The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind - Stripped
Updated: Mar 27
In this Stripped, we are going to review like it’s 2002 because Morrowind is here. Morrowind was the third installment of the Elder Scrolls series. Created by Bethesda this old-school RPG has won over and kept the hearts of old and young gamers alike with it’s grand-story, epic combat, and exceptional world-building. We are going to break down why Morrowind remains one of the best RPG’s of all time in many gamers hearts (mine included), and give it two review scores: One for current standards, and a rose colored one.
Morrowind blew gamers away when it came out. The world was so unlike anything people had seen before. Strange creatures roamed the world, unknown flora scattered the hills, and you were on your own almost immediately after creating your character. It’s imperative to know that this game was ground breaking. People cling to fond memories and will defend the game to the end because of what the game represents, as well as their own nostalgia. There had never been another game like Morrowind before, it was a pioneer.
Morrowind offers a vast, unexplored world filled to the brim with interesting locations, lore, and enemies to fight. There is no shortage of vampire dwellings, family tombs, caves, and dungeons to explore. Many of these places had their own unique quest-lines attached, or a story painted through the details. I can’t even give a number on how many times I was exploring a bandit cave and found notes explaining why they were there and what they were doing. Locations even linked to one another, sometimes you would find references to other locations hidden in a book or on someone's body, or even just by a name you recognize that was talked about somewhere else.
The world created by Bethesda was such a foreign landscape. When people played it for the first time it was awe inspiring. The Daedra and wildlife looked so intimidating. The first time I ever saw a Guar I
thought it was going to be a menace. It turns out they are just the Vvardenfell equivalent of an angry cow. Silt striders were your main way to traverse the land, and they only went to certain cities. The game forced you to explore it, and the player was usually rewarded for it. The family tombs did get repetitive, and a lot of them without a strong quest behind it got forgotten. But as a player you always wanted to explore them because the world did not scale to your level. It felt like a real world. You start as a whelp in a place full of dangerous things and struggle to the top of the food chain. An unarmored, weaponless man would pose a threat to a fully armored and equipped new character (I’m looking at you Foryn Gilnith!)
Players felt immersed in their surroundings, and this was one of the first games to do it so well. When I loaded up Morrowind (and sometimes when I still do!) I would get lost for hours perusing the countryside and planning routes on my map.
The combat in Morrowind hasn’t aged well unfortunately. The game uses the old school tabletop style of “dice roll combat”. Your player's offensive skill is matched against the enemy’s defensive skills to determine if you hit. If it was a hit your player’s weapon damage and offensive skill gets put against the strength of the enemies armor and defensive skills to see how much damage is done. At the time of release this system worked great, and to be honest it still works great if you play it for what it is. But games like Skyrim have spoiled us with 100% hit registry, our skills, weapons, and gear just determine how much damage we are going to do now.
Even as a long-time Morrowind fanboy I have to admit that having your player hit the enemy all the time is extremely satisfying. This kind of advancement in video game combat has proven Morrowind out of date.
One aspect of combat that I believe Morrowind still holds up in is their magic. Morrowind’s spell creator system allowed you to send out offensive projectiles, summon minions, and cloak yourself with invisibility all at the same time. Granted this took exceptionally high character skill to do but it was possible. From levitation, to charm, to invisibility, and even fire-lightning; If there's a problem then Morrowind has a spell to solve it. Elder Scrolls magic system was dumbed down from Morrowind into Oblivion, and then again even more drastically from Oblivion to Skyrim. The magic stood out in it’s prime, and I feel that the magic system holds up even more now than it did at release due to the streamlining and simplification Bethesda has done with future titles.
Stealth in Morrowind always felt like a kind of lame duck. It was fun, but in my own experience very weak compared to a Mage or Warrior archetype. Playing a Stealth oriented character had the hardest start. You relied on either a bow to kill from range, or a quick backstab. The problem is that in the beginning you are bound to miss almost all of your arrows and your sneak won’t be high enough to get close enough to anything for a quick backstab. Combat becomes a huge impediment that is a hard stop for many novice players. The game forces you to get high value items, and sell them to the scamp for enough money to train your skills to a respectable level from the master trainers.
