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Elder Scrolls III Morrowind....First Impressions...WOW!


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#1 of 107 Romier S

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Posted May 03 2002 - 08:49 AM

(THIS WILL BE LONG!)


All last night I sat in my little cubicle at work, knowing that Morrowind sat at home in its gorgeus Collectors Edition black box waiting for me to rip it open and get to playing. Well that is exactly what I did.

I'm sure if you have been following this game with any kind of regularity you have heard it all. Some examples:

"Your going to need a monster system to run this"

"The game really doesn't look that great, its really foggy"

"I feel sorry for those with lower end systems"

My suggestion is to keep these in mind when reading this review because I'm going to do everything within my power to blow these nonsensical statements out of the water!

Story and History

Morrowind is the third part in the vaunted Elderscrolls series. Spanning almost 10 years and 3 very large games (The first game was known as "Arena" and second title "Daggerfall") this series has been known for its open ended gameplay which allows you total freedom to do as you wish. Nothing has changed here my friends.

The voice of a what can only be a Dark Elf woman is the only thing heard at the outset of Morrowind. The intro is short but it sets things up nicely. She speaks of the history of a hero and that she is ever watchful of you. You being a prisoner that has been released by order of the emporer himself for unknown reasons. Suffice it to say you have a destiny to fullfill and one that will take you on a huge journey.

You awaken on a boat to voice of another prisoner who asks you your name. This is where Morrowind begins....

Character Creation

There is no other way to say this so I will just say it. Morrowind has the GREATEST character creation system of any RPG ever created. Please whatever you get out of this review do not take that statement lightly. That is a bold commentary on Morrowind and one that is rightfully deserved.

Once the Dark Elf asks you your name a box pops up on the screen where you can enter your name. Once you do a guard will come to fetch you. He will advise to go to the main deck.

Upon exit another guard will be waiting for you at the bridge. He will ask where you are from. At this point another popup will appear. You will be able to choose your race and your characters appearance. There are a total of 10 races in Morrowind. Each with its own bonuses and look. You can select from different hair, faces and sex. Once you have completed this portion the guard will escort you to the Census house. Inside you will need to obtain your registration papers. The census taker will give you several options for registration.

First option: He will ask you a series of 10 questions and then generate a class for you depending on the answers you give. (Again, The character creation system is astonishingly in depth)

Second option: You can give him the info by selecting from the list of available classes. Morrowind comes with a list of 20+ classes. Each has its strengths and weaknesses. The list is almost mind boggling.

Third option: Create a custom class. Yes you read that right. You can name your class. Give it the bonuses and skills you want to. Select what the main attributes for the class is. You can spend 1-2 hours here alone. You want to be a "Jester" you can create it and give him the speechcraft skill which will make him easier to talk to and allow him to persuade others easier. Class creation is at your very whim!

Once you select a class the Census taker will give you your papers. You need to then visit the captain to get your release and then you are off to live and live free.

Controls

Morrowinds keyboard setup is your standard firt person shooter setup. W,S,A,D move your character. The spacebar opens doors. So forth so on. You can right click the mouse button at any time to enter the menus in the game. The menu's consist of your character sheet, inventory, magic window and map. All of these windows are resizeable and you can place them in whatever configuration you would like. Even better everything is drag and drop.

Once you leave the Census office you will slowly be introduced to each of these menus. You will find a dagger which will open the inventory window, a magic ring that will open the magic window. You get the idea.

The first thing you will notice about Morrowind is the fact that you can pick up and take EVERYTHING! All you have to do is hit the spacebar to grab it. If you see a candlestick and several plates on a table. You can take it. Everything here is yours for the picking. Its amazing.

Once you get accustomed to the windows and playing the game you will learn to fight. You hit the F key to get into battle position. You then click the left mouse button to attack. The longer you hold the attack the harder you hit but you will become more fatigued.

To enter the casting position you hit the R key. Your hands will appear in front of you and you can then cast a spell. You can set the active weapon and spell in the correct menus. You can also set up to 10 hotkeys by hitting the F1 key for your favorite spells.

Its all very elegant and well defined. You should have no trouble navagating the menus or playing your character. In terms of view point you can hit the tab key at any time to change from first person to third person. Both have their advantages. You can also hold the tab key and move the mouse to pan the camera around your character. Again its a very simple control scheme to learn and a fun one to play with.

