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