In terms of scope, exploration and interaction, there is nothing to touch this huge RPG epic
How many games have you played with doors in the scenery that never open? There are plenty, including the likes of Halo and Max Payne. No such restrictions are present in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. If you can see a door, you will be able to go through it.
Morrowind is an RPG that lets you go anywhere, do anything and be anyone - the kind of famed non-linearity that many games have promised but few have delivered. The level of freedom is a real achievement, but it's hard not to find the game as a whole intimidating because it's almost scarily deep.
Most games lay their cards on the table and reveal the plot right from the intro sequence. Here, it's up to you to actively investigate your way from town to town before you can even begin to piece together the plight of the people and what heroic or villainous part you'd like to play. It's easy to be overwhelmed by the astronomical scale of the quest on offer, as it's a role-playing game in the true sense of the term. You literally make your own adventure, and that's a tough task. You have to live Morrowind in order to get anything out of it, but it's hard to fully immerse yourself in the world on offer for several reasons.
For starters, it's not good looking enough. While the visuals can, on occasion, combine to producing a stunning scene (water and weather effects are pretty, and the real-time sunrise and sunset are very well done) overall it's rough, stubbly and drab.
The draw distance is poor, meaning that splendid views are out of the question. It's a shame, since some of the architecture and scenery is imaginative and detailed. Designed and realised on a sufficiently large scale to make you feel that you're deep in another world, you'll never get to see the makeup of the landscape unless you're within touching distance. If it looked prettier, then having to perform a series of mundane tasks just to earn some spending cash would be less tiresome.
Also, the combat is just plain dull. Okay, the game is based around a dice-fondling, Dungeons & Dragons kind of universe, where each swipe of your weapon or cast of a spell has a chance of not hitting your opponent. But since everything is played in first-person view, with analogue controls as excellently subtle as those in Halo, using such a basic system of combat is a backward step. It's one place where the stats should have been made invisible. Doing so would've made for a much more believable experience.
However, the internal workings of the Morrowind game world are impressively thorough, consistent and logical.
For example, swimming is better for you than running, and will beef up your constitution more swiftly. Try to steal from someone in plain sight, and they'll report your crime and try to kick your arse. Pinch their possessions out of view, however, and you can get away with it - just don't try and sell it back to them, or they may twig you.
It's amazing, rigorous detail like this that lets you indulge in your own stupid ideas, and helps dip you further into the insanely detailed ocean of possibility and choice that is Morrowind.
It's also worth mentioning that the control method is accessible and simple to navigate. Though conversations with other characters can get quite lengthy, important words are highlighted in bold, and these are stored as user-friendly keywords for future chats.
It could so easily have been a complicated nightmare, but developer Bethesda has made this aspect fairly painless. On the one hand, Morrowind is an awe-inspiring achievement, with an astounding amount of choices and freedom in nearly all aspects of the game.
But on the other hand, it suffers from poor visuals and comedy combat that even the most forgiving adventurers will be hard pressed to ignore. And to play the game properly requires a marriage-like level of commitment.
If you're able to venture on through such barriers then Morrowind could potentially absorb you unlike any other video game ever has. It's unique among Xbox titles and if anyone ever tells you to get a life, there's one waiting for you right here.
- A huge world to explore
- In theory, could last you forver!
- Dodgy visuals
- Clumsy combat
- Requires a hell of a commitment to crack
Dismal draw distance, but excellent use is made of the pad and loading times are rare after nitial boot-up.
Detailed and imaginative in parts, but it's very brown and rough around the edges.
It takes a lot of effort and patience to be absorbed, but once you do you'll be gone for months.
A sprawling, gargantuan world full of adventure. Seeing everything is Jike a chilled-out extreme sport.
By turns, it's wondrous, boring and unconventional. A unique and extraordinary, but slow-paced, experience.