Gameplay

You will truly be astonished at the amount of detail and care taken in character dialogue and interaction. Once you speak with an NPC you will have a ridiculous amount of options to speak about. You can ask them of the local rumors, seek advice, ask them their occupation..Its undending at times. There is also a persuasion button which allows several options. You can bribe a person, admire them, intimidate or taunt. Each NPC has a meter with a scale from 0-100 which shows how much they like you. The higher the better. The more they like you the more information they give and in the case of merchants the cheaper the items. Quests are given almost immediatetly and they are quite varied.

Here is one for instance:

You speak with a gentleman that is looking to gain some money from a subordinate of his. He know this person has been skimming from the top. He asks that you watch this subordinate to find the hiding place for the money. There is a light tower where you must watch him from. The subordinate only checks this position at night.

I went to the light tower and watched this gentleman until he moved to the hiding place (Very spy like and I loved it). I then retraced his steps and found the hiding spot. I retrieved the money and returned to the quest giver for reward.

That is just one of many quests you can do. Morrowind reportedly ships with almost 200 hours of content.

The fighting and spell engine are easy to get used too but enemies in the beginnning can be difficult. You will need to train and become accustomed to things before tackling the starter foes. One thing that does bother me is that enemies have no life meter. You really dont know how much you are hurting your foe or even if you can or cant take them. Its a bit disconcerting but it rang the same in Daggerfall so its not a suprise.

The world itself is HUGE. Its all pretty seamless with a small loading time to change areas (ala Halo). It can be very easy to get lost if not for the wonderous map system in the game. The map is of full landscape. It even goes so far as to mark all doors with the shop names so everything is easily accessible. Its your choice how you move along. You want to stay in the first town and complete quest? Go ahead. You want to leave and explore? Have at it. You want to assasinate the local denizens? You can but you'll probably end up in jail. Yes Morrowind has a jail system. If you commmit any crime the guards will come to you and ask you to either pay a fine (40gold), go to jail, or flee. Going to jail degrades one of your main attributes so you definitely DO NOT want to go there.

I hope this gives you some idea of the scope of the game. Its a richly populated, enormous world that is at your fingertips. Its just so happens that it looks beyond belief gorgeus.....

Graphics

Anyone who says Morrowind is not gorgeus is either blind, in denial, or just plain crazy. The moment you step on the deck of the boat you will be greeted with pixel shaded water that has to be seen to be believed. It ripples and moves so naturally that you just want to stand still and look at it. When it rains the drops register and the water moves accordingly.

The textures in the game are almost to detailed. There is texture work here that rivals and at times surpasses Halo (A totally different game but a good point of reference). The character models are highly detailed and some of the texture work on the armor is just amazing. You can see the rivets and dents, the robe flowing underneath the plate. This is the pinnacle of PC graphics right now IMHO.

Draw distance can be set in the options as can real time shadows. Let me take this time to deal with the performance of the game. My system specs are as follows:

PIII 700mhz
256mb (sdram) Ram
30gig HD
Geforce 3
Soundblaster Live 5.1
Win98

With this system I have my draw distance set to about a little below half. The resolution is set to 1280X960 and realtime shadows are off. The game plays absolutely beautifully. I get what appears to be a good 30 FPS in densely populated towns and cities. (Of which I have been to 3 major ones) There is a bit of choppiness when turning though but it really is negligible. The framerate can be hit down to 25 at times when it loading content or there is allot on the screen but its only for about a 10 second spurt. Indoors the game runs butter smooth for me. No hiccups or anything. That also includes dungeons. I have yet to see any chop in the dungeons. (I have been to two) Mind you these framerates are what I see to my untrained eye but I've played enough PC games to at least be able to make an educated guess as to what kind of FPS I'm getting.

For reference sake I took the game to a friends house and loaded it on his P4 1.8 with a Geforce 3 and 256Mb Rdram. We set the draw distance to full and left the shadows off. Resolution was set to 1280X960 and the game ran a tad smoother than my machine at home. Suprisingly it was only a small difference. I expected Morrowind to run much better but the difference was really small.

What does this tell you? Very simply that those without a monster system can enjoy this game. There is some choppiness at times and when in town turning can be a tad chuggy but this is infinitely playable and its not a detriment to the game.

