Tamriel Infinium: Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind is the MMO you want and don’t want

I have been head-over-heels for Elder Scrolls Online since One Tamriel, and the Morrowind chapter has only added to my enthusiasm for the game. I understand that this game now feeds into the things that I really like in my MMOs, but it didn’t always. And I know that other people clearly have different tastes from mine

What I would like to attempt to do today is to face some of the desires and questions people have for MMOs, to examine some of the common pitfalls afflicting MMOs to see how ESO Morrowind fares and avoids those it does. I’ll attempt to imagine that I am looking for a new MMO and stumble upon Morrowind – what am I going to look for and what are some other people going to look for in the game?

Spoiler warning: I will talk about the first hour or so of certain quests, but I will not reveal any secrets or twists that those quests present. I will also give my feelings regarding certain segments in a quest chain, but I will not reveal any plot points or characters’ fate unless it’s already known by playing The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.

The Bartle questions

If I am looking for a new MMO, I have to know that it fits the key features that I am looking for from the Bartle Taxonomy. I am heavy on the social and explorer side of the spectrum, but obviously, there are other ways to approach the overarching features.

Am I going to have fun just wandering around with very little purpose? Even though I’m currently playing another MMO where the answer to this question is a big fat no, I do look for elements of exploration that extend beyond the questlines. And given that MJ and I spent a whole livestream just picking a direction and seeing what there was to find, I would say that this expansion has exploration in spades.

How easy is it for me to pick a fight with another player and can I do it unsolicited? Some people really enjoyed the days of Ultima Online when you could literally attack anyone you chose. These players have gravitated toward open-world PvP games like Conan Exiles or one of the hundreds of zombie survival games. On the other hand, I do not enjoy PvP interrupting my PvE, so I will look to see if there is some sort of policing system or a tagged-enemy-flag system.

Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind has no open-world PvP system unless you want to count the recently added dueling system. However, it did introduce instanced, team-based PvP (battlegrounds) to the game with this update. I will talk more about them in a future article, but like the rest of the update, they are exactly what you expect. ZOS doesn’t knock it out of the park, but it doesn’t suck either.

When it comes to the Achievers and Socializers, it’s more of the same for Morrowind. There are plenty of rewards to earn, bars to fill up, and points to score in Morrowind, but none of it is new. And I have yet to see anything that makes Morrowind more or less of a social game than it already was.

Story mechanics

Prior to 2011’s DC Universe Online and Star Wars: The Old Republic, personal story wasn’t exactly important to most MMORPGs. However, now when I’m looking for an MMO, I’m interested in how well it tells whatever story it does have. There isn’t anything cinematic about the way that Elder Scrolls Online tells its story, but it makes up for that by having a lot of it. There is story everywhere. It’s not just the questlines. There are books, scrolls, and random pieces of paper that tell stories in Morrowind, just as in the rest of Elder Scrolls Online.

Before Morrowind turns into more of the same, I would like to mention that it doesn’t seem as if there are any side quests on Vvardenfell. There are plenty of things to do beyond the primary quest with Vivec, as each little town and village has its own questline, but none of them feels like a side quest. I enjoyed every single one of them, and none that I played through appeared to be a throw-away questline, which is nearly impossible when there is easily 50 hours of quests if you don’t skip all the dialogue.

A big issue with Morrowind‘s questing that I didn’t run into until the game went live was other players. All of them, including the side quests, suffer by having other players around. Much of the dialogue happens in the open world. As a general rule, I like that way of storytelling, but when you have a group of ten or more people all vying for the attention of the same group of NPCs, it makes for a difficult storytelling experience. This becomes a serious issue in areas like Vivec’s temple, where many stages of questlines compile on the same room. The problem is if the storytelling mechanics were to change, it wouldn’t feel like the same game, but then to get the best experience, I have to tell players to avoid a clearly MMO aspect of the game: other players.

Other elements

Morrowind introduces us to two more houses plus a one-room apartment in Vivec City. I still believe that ESO has the best instanced housing system that I’ve seen in an MMO, and Morrowind doesn’t change that, but I do wish there were a small house or two on Vvardenfell to give us a bit more variety. But I’m not going to complain too hard about that.

After having played Morrowind for a month now, I have covered just about every corner of the island, and I really like it. I am impressed with the story twists and the call-backs to people like the Nerevarine and Azura. But if you didn’t really like Elder Scrolls Online prior to the launch of Morrowind and after the launch of One Tamriel, then you’re not going to like it now. If you’ve never played ESO, then now would be a good time to jump in, but don’t be disappointed when you don’t reach max level before you leave Vvardenfell.

Personally, I would recommend that you play Morrowind casually and focus on the storylines. I would also recommend that you play through one storyline at a time because they can blend together if you’re not careful. And each story is pretty self-contained without being influenced by the other stories. If you hit the game too hard you will find yourself with not enough to do after a couple of weeks, but the things you do find are well other worth your time.

