Welcome back (finally) to Right Click to Zoom, the more in-depth article side of this blog. For today’s topic, we’ll be looking at Morrowind; primarily the original release, but also the more recent visit to it in Elder Scrolls Online, alongside a number of attempts to mod it into more recent game engines.
It’s said about the Elder Scrolls series that the first entry you play is likely to be your favourite. This seems to hold true of most people I’ve spoken to, with people rising to sing the praises of many games in the series but rarely able to overcome their original. Whether it’s Skyrim, Oblivion, or even Daggerfall and Arena, the series is well loved and it’s rare to find someone who doesn’t have that favourite.
In my case, my first Elder Scrolls game was Morrowind, and my favourite is Morrowind. I’ve spoken about it at length on this blog, mostly before these article types were defined, but in the time since my respect for the game and its design continues to grow. I’ve continued to discuss and debate this with multiple people, and it’s come up enough that I decided it was high time to use this article structure and space to look at aspects of the game with more focus.
So what makes Morrowind so great? It boils down to a key word: design. Allow me to elaborate.
Bigger Isn’t Always Better
The scope of the Elder Scrolls series — and the scope of video games as a whole — has continued to expand over time, with each new entry proving bigger and more content packed than the last. While few would say that this is a bad thing, there has had to be some sacrifices to achieve this with each new iteration. Corners are cut on some aspects, and liberties are taken on others in order to achieve this vision, with mixed results.
A large focus for Bethesda on Oblivion and Skyrim was trying to achieve the sense of a living, breathing world. Rather than having limited paths and patterns for what they would do, many NPCs in the game will attempt to go about their lives regardless of the player’s intervention. They’ll discuss matters with one another, eat food that’s around, interact with objects and react to various stimuli around them. Granted, it’s not always well implemented, with Oblivion’s systems being the source of quite a bit of humour in retrospect, but a living world was always the intention.