Even at lower resolutions the game is still utterly gorgeus and needs to be seen. I would reccommend you go and get at least a Geforce 3 because I couldn't imagine playing this without the pixel shaded water.

Sound

The music in the game is conducted by the award winning Jeremy Soule and its some of his best work. Its a cross between his score in Icewind Dale and Giants Citizen Kabuto. Very moody and it fits the game perfectly.

There is a ton of voice acting in the game and it is all well done. Some good high quality stuff here. No complaints in the sound department.


Conclusion

This is a must own game. No two ways about it. I already consider this a top candidate, if not a shoe-in for RPG of the year. We still have Neverwinter Nights to look forward too and I know many are in utter anticipation for the game (including myself) but I have to say that Morrowind has really increased the bar for PC RPG's. Neverwinter will have to be something extraordinarily special to top this (I cant believe I'm saying that). Though i do have faith in Bioware.

I'll need to play with the Morrowind TES contrustion set too. Haven't done that yet.

For those with an X-box you are in for a treat. The X-box version supposedly has a smoother framerate and is identical to the PC minus the higher resolution. Also the X-box version support 16:9 and 480p as confirmed by Bethesda. I will be picking up that version as well and all X-boxers should RUN not walk to get the game. This is too easy to reccommend for the hardcore roleplaying fanatic.

#2 of 107 Derrik Draven

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Posted May 03 2002 - 09:35 AM

As always Romier; nice review. Posted Image

BTW...what do the dungeons look like? Specifically, are they just simply rooms below ground or, are they...well, "dungeony"??? You know, rough hewn stone, dirty, dank, dark...ect...creepy?
Better to have a gun and not need it, than to need a gun and not have it.

#3 of 107 Romier S

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Posted May 03 2002 - 09:40 AM

Quote:
BTW...what do the dungeons look like? Specifically, are they just simply rooms below ground or, are they...well, "dungeony"??? You know, rough hewn stone, dirty, dank, dark...ect...creepy?


The dungeons are fantastically modeled Derrick. The first dungeon is a mine. The rock textures actually look like dingy rock. You can see the tracks from the mining cart. You must kill a Dark Elf warrior at the outset. Once he is dead you come upon the fire he made, It actually has a billow sitting in front of it you can take. There are stalagtites (sp?) and other rock formations hanging from the cieling. Everything is painstakingly detailed.

There is a reason the game took 6 years to release. It was worth the wait.

#4 of 107 Shayne Lebrun

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Posted May 03 2002 - 09:54 AM

Quote:
480p
Romier;
This is the second time I've seen you mention this as a 'feature' of the Xbox version, and I'm just wondering why you feel the need to mention it, seeing as how you're running the PC version at 1960P. :-)

#5 of 107 Romier S

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Posted May 03 2002 - 09:56 AM

Quote:
This is the second time I've seen you mention this as a 'feature' of the Xbox version, and I'm just wondering why you feel the need to mention it, seeing as how you're running the PC version at 1960P. :-)

There is a difference between running something at 1960p on a 19in monitor and runnning Morrowind at 480p on a 42in Widescreen in 16:9. That I do consider a feature.Posted Image

Lower resolution..yes. The ability to play on a nice big monitor in Widescreen and 5.1 sound. I'll take it.

Also I feel the need to mention it for all those folks out there that may not have the PC to run Morrowind. At the very least they will have these features to look forward to if they are awaiting the X-box version.

#6 of 107 Jason Quillen

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Posted May 03 2002 - 10:12 AM

Romier,
little gameplay help?

So did you find that dwarven puzzle box or whatever? I've been all over that arkn--- mine and CANNOT find it! I dont think I've found the boss yet either.


JQ

#7 of 107 Dan Brecher

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Posted May 03 2002 - 11:00 AM

Certainly intrigued by the title, it was one of the first gaes to ever interest me in getting an X-Box. I'll hold out from buying the PC version and cross my fingers that the European X-box version comes rather soon after the US version hits.

Dan

#8 of 107 Jason Quillen

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Posted May 03 2002 - 11:14 AM

Its not even necessary to write another review after Romier's, so I'll just throw in some additional thoughts...

-This game is huge. So huge that, to me at least, its very overwhelming. I dont even want to think of how many quests you could have going on at once between the main quest, guild / faction quests, and random people quests. Right now I have 3 going on and I'm a little stuck on two of them. Dont take this the wrong way - I love it. Theres just a lot to do an not enough hours in the day to do them in.

