The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
Despite the resurgence of popularity in sword and sorcery RPGs, it's easy to forget that the Elder Scrolls series has been persistently gnawing away on the trouserlcg of gaming even in the midst of the goblin genre's darkest hours.
And now, after Arena and Daggerfall, plus the two spin-offs Battlespire and Redguard, Bethesda is currendy working on a direct sequel. Now being as good a time as any, with the rival Ultima series dying an ignominious death - in singleplayer format at least, and Baldur's Gate II gamering rave reviews, there's definitely a gap in the market for a single-player, first-person fantasy RPG. Especially since the developers actually seem to have listened to the critics this time. Fans of the series will know that Daggerfall was criticised for its slow, rambling play and ugly bitmapped graphics. Both aspects of which have been happily addressed here.
Even with the success of Ultima Online and EverQuest, Morrowind is being designed as a solo experience, omitting the multiplayer aspects and focusing instead on the singleplayer to enhance the narrative and story of the game. What we do know is that it's once again set in the world of Tunnel, your adventures seeing you dispatched to the volcanic island of Vvardenfell, a place currently involved in dark political shenanigans of the highest degree, as five diverse factions fight to gain control. Other plot details are thin on the ground at the moment, but it doesn't take a genius to work out you're probably going to have to save the world from some hideous evil that threatens your existence. However, far from the sprawling nature of Daggerfall, which made it so unappealing after players spent most of their time wandering through bland landscapes, Bethesda has actually made this game geographically smaller in size. This naturally allows for less identikit buildings to explore and allows for a greater attention to detail to manifest itself in the various characters. Suffice to say, it'll lend more gravitas to the plot and ensure you don't get too bored as they fight towards the end. That's not to say it isn't a big game: there are more than 1,000 NPCs to converse with, at least.
Players will be able to join a guild as they progress, their choice affecting the storyline and the attitude of different characters towards them. Naturally, this is going to lead to numerous conflicts, which is fine since the combat system has been given a bit of a touch up too -weapons are likely to handle more in the style of the Thief series, or indeed Ultima Underworld as you move in the direction you want to swing in order to hit your enemy. Spells are also going through a redesign, making them more balanced in comparison to Daggerfall's previous system.
It's not just the game mechanics that have been redesigned, though. Bethesda's new engine dispenses with the bitmaps of old and, following on from spin-off Redguard, it's definitely 3D acceleration a-go-go. It looks as if it could really do the business and what's more it's versatile enough to allow a construction kit to be slapped in the box allowing fans to create their own landscapes and quests to exchange over the Internet. Expect plenty of rudely-shaped buildings to be doing the rounds then.
Like we've said, while the Elder Scrolls games have never been considered classics they have at least shown an above average potential, with Redguard meriting a good recommendation two years ago. Morrowind has every chance to learn from past mistakes, and there's no reason the series can't finally deliver something to be k really proud of in this current climate. We're already furiously polishing our halberds in anticipation.
The third official chapter in the Elder Scrolls series will be with us later this year, and while Daggerfall (the second chapter in the series) may have been graphically challenged to a large degree, Morrowind is shaping up to be one of the best-looking RPGs currently in development - as the screenshots on this page attest. Morrowind is far more open-ended than many of the other titles here, a trait that in some people's eyes was the only good thing about Daggerfall (OK, in my eyes then). But perhaps the most interesting feature of Morrowind is its ability to change the gameworld completely with the aid of the TF.S construction set. Bethesda is planning to release the construction set used to build Morrowind with the game when it ships. This will enable players to create or import plug-ins that contain new items, characters and dungeons. This will surely extend the life span of the game to a large degree, which is just as well since Bethesda is including no multiplayer or online features with the game whatsoever. This in itself should not be a drawback if the single-player game lives up to expectations. What makes Morrowind such an enticing prospect however - apart from the graphics of course - is the detail that has gone into both the story and physics of the world. Physics, not .in terms of how you'll see the game played out, but in the rules that govern how the game is played. Rather than relying on generic AD&I) rules, Bethesda has created over the course of many years a whole universe that could well, if put on paper, be up there with Dungeons & Dragons itself. Of course like all good role-playing games, the cogs and wheels of rolling computer dice should be kept in the background. In many respects Morrowind should look and feel more like a fantasy world version of Deux Ex than a 3D Baldur's Gate, with the game played entirely in the first person. The north west of Tamriel, where Morrowind is set, is said to be 50 limes the size of Redguard, comprising more than 30 cities and towns, as well as the odd dungeon. It's a big place and sure to be a big game too.
Download The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
PC compatible, P-100
Systems: Windows 9x, Windows 2000 Windows XP, Vista, Win 7, Win 8, Win 10.
Game features:Single game mode
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind Screenshots and Media
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