Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind will not blow your mind, but it will tickle your nostalgia
Over the last week or so, ZeniMax Online Studios opened up parts of The Elder Scrolls Online’s Morrowind test servers to the press and public, allowing us to hop in and take a long and unfettered look at the developing expansion. In fact, that’s why I shied away from saying anything about the Elder Scrolls Online patch notes controversy — I’ve been buried in the real thing all week. Although I can now talk about the negative, I can also finally talk about the positive bits Morrowind has to offer.
I want to be fair about my analysis of ZOS’ depiction of the island of Vvardenfell and the Dark Elf culture, so I will have to put aside some of my nostalgic feels and take the experience for what it is: a solid entertaining MMORPG with a handful of flaws. I’m not going to pull any punches, but I should let you know that I really like this next chapter for ESO.
I’m not going to give everything away, but there is an interesting story involving a god, a priest, and a giant crab.
A failing god
I’ve given my perspective on what I think the issue is with our poet-god on Vvardenfell in a previous Tamriel Infinium, but I can’t mention whether I was wrong or right without spoiling the story. However, I think that Elder Scrolls lore junkies will be not be disappointed. In the original Morrowind, there was a little bit of time before you actually ran into Vivec via the main questline, but in ESO Morrowind, it’s quite literally the second quest. In fact, deities abound in the tale of Morrowind, which is both wonderful and terrible.
I am a lore junkie. I like absorbing the setting that creates the land that the main story resides. So that you understand my perspective, I should tell you that when I read Lord of the Rings for the first time when I was a kid, I spent far more time in the indices than I did in the actual book. I found the backstory far more interesting than the tale of the fellowship.
This is probably why I enjoyed the story in ESO Morrowind.
Although my character did play a heavy part in the storyline, and I had to make some interesting choices, the storyline also seems to take place around my character rather than my character actually affecting it, but for me — and for MMO storytelling — I find that to be just great. However, if you are looking for the in-your-face kind of storytelling that you might find in Star Wars: The Old Republic or even Skyrim, you might be a little bit disappointed. But if you’re like me, you will eat up every word.
A Mary Sue class
Naturally, I had to test out the Warden, the new class, while I was on the test servers. And I liked it. And I know that ZOS is still tweaking bits and pieces of the class, so I don’t want to be totally hyperbolic about the class, but I can also see the concerns that people have over this class. It is extremely powerful.
I don’t know whether it’s was my skill as a player, the low difficulty of the mobs, or if the Warden was just overpowered, but it just seemed that the Warden could do everything. Now, I played mostly by myself while roaming over the island of Vvardenfell, so I am sure that my perception is skewed because of that. It might also be that my main is a Night Blade, and the general survivability of a Night Blade is quite a bit lower than a more traditional tank-like class. Before the haters jump in, I know that Night Blades, or any other class for that matter, can be more survivable, but I play my Night Blade more traditionally. When comparing that to the Warden, the Warden seems to be more tanky-healy right out of the box.
I believe that the design of the Warden is a product of a solo-centric gameplay style. I think it’s a wonderful class. It’s interesting with both tank and healing abilities, and the Animal Companion abilities do exactly what they are supposed to do: make the class fun to play. In fact, the only abilities that I found uninteresting were the ice abilities. They weren’t bad and do have quality animations, but I played this kind of class way back in Champions Online. That part just isn’t new.
But when that jack-of-all-trades trend continues as you level a Warden, I can see how this could be problematic for team play. There was really nothing I couldn’t do. In fact, I accidentally ended up running a delve with another player who was also a Warden, and there was great synergy between his tank-like Warden and my heal-like Warden. But I could definitely foresee a Sorcerer or Dragonknight asking, “Where do I fit in?” in later levels. I’ll keep you posted.
Let’s talk about the silt strider in the room: How does it compare to The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind? Well, the truth is that I cannot tell you because I never got through all of TESIII. However, I can comment on the biggest pull for TESIII players: nostalgia. There is a lot of it. ESO Morrowind was clearly pulled from the same patch of member berries as Star Wars: The Force Awakens. From Azura to Chodala, there are nostalgic characters sprinkled throughout the storyline of Morrowind, and they are specifically intended to help you don your rose-tinted glasses.
I don’t specifically have an issue with nostalgia until it gets in the way of telling the actual story, and I can’t say that it does save for one aspect: You are a subject of prophecy. But with the rest of the lore and storytelling, I can forgive ZOS for this little trope.
Morrowind is still clearly still in closed beta, and I’ve just touched the surface of what the expansion has in store. Look for more coming this week, but until then, I’ll give you a small gallery of images I took while exploring the Bitter Coast.