-The character possabilities are amazing, I have no idea how many possible combinations there are but its a lot.

I'll update this tonight. I've been poking around on the HTF for a while and wanna get back to my Dark Elf. If your thinking about picking up this title do it. You can always return it if you CPU cant run it that well. And if your an X-Box owner you have no reason not to get Morrowind...
JQ

#9 of 107 Derrik Draven

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Posted May 03 2002 - 11:29 AM

Thanks for the info Romier.

I'm one of the ones picking it up for the Xbox.

Just one more question for you guys lucky enough to be playing this already; is there a day/night cycle? I know there is a weather system but, I've personally never come across any info that mentions the day/night cycle.
Better to have a gun and not need it, than to need a gun and not have it.

#10 of 107 Romier S

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Posted May 03 2002 - 11:40 AM

Quote:
Just one more question for you guys lucky enough to be playing this already; is there a day/night cycle? I know there is a weather system but, I've personally never come across any info that mentions the day/night cycle.

Yes there is. You can actually see the sunset and the stars come out while playing. Its an almost seamless transition.

Jason,

As for your question. I honestly have not found it yet. I was getting my butt handed to me down there so I decided to postpone that particular adventure till I was a little stronger. So I went exploring.

By the way I'm playing a Dark Elf Infiltrator (custom class). With specializations in Short Sword, Security, Light Armor, Speechcraft and Destruction magic.

#11 of 107 Benjamin_L

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Posted May 03 2002 - 03:09 PM

Hey all! Some quick questions for Romier, Jason, or anyone else lucky enough to own this monster:

Does the game randomly generate most NPCs whenever you spoke to them? This was one of my minor beefs with daggerfall, and meant that you could talk to the "same" NPC a dozen times and somehow meet with a dozen utterly different people- with different names, faces, and advice to share. Posted Image Totally killed my feelings of immersion.

Also, I take it the dungeons in Morrowind aren't as labrynthine as Daggerfall? 'Cause that game was almost unplayable without the anchor/teleportation magic.

Please tell me it's perfect, cause i'm dying to waste many an hour with this beast!Posted Image
XBLIVE GAMERTAG: the light
"Life is such a changing art."
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#12 of 107 Romier S

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Posted May 03 2002 - 03:20 PM

Quote:
Does the game randomly generate most NPCs whenever you spoke to them?


No. As far as I can see the NPC's stay the same in each town. (They each have a name indicator that does not change)They may give you different quests and depending on how high your reputation with that NPC is they may speak with you more and divulge more info.

As far as I can tell they are not randomly generated. Bethesday learned from their mistakes here.


Quote:
Also, I take it the dungeons in Morrowind aren't as labrynthine as Daggerfall? 'Cause that game was almost unplayable without the anchor/teleportation magic.

Honestly I haven't spent a huge amount of time i the dungeons but they seem quite large. The map system though pretty much makes it VERY difficult to get lost. Everything is laid out for you so you can see where you are and how to get back. Like I sadi above the developers learned from the issues they dealt with on Daggerfall (Especially the bugs!For me the game has been rock solid. Daggerfall was hell to play until the patches came down).

#13 of 107 Allan Petersen

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Posted May 03 2002 - 06:25 PM

Thanks for the impressions. I'm happy that the game appears to match my expectations (I bought a GeForce 4 4600 just for this and Unreal Tournament 2003 :B).

Can't wait for Morrowind to be released in Denmark. We should be getting it in 2-3 weeks.

Has anyone encountered any serious bugs? Both Arena and Daggerfall were very frustrating because of this.

#14 of 107 Brad Grenz

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Posted May 03 2002 - 07:24 PM

Quote:
I'm happy that the game appears to match my expectations (I bought a GeForce 4 4600 just for this and Unreal Tournament 2003

Ouch, never buy a current card to play a game that far off. By the time the game comes out there will be something for the same price that plays it even better. So I hope you needed the upgrade anyway. I heard whisperings that the Radeon 8500 is actually a real champ with Morrowind, though. Anyone else heard that, or have first hand knowledge?
Brad Grenz
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#15 of 107 Feng

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Posted May 03 2002 - 08:17 PM

Morrowind was sold out when I went to electronic boutique yesterday. I should have reserved a copy.