Traverse the troubled land of Tamriel in the Elder Scrolls Online. Larry Everett will be your guide here in Tamriel Infinium every other week as you explore together the land created by ZeniMax and Bethesda. If you have any burning questions, send them his way via email or via Twitter.
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50 Comments on "Tamriel Infinium: Elder Scrolls Online Morrowind is the MMO you want and don’t want"

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Peter Reynolds

ESO is a good game, a great RPG and a weak MMO. It is more a game that you play single player with a dash of MMO in it. The stories are well done, the combat is lacking and the world is well put together.

All in all it is a good game, but for me it just lacks something that keeps me playing. After testing Morrowind in the beta I decided to pass on purchasing it. I will be putting my money into Stormblood for the time.

gczombie
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gczombie

I have been playing Eso for the past month or so , and while the game in and of itself is amazingly beautiful with very cool stories , there are two things that I wish where different in Eso that would make the game absolutely perfect for me.
The 1st being hotbar switching .. while not that detrimental it sometimes gets very annoying… Just give us two normal hotbars would ya and call it a day.
The 2nd being no central AH, I know that’s a long running one but to me it’s like .. come on now .. it would make things so much easier to find and buy stuff.
Only other thing I can think of I wish they would add would be more endgame dungeons .. like 5 man’s or 4 man’s or whatnot .. one of the reasons I like FFxiv is the is plenty to do once the story is over .. and not just pvp crap.
Who knows what might come down the road in the future.

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Alex Willis

This is a well-articulated breakdown. Thanks, and I agree with the “play for story” recommendation, and would add “exploration” to that.

After One Tamriel, you have the opportunity to do all of the Faction Questlines, to say nothing of the zone quests. That’s…an absolutely huge amount of questing and story. Like, colossal, more than any MMO I’ve played. Before One Tamriel, it was just a regular MMO’s worth of faction questing and story. Nothing to write home about, but nothing bad. Here, you’ve got the three main Factions, progressive zone pick-up quests/story, Guilds, Expansion Zones…it’s huge. I’m mixing my storylines, because I like to move between zones, but I agree that it probably makes sense to stick to a faction zone until you’re done with that one, and move onto the next.

Exploration also feels organic and well-rewarded, especially if you’re into crafting. Mods/add-ons allow you to “map” the location of resources, which makes the first and second venture into a new zone a fun “completionist” venture to discover what is there for the taking. With the advent of player housing, crafting exploration is even more important, for people who want to build their own housing furnishings.

I’m just immensely pleased with ESO right now. I have some quibbles about the balance of changes to classes (NBs are laughably nerfed right now and that’s my main class), but it’s really starting to feel like a proper, huge, MMO world.

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Jeff

Good article…I think ESO has become a victim of it’s own success, the community in game and on the forum is little better than the LoL community, but after reading Matts producer letter that’s the community he wants, considered how much he praised them.

Community is everything in a MMO, and right now FFXIV has the market cornered on that, of course SE has some very strict conduct rules on the forums and in the game, and ESO ends up making the most toxic people community ambassadors.

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bobfish

This is largely why I play ESO solo now, outside of the daily dungeon.

possum440 .
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possum440 .

I have read that this game still does not have a set of Auction houses for everyone to sell. Reading this tells me only guilds rule the world of selling and only the richest guilds get the best places.

Pass.

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Alex Js.

You’re completely right about “if you didn’t really like Elder Scrolls Online prior to the launch of Morrowind and after the launch of One Tamriel, then you’re not going to like it now” part. I gave this new expansion a try, mostly because of fond memories of playing 2002’s single-player TES:Morrowind. And in my case it was just wasted money since everything that was terrible with ESO before this new expansion still remains and still greatly outweights any positives – game still runs like utter crap (mostly because of the ancient, awful game engine which doesn’t really “care” how powerful your GPU is or how many cores your CPU has), the overall color palette is still depressingly dull at every location, the character animations are still pretty poor and seeing a bunch of other live players doing same exact quests as you are in same exact area still breaks “immersion” like no other MMORPG (and I’ve played dozens of them) ever did.

Oh well, time to patiently wait for something better to appear (preferably not made by ZeniMax or Bethesda/EA)…

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Bhima Jenkins

I’ve tried 3 times now to like ESO, but something about the gameplay just doesn’t do it for me. I want to like this game, as it seems to have the elements I’m looking for in an MMO right now. But put together, it just doesn’t stick with me at all.

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Paragon Lost

Same here. For me one issue is that dread UI. Another is how unclear things are.

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bobfish

I actually find ESO’s reliance on the combat of the single player games to be it’s biggest weakness. The core gameplay experience, that thing you spend 90% of your time doing, is clunky and unsatisfying.

The game that is built around it is really good though.

