Waiting for TESO Beta Access? Return to Morrowind (Really… Hear Me Out)

Morrowind may have aged badly, but with a few mods and a bit of patience the third Elder Scrolls title can be just as mesmerising as it ever was.

If you are twiddling your thumbs whilst awaiting a fabled beta invite for The Elder Scrolls Online then perhaps I could tempt you with a trip down memory lane.

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Originally released in 2002, Morrowind was truly iconic. Beautiful, immersive and ambitious the game received rave reviews and won numerous awards. I’ve written previously of my own love for this title.

After clocking up over 200 hours of horse theft dragon slaying in Skyrim I felt the urge to return to my Elder Scroll roots and revisit the game that made me fall in love with the land of Tamriel.

My Morrowind discs were dusted off and I set sail for the island of Vvardenfell.  Ahh the swampy Bitter Coast, the snooty High Elves in their mushroom-like houses, the desolate grey plains of the Ashlanders and all those ship wrecks and secret caves just waiting to be discovered and explored. I couldn’t wait to get started.

But as I stepped onto the shores of Seyda Neen I had something of a nasty slap in the face. It turns out that Morrowind now looks absolutely terrible.

With all the graphic and game-play improvements that have come along in the past 11 years the game has not aged well. If you jump straight in after playing Skyrim you may well wonder why anyone ever played this game in the first place. But I wasn’t giving up that easily.

I knew that the dedicated modding community of Morrowind was still going strong and that several graphical overhauls for the game had been put together. After a little bit of digging online I settled on a collection of improvement mods named Morrowind Overhaul – Sounds & Graphics (MGSO v3).

Morrowind came out long before the days of Steam so if you go down this route and are unfamiliar with modding the game don’t expect a simple “subscribe” option. Step by step instructions are available however and be assured that you do not need a degree in computer science to set this up. Something you will need are the Bloodmoon and Tribunal expansions. Because of their age these are easy enough to find online without having to break the bank and the “Game of The Year” edition of Morrowind is currently available on Steam.

Once MGSO was installed I found myself with a number of mod-options to consider for my upgrade. I settled on some basic cosmetic revamps and reloaded the game. And… well, I’m impressed.

As is often the case with player mods there are some issues; I soon discovered that too much undergrowth makes finding certain quest objectives rather difficult and I’ve had to tinker with the mod options to get a look that is bareable to my Skyrim-loving eyes without making adventuring impossible.

The better bodies mod option was also, um, a bit blush inducing for this sweet innocent little khajiit.

Once I actually started playing the game my next discovery was that Morrowind seemed a lot harder than I actually remembered. Perhaps the smoothness of Skyrim and its improved game-play systems have made me soft but combat in Morrowind now feels very tricky and mobs are tough particularly when your skill levels are low. Fast travel does not exist (although there are a number of useful spells and other travel options available as you progress) and your map is much less helpful in directing you towards quest objectives. Also, get ready for a lot of walking – there are no horses to steal buy on this island. And of course I’d forgotten all about the cliff-racers… do save often whilst adventuring in Morrowind.

That said, the game is still amazing. The lore and events pre-date both the other games so if you find certain names, stories or items giving you déjà vu it is likely because they are referenced or present in Oblivion and Skyrim. Whilst some aspects of game play will feel clunky and dated you can still expect to find the same engrossing quests, the same interesting characters and the same injection of humour that you have come to love from The Elder Scrolls.

You will also find a much greater range of weapons and equipment in Morrowind as well as 27 player skills to level, compared with Oblivion’s 21 and Skyrim’s 18. In particular, anyone who felt that magic in Skyrim was somewhat overlooked will not be disappointed with what Morrowind has to offer – expect a much greater range of potion, enchant and spell effects (including my favourite spell, Levitation!) as well as the ability to create your own customised spells. And of course, there are also a huge range of player mods available to tinker with if you want to change the basic game beyond graphics and sound.

Even with the dated game mechanics I’ve had a lot of fun revisiting my roots with this fantastic game.

If you’ve never explored Vvardenfell or unravelled the mysterious tale of The Neravarine then I encourage you to do so. And if you did play years ago don’t write this game off because of its age. With a few mods Morrowind can be just as enchanting as it was all those years ago.


Further Reading

If you’re still not convinced on returning to Morrowind then you may wish to keep an eye on the development of Skywind, a new fan-made mod for Morrowind based on the Skyrim engine: http://gamerhub.tv/articles/fan-made-morrowind-mod-for-skyrim-aims-to-bring-the-best-of-both-worlds/2013/08/19/

A table of differences between Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim: http://www.uesp.net/wiki/Differences_Between_Morrowind,_Oblivion,_and_Skyrim

Morrowind Game Guide and Walkthrough:

MGSO v3 Mod Information
Download links http://www.ornitocopter.net/v3-0-release/

Step-by-step installation instructions http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CuOeWG4BXLI

MGSO Wiki http://www.ornitocopter.net/mo_wiki/index.php?title=Main_Page

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