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The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind

Developer: Bethesda | Publisher: Bethesda
Players: 1 Player Game | Release Date: 06/06/02 | Genre: RPG

Bethesda Softworks has invested a lot of time into their mammoth RPG, Morrowind. The game has finally arrived, and on the Xbox, it pretty much owns the entire RPG market. However, does that automatically make it worth your hard-earned cash? Read on to find out!

To begin with, the visuals in Morrowind are certainly adequate, and they even excel in a few areas (the water looks absolutely gorgeous). Unfortunately, they do tend to falter a bit at times. The colors and textures all look rather bland, and character animation is often choppy and awkward. The character animation is almost forgivable, but the color scheme is incredibly dull for the most part and will bore you within minutes after you start playing. The PC version of the game definitely has the upper hand in the graphics department; this game just isn't up to par with what we've been seeing from other developers on the Xbox.

Luckily, the sound in the game does not follow the same path to mediocrity that the graphics do. The sound in Morrowind is truly one of its strong points. From the moment you hear the theme from the title screen, you know you're in for a musical treat. Aside from the music, the sound effects in the game have also been done fairly well. While the game is heavily text based, characters will have spoken dialogue from time to time, and they all sound very authentic. As your character moves about the environment you'll hear your boots crunching on the ground, you'll hear water splash as you wade through and you'll hear the sounds of battle as you deal out the pain to your enemies; this game features some of the best sound I've heard in video games.

The gameplay in Morrowind is incredibly open ended; this can be good at times, but it does not come without its share of disadvantages. It's true, in Morrowind, if you want to do something, you probably can. There's an unbelievable amount of freedom in the game, and you could literally play for over a thousand hours and still have plenty to see and do. The problem is that there's really nothing to motivate you to continue with the main story. Also, the game can be pretty vague at times, and this leaves you wandering around the expansive world wondering what to do next. The size of the world is staggering, and that alone isn't a bad thing, but when you have to spend hours walking aimlessly about, it does get a little tedious.

The game is also not very consistent with some things. For one, while visiting a town, I decided to snag whatever I could get from the various crates and barrels lying around. I then sold many of the most useless items for gold, and nobody seemed to care. I tried this same thing in another town, and faster than you can say, "Ream!" I had guards all over me. Once I was caught, I decided to spend some time in jail. To my dismay, many of my character's stats had dropped considerably and all the sweet armor and weapons I had stolen were gone. There I was, stuck in some rundown town, and stripped down to my virtual underwear. While some tout this as being "realistic," I simply call it "annoying."

Combat in Morrowind is yet another lesson in frustration. You have the choice of playing the game from a third or first person perspective, and neither one makes the fighting any fun. In the first person view, you'll see your weapon swipe at an enemy in front of you. You can hold down the button for a stronger swing, but this will fatigue your character more quickly than normal attacks. It's pretty much the same deal in third person mode only you'll see your entire character. Either way, it's not very cool. You just sit and mindlessly hack at your opponent, and at times, it can be difficult to tell if you're even hitting him. If you happen to have some magic spells, you can use those to aid you in combat, but unlike a keyboard, the buttons on a controller are rather limited and cycling through your list of spells can take some time, meanwhile, you'll be getting mauled by your adversaries.

As I played, I found myself wanting to like the game, but I just couldn't do it. The game is ambitious, there's no doubt about it, and perhaps, it's even ahead of its time. But the fact remains that fun is the most important factor in a game, and while there's a lot to do in Morrowind, not much of it is very exciting. You'll play long periods of time with little action to keep you entertained, and if you forget to save your game, you'll be disgusted when you die. Overall, the game gives you all the freedom you could want, but it forgets to give you a reason to keep playing. It looks like Xbox owners are just going to have to wait a bit longer for the RPG experience they've been yearning for.

By Ryan Schaefer - 07/12/02
ESRB Details: Blood, Violence

Screenshots for The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind

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