The Elder Scrolls Morrowind at 20: Bethesda’s total immersion role-playing game that changed everything

Twenty years is an obscene time for Morrowind passed. Rude, to be honest. That it’s still so superbly playable, that its influence on modern games is still so clearly felt after two decades – which might as well be two centuries in a medium so steeped in technological advancement – is nothing short of astounding.

The same amount of time has passed between us and the release of Morrowind as there was between the release of the Commodore 64 in 1982. Back then the big RPGs were Ultima and Wizardry. They are very influential themselves and set the standard for role-playing games as computerized versions of their tabletop equivalents. Arcane Stat Sheets. Numerous, confusing game screens with confusing user interfaces. And for the patient absolutely enchanting; huge worlds to explore, full of small towns to romp around and characters to talk and/or rob.

But relatively few people had the patience for cRPGs, and it stayed that way for years. Their popularity naturally grew throughout the 80’s and 90’s as the promise of ever more interesting worlds to explore encouraged people to learn the systems they needed to learn in order to gain access to them. Compared to, say, platformers or shooters, RPGs have always had a time-to-fluency disadvantage. The basics of Mario or DOOM are intuitive – anyone who knew how to hold a controller in 2002 could enjoy these games without a guide. However, put them in front of Ultima II’s character creation screen and they would simply ask to be excused from that hypothesis, thank you very much. I’m sorry, but what the heck is INT? And how is it different from WIS?

Morrowind changed all that. Well that’s a lie, it wasn’t. But it set the stage for something that, depending on who you ask, has either ruined the genre forever or led to greatness: the beginning of a tectonic shift that would lead to the blockbuster RPG.

Morrowind’s brilliance, like the rest of the Elder Scrolls series, doesn’t lie in its story, setting, or characters – which are pretty tenuous at the best of times. It’s because of the way you inhabit and act in his world. Do you see a bottle on a shelf? Take it. Do you see a bag? Take it. Do you see this disclosure? go there stand on it Peek into the fog. You see, the range was limited back then. It was less of a game and more of a place to go. A new land filled with mysteries and a set of interlocking systems that could allow you, the player, to have a significant presence there.

Morrowind broke down every possible barrier between the player and their world and simplified as many of their interactions as possible. How do you get to the next town? Well you go there. Or take a taxi (giant cockroach thing with seats). No more complicated multi-click fast travel process with a free-text search box and the real possibility of accidentally going to one of five dozen eponymous hamlets like in the previous game, Daggerfall. So, do you want to go somewhere? You just walk like in the real world. wanna swing a sword swing it We’ll take care of the math (sorry in advance).

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Morrowind was deliberately designed as an antidote to Daggerfall’s flatulence. Entire skills and spell types disappeared from the character sheet between the two games, either folded into other stats or sorted out without further ado. Daggerfall’s insufferably huge, procedurally generated landscape of Lego cities was abandoned in favor of a small, handcrafted island of wonders that was less than 1% the size and some forty billion times more interesting. Every settlement in Morrowind is different. Unique. Instantly recognizable by distinctive landmarks, just like cities are in the real world.

This process of streamlining The Elder Scrolls wasn’t just about jettisoning nonsense or even improving immersion; It was about redefining the meaning of the cRPG experience and understanding the difference between “big” and “epic”. It also had an extraordinary side effect, as is clear in hindsight: it prepared the genre for prime time in the living room. Vvardenfell might have been microscopic compared to Iliac Bay, but it was larger in every way. Cinematic in its ambition. Operative in its ability to stir the heart with its beautiful score, the main melody of which is still the hook of every subsequent Elder Scrolls theme because you don’t meddle with perfection.

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A year after Morrowind launched on the original Xbox, BioWare released Knights of the Old Republic, a spiritual overhaul of their D&D adaptations, but produced under a much cooler license. Piggybacking on the success of Morrowind’s popular reinvention of the cRPG, KOTOR would prove that the doors were fully opened to rich, large-scale experiences that didn’t have to sacrifice complexity for mass appeal, nor originated in Japan for success on consoles. Together, BioWare and Bethesda spent the next ten years setting the parameters of the “blockbuster role-playing game.”

It was Morrowind’s sequel, Oblivion, that really solidified the arrival of this exciting new subgenre. A defining game of the Xbox 360 era, Oblivion was packed with welcome quality-of-life updates and aggressively focused on immersion; Utilizing over-the-top 720p graphics, Havok physics for every single object, and even fully voiced dialogue as a sign of commitment to the player that they never have to consider that they’re not the hero of Kvatch, but a weird goblin persona and a sleazy one 2 bed terrace in Croydon living on KFC and Wotsits. That might be something specific.

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As the quintessential blockbuster RPG, many consider Oblivion a throwback. Progress turning on itself, to diminishing returns. With an early, possibly very first example of the dreaded open world compass, Oblivion simplified the process to the point where players didn’t even have to figure out where to find shit. All you had to do was aim in the broad direction of assassination target A or supposedly lost treasure B and throw yourself forward, less like an orienteer and more like a trebuchet for the agency. This is in stark contrast to Morrowind, which was dumb enough to tell people where to go. Go north until you come to a large rock. Go left. Turn three times near the abandoned hammock and crouch, the entrance will appear for nine seconds. If you are lucky.

In the decades since, with parallel trends of high difficulty and low barriers pulling the RPG in all possible directions, and the surprising RPG verification of every other genre to the point where the difference between an action game and an RPG is at its greatest is in the eye of the beholder, Morrowind’s influence continues to be great. The success of The Witcher 3, arguably the greatest RPG ever released, owes a large part to Morrowind’s encroachment. The latest Assassin’s Creeds, the structure of which is fully inherited from The Witcher 3, embodies the blockbuster role-playing game and its complete annexation of the living room and all adjacent genres. They even have a Morrowind mode – or “Exploration Mode” – in which the game gives you written directions to a quest item instead of a GPS marker.

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So on Morrowind; the connoisseur’s favorite Elder Scrolls, precursor to the blockbuster RPG, and punch line of many jokes at my expense in the secret gaming media WhatsApp groups for writing about it so often. As if it were my Blame it’s still so intriguing and relevant after all this time.

One of the medium’s true classics, may it forever be the standard bearded maniacs hold every new release to. It might not have been the game-changer that its immediate successors were, but things would be very different without this crucial piece of RPG history. And I’d be down four grand.

https://www.vg247.com/elder-scrolls-morrowind-20th-anniversary The Elder Scrolls Morrowind at 20: Bethesda’s total immersion role-playing game that changed everything

Fry Electronics Team

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