In a world where developers are pushing the creative boundaries of online gaming, The Elder Scrolls Online makes a determined play to stay relevant. Games like No Man's Sky, PlayerUnknown's Battlegrounds, and even Friday the 13th bring fun ideas to multiplayer gameplay. Although not always successful, the failures tend to be caused by their own overreaching ambition. You must give them credit for that, even if you're still bitter about paying money for an unfinished game. Not that The Elder Scrolls Online has ever been accused of this, especially when it was released back in 2015.
Now, after some massive fixes and a few DLCs, we get The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind. A new island to explore, a new character class to level up, hours of single player quests, and best of all a 4v4v4 arena mode. I say “new” knowing that all of it is standard stuff. However, for fans of classic MMOs, fans of The Elder Scrolls, and fans of fast travelling and inventory management, Morrowind is a welcome return to Tamriel.
Although I wouldn't count myself as the biggest fan of The Elder Scrolls, like anyone who has played video games in the last fifteen years, I have spent many hours exploring the world of Tamriel. I dabbled with The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind back when I owned a desktop PC, I got Oblivion with my PS3, and sunk many hours into Skyrim and all its DLCs.
So, a couple of years ago, I was very excited to play The Elder Scrolls Online. I eagerly chewed through the singleplayer story, slogged through the unending number of side quests, and charged into the massive faction battles between my beloved Ebonheart Pact, and the evil Daggerfall Covenant and Aldmeri Dominion. All the while there was glitchiness, and insane inventory management issues designed to get you to spend real money on extra slots. Not to mention the long walks to the multiplayer battles because I spent all my money on useless pets instead of a decent horse. Despite all this, it was a blast. When Morrowind was finally announced, I was eager to return.
The centerpiece of Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind is the island of Vvardenfell. To get there you need to start a new story with a newly created character. When you reach Vvardenfell you can unlock a wayshrine for fast travel. It takes a little bit of messing around but once it’s unlocked you can take your time to explore the island full of dark elves, slavers, creatures, and even a couple of Daedra. Or, if you just want to push on with the missions you can travel between Vvardenfell’s towns by boat or on the back of a towering Silt Strider.
However, a good reason to stick with a new character is to try out the latest class: The Warden. They’re a balanced druid fighter/spell-caster, but the sexiest thing about them is their ability to summon a bear. While it’s a decent excuse to start a new character, the Warden isn’t an overpowered game changer, especially when it comes to Morrowind’s multiplayer modes.
When Elder Scrolls Online was first released the faction battles were a big mess of connectivity issues and long cross-country hikes. The long travel distances from your castle to the fights were the main reason I stopped playing. Ten minutes riding only to get there after the battle was over. If I ever get the last two years of my life back, the first thing I would do is buy the fastest horse I could afford, and start levelling it up. The next thing I would do is google a decent PvP build.
If there is one thing I have learnt about The Elder Scrolls Online is that no naturally evolved character build is ever going to be any good when it comes to multiplayer. Playing through the story, crafting and cooking, wearing the best looking armour, and trying out random spells because they sound interesting is fine for single player. But, when it comes to multiplayer, you will be a burden to any team unlucky enough to get you. Especially with level based matchmaking non-existent in the game. If you can’t cast a spell that deals over 10,000 damage, you may as well not bother.
This is especially true in Morrowind’s new multiplayer mode. Battlegrounds are 4v4v4 randomly generated fights. You can enter as a group, or be randomly assigned to a team and dropped into either a capture the flag, deathmatch, or domination battle. While there is room to manoeuvre, the maps are small, and the fights are over in a few minutes. The only entry restriction is that you must be over level 10. But if you do enter at low level, be ready to spend the entire fight dying and respawning – and when it’s all over, apologising to your team for being rubbish.
The Elder Scrolls Online has never been a perfect game, and neither is Morrowind. Even so, it is a wonderful extension of the Elder Scrolls experience. It’s big and beautiful, mist covered and mysterious, and full of people and places to discover. It’s still an amazing world to get lost in.
But, it also makes you think that this version of Tamriel may be coming to an end. It’s nostalgic in a very good way, but also because character models and mission designs have changed little since Oblivion. Of course, the draw distance is way more impressive and the game still runs even when packed with players, but this Tamriel is starting to look a bit old. Look at the official trailer for Morrowind, and compare it to actual gameplay. I used to think that kind of disparity – especially when it comes to AAA titles – was a thing of the past. Gameplay footage of Morrowind is not going to shift units.
The Elder Scrolls Online is set around 1000 years before Skyrim, and Morrowind is also stuck in the past. In terms of setting and story, this is a good and comfortable thing. In other ways it makes the game feel unoriginal. Especially when summoning a bear, and playing a capture-the-flag multiplayer match are among the main selling points. But, if you want to build a spell casting tank and dominate multiplayer matches, or wander around Tamriel crafting armour and mixing potions, The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind offers many hours of both.
Dene received a digital copy of The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind from Bethesda for review.