The Elder Scrolls Online never gripped me at launch. I wanted it to, but there were just too many things that didn’t gel for me. Dozens of bland fetch quests, lag problems and broken quests just made the game something I didn’t want to pay a monthly subscription for. Since then a lot has changed in the game, but I didn’t really feel the need to dive back in. Until a trip to Morrowind was offered.
Every fan has a starting point for their love of The Elder Scrolls series of games. Mine was Morrowind, a game that a friend told me about once when I was visiting on a Friday. He told me the forest outside of the starting village was so vast you could get lost in it. The idea of such scope was something I couldn’t believe and had to see for myself. I told him he was lying, or just stupid enough to get lost in a tiny forest. By the end of the weekend, I owned The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and I was diving into the crazy island of the dunmer.
Now all these years later, I was being invited back to Morrowind to see a whole new story. Imagine seeing your favourite place again, but with new graphics, new characters and a story of what happened hundreds of years before you ever stepped under the shadow of the Red Mountain? Like a siren’s call, I was drawn to the island and just like my character, I was thrown into the deep end.
Elder Scrolls Online has had several DLC packs so far, which you can buy with Crowns, currency that costs real world cash. This is different, though as Morrowind is an expansion. Adding Vvardenfell as a playable area, new factions to do quests for, a whole new epic quest chain and the first new class added to the game are a part of this expansion. Thanks to the One Tamriel update, the area you are in is always synced to your level, meaning a level 50 and a level 1 character can do the same quests at the same time, and both will get experience and loot relative to their level. Unlike other MMOs that give you a new class and make you go through all the old content first to get to the new bits, Elder Scrolls Online let’s you start as a Warden and get the new content underway. Thus, the Orc Warden Orkniesnorknie was born.
With nature magic at my side, I cut a bloody path through Vvardenfell, stopping to take in the sights. There is Vivec city! But, so many hundred years before Elder Scrolls 3, it is unfinished. Some of the cantons aren’t even complete, but the majesty of the temple, jutting out of the lake, causes me to pause. Several times on my adventure I run into a town and the layout of the houses, the placement of the roads and signs, all mirrors the hazy memories I have of this game. The only difference is they have been replaced with much higher textures and the models have more geometric complexity. Still, I sit and stare at the small villages that I spent hours in before, doing inane quests or stealing from everyone, building up a tidy stash of coin.
My biggest issue with Morrowind being used as a starting area is that you are expected to understand the game’s systems, or work them out for yourself. Sure there are a few quests to teach you how to cook, but in general it is up to you to read up, experiment or ask around. You learn by doing and sometimes it is really stressful. The tutorial pop-ups stop pretty early on in the game, replaced by pop-ups for buying crowns, DLC and swanky housing. The one that shows off extra inventory space is the most appealing to me, considering my bank and my bags are almost always full.
Despite the lack of a tutorial for a truly fresh character, the story is really interesting. Something is happening to Lord Vivec, one of the three living gods that form the religion of this area. It is up to you to get to the bottom of what is happening to him, and at the same time you get mixed up in the plots of the big houses and the sinister assassins of the dunmer. Unlike other places, assassination is a big business here, with writs sanctioning hits, allowing assassins to report to the authorities and prove that the kill was sanctioned, and thus they are not to be charged with murder.
Some of the best moments of the story were when I was completely alone, fighting large enemies and dodging for my life. One on one (well okay, the bear was there and mauling my enemy) in a big boss fight, managing resources while evading attacks. The enemy turned to dust, making me forget that I can’t just loot everything on the corpse like in the main series games, and I get a shiny new sword at the end of the quest and a whack of experience. As I leave the room I must change phases to be in the same shared space as several other players who just finished the same fight. I equip my new gear and head to the next quest, eager to pick apart this weave of noble houses, living gods, assassins and daedra.
I have finished the Morrowind expansion, or at least I think I have. There is still so much to learn about the game, but I am taking my time. Knowing that my account isn’t costing me money every day I am not playing it takes a lot of the stress out of it, leaving me and my orc to explore the world at our own pace. It might not be my MMO of choice, but it has gone from forgotten to enjoyed casually. If you skipped it before because of its subscription price, you are missing out on some good time now.