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Fenna

has no open-world PvP system <- technically not true. Cyrodill is faction against faction pvp so techincaly a open-world pvp zone

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Paragon Lost

Yeah I was confused by his no pvp remark because I’d found myself having a bit of pvp by error due to how targeting works and how easy it is to accidently attack someone. Did something change recently where that doesn’t happen now?

Loyheta
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Loyheta

It has no open world pvp outside of one zone because it doesn’t allow multiple factions in the same zone (outside of cyrodil) unless they changed it since I last played

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snacky

I’m loving Morrowind and the entire experience. The narrative is engaging and the ambience is immersive. The mechanics of playing the Warden are so much fun for me that I now have three Wardens, each specialising in a different tree.

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Bryan Turner

$39.99 better offer up as much content as a WoW Expansion and if not at least bake in the preexisting DLCs.

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life_isnt_just_dank_memes

ESO, ToR and GW2 all fall into the same category for me and I enjoyed them all. GW2 is the anti-ESO/ToR. ToR/ESO have great story and dialog in spades. GW2 does not. GW2 is WAY better for everything outside of story. ArenaNet handled repeatable content in the instanced open world in the right way. Their story is pretty bad.

ESO has made strides to make their open world more accessible and should be commended for that. If GW2 had half the story/dialog prowess of those games it would have been aon another plane of excellence all its own. It also did so sans a sub that those games wanted to have but never earned and the customers let them know they didnt deserve to have them.

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Castagere Shaikura

ESO is a very casual game for me now. I have no interest in buying Morrowind because it isn’t really like the Morrowind i played for 2 years straight. The time line makes it not the same game i played. I won’t be sucked by Zenimax selling this as going back to Morrowind. I might buy it when it goes on sale for 10 bucks but i’m in no hurry to do so. And reading all the complaints about the class nerfs to hype up the Warden class is not helping.

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Maggie May

Having just recently lvled my sorcerer through the main quest for the dominion and running her through the pact quests in Deshaan , I am currently playing her in Dashaan and my new warden in Vvardenfell , they feel very much connected. Not to spoil anything it was interesting to see what happens when the Warden gets off Vardenfell. I am enjoying both parts but it just really just adds to what was already there. I do love the look of the place, the Ziggurats, towns and landscape and I have only just started going through Vardenfell, my main keeps calling me back, golden Elf butt that she is.

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angrakhan

My issue with ESO has been that it seems to lose its way once you hit 50. The level 1-50 journey is very enjoyable. I really enjoy that part of the game. However, once you hit 50 it’s like “now what?”. I can:

1) be something less than a speedbump for the pvp vets in Cyrodiil
2) bang my head against the wall trying to run normal dungeons with PUGs to get drops that are lower quality than the crafted CP160 stuff I bought
3) run through the other faction story lines to see those stories but basically get no gear upgrades in the process (assuming you’re already over 160 CP which I am).

All of it sounds like grind to me, so I find I quickly hit the ‘meh’ stage and move on. I’ll probably re-sub and play through the new content with the new Warden class since I have level 50’s of all the other classes at some point, but I imagine once I hit 50 it will be much the same.

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Sashaa

If I may,

1) You’re perfectly right. And it’s a good thing. Because skill actually matters in open pvp.
If it didn’t, then pvp would have no meaning. So embrace that learning curve.
2) I don’t get it. You can loot some of the best gear available in this game while doing normal dungeons. You just have to use crafting to make it from blue quality to purple or even gold quality. Everyone does that. That’s how most people I know get some of their best stuff.
Also, normal dungeons will train you in order to be able to do veteran dungeons, which are a really different experience.
3) You do get gear, and good one, this way. Some of the best gear available in this game is looted in areas like Deshaan (Plague Doctor set), Grahtwood (Green Pact set) and the like…
Also, the loot you don’t need, you can sell it, and make a lot of money in the process. Just have a look in merchants at how much some random dropped item sets sell for…

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Melissa McDonald

I keep thinking I should play this game. Wish I had lots and lots of free time.

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Daniel Miller

I think most people have the term chapter/expansion wrong. They assume it is complete. In this case worthborn, that dlc zone would of been an expansion. One and done.

Expansions by nature, have a job, new aeas, usually new lvl cap. But most importantly they have updates over twelve to 24 months. That is the difference with a DLC and expanson.

So I really wonder if later all those caves open up to explore and if more content would be added to the zone. Look at FFXI, FFXIV, WOW for expansions.

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Gamie Glasglow

Hadn’t played since original launch. Only Lasted a few weeks. Came back for Morrowind. Have now been in Morrowind since early access. Loving it. The game has gotten so much better.

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Robert Mann

Aye, ESO has turned into a casual game for me, very much so. Go play with friends for a bit, or go see a little story for a bit. It… still isn’t the best writing, but not being a complete lore fanatic it works well enough (at least in game it doesn’t tend to do really stupid and annoying things, which makes it better than most MMOs in game story.) I am, however, still looking for an excuse as to what happened to the map in a number of places over time!

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