#16 of 107 Shayne Lebrun

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Posted May 03 2002 - 11:56 PM

Romier: I understand.

The game is truly a testiment to the concept of open-ended gaming. My wife went to pick up my copy, and the salesdrone talked her into getting the offical strategy guide, too. Well, one thing I noticed while flipping through the table of contents was

the vampire quests. Yes, there's three seperate clans/bloodlines of vampires, and if you get infected, you can track down your clan leader, and go on a whack of quests. There's something like six general quests, and 3 specific per bloodline.

Vampires also get wicked awesome stats boosts, too.


#17 of 107 Allan Petersen

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Posted May 04 2002 - 01:34 AM

Quote:
Ouch, never buy a current card to play a game that far off. By the time the game comes out there will be something for the same price that plays it even better.

I know, but I've been drooling over the GF4 for a while, so now seemed like the perfect time to get one. I love first person shooters and RPG's, so I found Morrowind and UT2003 the justification to finally get my hands on one.

Of course, the envy of my game-addicted friends can't be entirely excluded from the list of reasons to buy one.Posted Image

#18 of 107 Jon Teddlie

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Posted May 04 2002 - 04:43 AM

I have to agree with the comment about Morrowind being "overwhelming" I was easily overwhelmed in the character creation process alone and the variety of quests and things to do is mindbogglingPosted Image

Also I have a decent system:
P4 1.6a OC'd to 2.4ghz
Geforce 4 Ti4600
256mb ddr

The game is really smooth at 1024x768 32bit i left the shadows off and have the distance set to full. Sofar I'm really impressed with Morrowind and hopefully I'll be able to get a grasp on what to do next instead of wandering all around!

#19 of 107 Romier S

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Posted May 04 2002 - 07:06 AM

Quote:
The game is really smooth at 1024x768 32bit i left the shadows off and have the distance set to full. Sofar I'm really impressed with Morrowind and hopefully I'll be able to get a grasp on what to do next instead of wandering all around!



I've done a bit of exploring myself. I ran through about 3 towns. talked to several people there. So far I've found about 4 temples where you can donate money and get blessings (such as cure diseases). There are some nasty critters in those temples too. I ran into something called a Bonemeat or something like that. It took some serious hurting to put him down.

I hit level 2 last night after fighting a load of stuff on the country side and just keeping a close eye on the map. My short sword skills and light armor skills have increased a few points as has my marksman skills (I LOVE the bow and arrow). Once I gain another level I'm gonna give the mine a full try and see if I can crack that egg. Once I'm done with the mine I'm gonna make my way to Balmora to continue the main quest of the game. If I find some interesting things to do along the way I'll do them.

I swear playing this *IS* like living in another world. You get so attached to your character. I almost take it personally when someone insults me in game!

#20 of 107 Romier S

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Posted May 04 2002 - 08:30 AM

By the way.

For those experiencing pauses every so often (and I dont mean the pauses when a new zone is loaded in). I'm talking about the sudden pauses when your character is moving and all of sudden the game stops and starts again in 5-6 seconds but nothing was loaded in. This is basically a side effect of the copy protection scheme on the CD. The CD is spun up to make sure the correct disc is in every so often. There is a NO-CD protection crack available that will stop this from happening.

I have also read reports in various forums of the crack increasing load times and improving framerate by 15%. (I will personally be installing this when I get home from work.) I have done several virus scans on the crack and it does appear to be clean (For those who who are paranoid about these things). Please run through whatever test you feel you need to make sure its safe.

Let me make this clear right now:

YOU STILL NEED TO HAVE THE CD IN THE DRIVE TO PLAY THE GAME. THIS IS NOT A WAREZ CRACK. AGAIN YOU MUST HAVE THE CD IN THE DRIVE TO PLAY, IF YOU DONT THE GAME WILL NOT START. THIS IS MEANT TO HELP PERFORMANCE NOT PIRATE SOFTWARE.

I found this fix on the Official Morrowind forums. I have uploaded the file to my FTP space:


Please make sure to back up your original Morrowind EXE file. Once you apply this you will not be able to apply official patches without placing the original EXE back in the program folder.


PS: You will need a program called WinACE to "Unzip" this file, though I have heard WinRAR can accomplish this feat.




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