the third person view instead of the first which can get a little confusing in combat when fighting more than one monster or character.The game’s music is very well done and if you managed to pick up a collectors edition you can also snag a copy of the soundtrack on CD for some out-of-game listening. Most character dialogue is done on the interface at the bottom of the screen so there’s not much spoken dialogue, which is one feature that would have been a nice addition. Having said that though, most gamers end up skipping spoken dialogue in games anyway to read the text as it’s usually quicker. The game sound effects are a hit and miss affair, some of the sounds just sound plain ‘puny’ but at other times they hit the nail on the head.There’s one thing that may attract you to this title and that the game’s editing toolset. Bethesda have released extensive tools that will allow you to modify just about qanything in the game. The fans have already been working away on various game changes and the Bethesda site has various plugins available to add things to the game world. Being a single player game this is a very tasty feature that should keep gamers hooked on Morrowind for even longer.To sum up, Morrowind is a beautiful looking game that will appeal the more serious RPG fan, no multiplayer but that’s not what this games about, it’s about adventuring and being pulled into a huge game world, it almost has an MMORPG feel to it. There are minor problems with Morrowind like periodic crashing, but the game is just so engaging that if you love RPGs then this is a must-have title. If on the other hand you’re short on game time this may not be for you, Morrowind is enormous.
Founder and Editor of PC Invasion. Veteran PC gamer of over 22 years.