I never really tried Elder Scrolls Online – being scared off before it’s rebirth into Tamriel Unlimited, I just never quite saw the appeal. The standard Elder Scroll games were enough for me. What did stand out to me instead was the scope of the game – you could visit renowned areas like Skyrim while also exploring other locales like Hammerfell. Despite this, the main region of Morrowind, Vvardenfell, was never explorable despite being the setting for one of the most revered titles in the franchise. Until now.
The premise of the Morrowind quest line is simple but has its fair share of twists and turns. I don’t really play MMOs for their stories, though Morrowind did keep me interested but not hooked. In the main questline, you are working for one of the three mortal gods of the Tribunal, who are the rulers of Morrowind itself. Your role is simple – you must assist the Guardian of Vvardenfell, Lord Vivec, in investigating the reason why his divine essence is slowly draining away.While it could be thought that this is a “remake” of the Morrowind game, existing within the Elder Scrolls Online universe, it’s not. Instead, Morrowind takes place 700 years prior, allowing the storytellers some creative freedom to do what they want with the setting and the story. I personally have little nostalgia for Elder Scrolls III, but it’s great to see a new story rather than just a retelling.
Bethesda have made it no secret that they consider Morrowind to be a “new chapter” in the world of Elder Scrolls Online rather than an expansion pack. Given the way the base Elder Scrolls Online plays out in a non-linear fashion, I understand this rationale. Perhaps even more importantly, Morrowind is playable from the beginning for those who care not for the base game and just want to live off the dizzying fumes of nostalgia for the 2002 original. You technically can play Morrowind without ever touching any other aspects of Elder Scrolls Online – though it seems like a poor value proposition if you don’t.
As you’d probably expect from a project titled “Morrowind”, the star of the show is easily the setting of Vvardenfell. Bethesda claims that it’s one of the biggest zones they’ve ever put into Elder Scrolls Online, and I’m inclined to believe them. The world you’ll slash, zap and burn your way through is based on the setting of Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, but at a different time and place with some key differences. Regardless, it still feels like an updated version of the Morrowind that is bound to scratch the nostalgia itch for some players.Elder Scrolls Online features a lot of diversity in the environments that it lets players run amuck in. Morrowind is no different. The trademark elements of the region are here – weird creatures, towering mushrooms and weird breathing anemone flowers. Vvardenfell as an island is broken up into distinct areas with their own look and atmosphere, making me want to just continually explore and discover everything the region had to offer.
Without a doubt, the major new inclusion for Morrowind is the new class, The Warden. Originally cut from the base game following an appearance in pre-release teasing, the Warden pulls some of the best abilities of other classes together. Essentially, the main feature of the Warden is that they can summon creatures to help combat enemies during battle. Much like the rest of the package, the Warden’s versatility as a class means that newcomers who want to just blast through the Morrowind content solo can do so – the Warden has access to damage, healing and even tanking abilities.If there’s one thing that Morrowind does well, it’s leveraging the delivery of fanservice for fans of Elder Scrolls III with approachability and design that favours newcomers. Even if you choose to begin your journey on Vvardenfell, you’re introduced with the same number of tutorials than if you began previously in other regions in the base Elder Scrolls Online game.
What surprised me the most with Morrowind was that voice overs were present in every quest, sometimes fooling me into thinking that I was playing a proper, mainline Elder Scrolls game. Having come off playing something like Final Fantasy XIV, voicing every quest gives a great sense of production values to the overall package.
While during my session I played through quite a bit of the base Elder Scrolls Online game as well, most seasoned MMO players will be able to plough through the content that Morrowind offers in between thirty to forty hours – including side quests and dungeons. I appreciated that the main quest took me on a tour of sorts through Vvardenfell, then leaving me to explore in a bid to find side content, but compared to other expansions of this ilk and price point, it feels a bit barren.Morrowind is a great new location that is a joy to explore, but the expansion feels like more of the same Elder Scrolls Online. There’s little new (functionally) here to see or do and if you didn’t enjoy Elder Scrolls Online it’s very doubtful that you’ll enjoy what Morrowind offers as a value proposition. If you just want to explore Morrowind using newer technology, this won’t feel worth it. If you do everything Morrowind offers – be it main quests, dungeons, side quests and more – it’ll still feel anaemic.
Perhaps knowing this, Morrowind also introduces Battlegrounds. At it’s core, it sounds intriguing. It’s a PvP component that features team based challenges like capture the flag and the classic team deathmatch. But it feels so undercooked and poorly thought out – several class combinations feel stronger than others and often a team would completely dominate others. These things can be patched out and balanced eventually, but for now it seems like a bit of a disappointment as I love the concept.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind is completely at odds with itself. At times, it doesn’t feel like an expansion – featuring just more of the same rote quest designs that you’ve seen in Elder Scrolls Online. At other times, the writing is some of the best in the entirety of the Elder Scrolls Online world. Nostalgia for the region aside and Battlegrounds that’ll surely flourish with updates, Morrowind doesn’t do anything aggressively offensive, but doesn’t quite innovate either.
The PS4 version of this game was played for the purpose of this review.