The Elder Scrolls franchise is one of the most popular in gaming history, known not only by gamers but even to those who don’t play. Arena, Daggerfall, Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim each have made an impact in their own rights and have increased in popularity with each instalment. Bethesda blazed a trail and set a very high bar for role-playing games, a bar that Zenimax Online Studios look to transfer over to the massively multiplayer online role-playing game genre.
ESO: Morrowind adds a new playable zone, Vvardenfell which is the largest zone added to the game since its launch back in 2014. Jumping into this new area for the first time was exhilarating, a real breath of fresh air. New players spawn straight into the new area and are not forced to play the original content before-hand, thanks to the game’s dynamic levelling system in which your level will be adjusted to whichever zone you are in. Nobody gets left behind and players of all levels can come together and experience the game in the exact same way. This is something I wish was implemented in more games of the genre, speaking from personal experience, I just don’t have the spare time to dedicate to an MMO game anymore and this system prevents me from missing out on the latest content, allowing me to group up with my friends to combat the latest enemies, quests and dungeons.
Of course, with the new zone comes a new main story with plenty of additional side quests to keep you occupied. Delves return which are scaled down dungeons that you can complete solo and are normally encountered through quests you take on along your journey. Public Dungeons are larger and more difficult, containing more enemies and even have multiple bosses, it is heavily advised you group up before taking on one of these. World Bosses which sound as daunting as they are, you will want to party up to take on these powerful enemies unless you are some sort of super player. Then finally, a new trial to challenge yourself and some allies, The Halls Of Fabrication has been designed for 12 players and require you to not only show courage and strength but you need to think and communicate with the team to overcome.
Over 30 hours of main story quests have been added to the game with this chapter that include some deep twisting story arcs for numerous characters you meet along the way. One such story I found myself invested in featured conspiracy, betrayal, nobility and revenge. Originally hired to locate someone’s daughter, the quest turned into a winding road that switched tracks numerous times. There haven’t been any quests that I felt were boring or monotonous, sure some of the tasks were the same but it was the context added to them that made it feel different each time.
The Warden is the first new class added since launch and is both versatile and useful, not only for healing, the Warden can deliver some serious damage in a short space of time and can run as an effective tank, but it is up to you how you want to play. You have three skill lines to work with, Animal Companions in which you can summon animals to assist you and deal damage, Green Balance allows you to draw health from plants not only for yourself but other players too, then Winter’s Embrace is the skill line for tanks, the ability to coat yourself in a protective layer that makes it harder for the enemy to drop your health to zero.
I went a hybrid route, with damage being my main focus and healing secondary whilst still spending some skill points on the Winter’s Embrace section. Splitting my points in this way wasn’t perhaps the smartest of moves, I would find my death coming more quickly and frequently in the earlier stages of the game particularly when facing numerous enemies. It became clear that running solo would be a challenge if I didn’t invest more points into the tank skill line. Upon re-evaluating and spending more points on allowing me to protect myself with more efficiency, my survivability went up, I could battle groups of enemies and come out the victor.
When in a party if someone else is the tank you won’t have that issue, it sucks that dependent on which route you go down as a solo player you could be penalized but that’s when you just need to think smart. Come up with a strategy before each fight and make use of your consumables, items that increase your magicka, health or stamina recovery go a very long way.
Not only do you get skill points with each level, you are also awarded attribute points to dish out between Health, Magicka and Stamina. As a Warden relying heavily on my magic skills, this was a no-brainer on which to prioritise. Building my Magicka bar first, health second and stamina third, ensured I still had access to my skills later on in a fight rather than running out of juice early on and having to make a break for it. One thing the game does well is force the player to be mindful of their choices not just when it comes to the story and quests but the way you fight and how you build your character’s skills and stats.
Combat is action-based, allowing you the freedom to fight how you want, left-click to strike and right click to block. When fighting in third person it can be somewhat confusing trying to land your blows onto the enemy only because of the angle of perspective, having to remember to focus the cursor and not the sword onto your opponent. You don’t get this issue in first person but I feel this view doesn’t allow you to see the full fight from a tactical standpoint, going in partially blind sort of speak.
PVP modes in MMORPG’s are not my cup of tea or at least usually, I find it surprising that I enjoy spending time in battleground’s a new PVP mode added with the Morrowind chapter. Three teams of four players face off in small arenas that have been designed to make matches faster. With three gamemode’s to choose from in Domination, Team Deathmatch and Capture the Relic there is something for everyone.
Domination I found the most enjoyable, four flags on the map generally meaning one for each team with another left over in the middle for the real tug of war. The first game I played my team pulled off a clutch victory, being third place for the first half of the match we managed to pull together in the second half and strategically begin taking over points that were seeing very little action. By doing this we eventually took over as the top team in the final minute and remained that way until the finish. Even without kills, you can still rank high on the board by playing the objectives, which for me was great as I found myself unable to hit the killing blow far too many times, unless you are on Team Deathmatch then you kind of need kills.
I spent a huge chunk of time outside of combat and questing, instead I was advancing my crafts, whether cooking up a storm or putting hammer to steel these were the experiences I got lost in the world the most. You aren’t restricted to one or two which gives you the option to hone whichever craft you decide to, enchanting, provisioning, woodworking, metalworking, clothing and more are open to you.
The zone of Vvardenfell is beautiful for many reasons, not only for its contrasting locations but character design and fine detail play a massive role in immersing you into the world. Whether walking or riding from town to town you can take in your surroundings, the blades of grass swaying with the wind, the ripples in the water and even the stars in the night sky. These are just some of the examples of what creates this stunning environment.
Buildings come complete with their own personality such as the fungus covered houses in Sadrith Mora that give you a glimpse into the backstory of that town. In Vivec City with its tall palace like structures that seemingly sit atop the water tells you that royalty inhabits this southern city, this same city also contains construction area’s that makes you aware of its developing status. Delves and dungeons feel dangerous with many sporting low lighting and dark colours.
If there’s one thing to remember about Elder Scrolls games in general, that would be the incredible soundtrack, Skyrim’s being one most beloved in history. ESO: Morrowind doesn’t fail in bringing awe-inspiring tunes. The music feels dynamic, changing depending on the situation. I was nearing the end of a quest, finding clues to the whereabouts of some civilians and with each piece of evidence found, the music slightly intensified and with my final discovery the tune reached its climax which was purposely designed to induce sadness, as the citizen’s I was sent out to look for had met an untimely death.
GAME DESIGN & INNOVATION: 8.5/10
ESO: Morrowind delivers on providing choice to the player on every level, how you want to build your character, how you fight and how you spend your time with something for everyone. A whole new chapter that brings a hefty amount of content accompanied by an impressive soundtrack and beautiful world. Playing solo is just as fun as playing with your friends no matter whether going PvE or PvP. A chapter well worthy of the Elder Scrolls title.
OVERALL: 8.5/10 – GREAT
Reviewed by Rhys Baldwin (Jester).
(Disclaimer: CONQUEST received a review copy of Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind on PC, however this does not in any way affect the scoring of a game or our thoughts on the game itself. We believe in total honesty and being transparent with you.)