Once you have gotten proficient in enough skills with the Rogue to actually hit something they do become quite effective. If you have leveled your sneak and want to go for the backstab damage you can inflict massive amounts of damage in the first strike with the right weapon. The Rogue archetype becomes viable at this point in the game but never “overpowered” like you will feel with a high level mage or berserker.
Morrowind’s combat is a fickle beast where it’s hard to find the “sweet spot” in difficulty as you play. Because of non-scaling enemies you can feel like you are severely underpowered when in fact you are hitting the right numbers. Novice players can feel like the game is impossible while veterans know how to beat it a little too easy. Because of this lack of a real middle-ground in the game it’s age is accentuated. Long time fans like me will still try to defend it but secretly inside, we know it sucks.
Morrowind’s graphics are by far the most common complaint of the game, and for good reason. The game is 15 years old! At the time, it was revolutionary, but the visual quality of games since then has far exceeded anything we could have expected at the time. The textures and low poly count make it easy to talk shit about Morrowind’s graphics and there isn’t much to say to defend it. You can install mods that will replace current textures and update the landscape, and that does help quite a bit. In fact, I can’t even play Morrowind without mods anymore. If you haven’t played it yet but are interested in it as a fan of RPG games definitely look for some good mods to enhance the experience. I always install MGSO and Morrowind Rebirth, look into each of them to see if it’s something you would be as well.
It can be hard to play a game that you don’t like aesthetically, but my advice with Morrowind is always to try and push through it. Because once you start getting into the plethora of lore and connecting to the story you’ll be hooked!
Here is where Morrowind really shines even 15 years after release. The story is about a prophetic figure in Morrowind’s culture, the Nerevarine. The Nerevarine is the reincarnation of Indoril Nerevar sent to fight Dagoth Ur and right the wrongs done in the past. Through the Blades, the player ends up realizing he (or she) is the Nerevarine. You then go on about a series of trials and tribulations to prove it.
Morrowind’s story is the fantastic love child of many developers. There are connecting events all over the world. Related texts can be found in caves and tombs, NPCs who can give extra information that
are only known about by exploring, and the main quest NPCs all support a massive story that most players only know a part of. To really understand Morrowind you have to read the books, listen (read) to NPCs, and connect them to what you are being told by people like Cosades and Vivec.
If you like reading than this game is definitely for you because there is a lot to read, and most of it’s very interesting. Morrowind set up the following titles up in terms of lore and a big part of why I still find Oblivion and Skyrim so interesting is the references and lore connections to Morrowind.
A big part of why Morrowind was such a success is the freedom the game allows. You can create a character to suit the kind of playstyle you want. Between 10 races, 21 classes, and the ability to create your own custom class there is a lot of freedom granted to you in character creation. The faces unfortunately are pre rendered and there are only a few of them as well as only a few hairstyles but you’ll be fully armored in no time.
As soon as the character is created you are open to the whole world. You are given guidance by Sellus Gravius but you don’t even need to do what he says to complete the story line. I always do, but you can walk right out of Seyda Neen without doing a damn thing there and start exploring the vast world Morrowind offers.
The highest tier gear isn’t restricted with level. You can find Daedric and Glass gear at level 1 if you know where to look. Usually it’s guarded by some high level badass enemy but a great example is that you find Glass armor (The Strongest Light Armor) in Ghostgate. You can just walk into the building and with some good sneaking actually get the
armor at a relatively low level. A lot of other games won’t even spawn good gear until you’ve achieved a certain level, but not Morrowind.
All around Morrowind is still one of the best RPGs out there in my opinion. It has so many great features and is only hindered by it’s aesthetic value. If you mod out the game and improve the textures it’s really not that hard on the eyes, and best of all it’s 15 years old so just about any computer out there can run it no problem. If you are looking for a lengthy RPG with a fantastic story and a complex magic system look no further. Morrowind will keep you busy for hours.
Current Stripped Rating - 5/10.
Bugs and Unfortunate graphics keep this game from being great in today's view of current games. If it was released today I wouldn’t have nearly the kind of respect for it as I currently do. It’s been a long time since Morrowind was released when it shows. The only thing that really holds up is it’s story and magic.
Rose Colored - 9.5/10.
When this game came out I was in awe. I could play for hours upon hours amazed at all the little things it offered. The quests were seemingly endless, interesting, and some even funny. At it’s release Morrowind was the top of the line, all the good memories I have were well founded.