In 2001 I walked into what was then an EB Games with my Dad to get me a reward for having a good report card. This was a ritual in which I was allowed to pick whatever I wanted, within a certain price range. A game was usually my first pick, seeing as I had recently been given an Xbox for my birthday (that I did and still do consider as mine despite the fact that I had to share it with my brother). I browsed the new Xbox games, looking for anything that seemed interesting, and a certain box caught my eye. I picked it up and had a look at the back and decided yes, this is a game I want (I also got the guidebook).
This game was The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, the first 3D TES game, and still not only my favourite TES game, but also a game that has resolutely stayed in my top 3 games of all time along with Prince of Persia: Sands of Time and Knights of the Old Republic over the past 17 years. My first foray into the island of Vvardenfell was both exhilarating and strange. It was a decidedly unfamiliar world, dotted with more familiar facets, like the imperial buildings of Seyda Neen and Pelagiad. I was much better at staying up until stupid AM when I was 10 than I am now (somehow) and there was many a night I was up far past my bedtime playing my new game. It didn’t help that at that time I only had access to the Xbox one night a week and every other weekend.
Morrowind is a glitchy, wonderful, beautiful game. It looks outdated now, but hasn’t lost the queer charm it held for me as a child, and mods like the MGSO compilation and Morrowind Rebirth breathe new life into an old classic. Morrowind had a freedom that’s lost in newer Elder Scrolls games. There was no compass and therefore no handholding, and in a time before GameFaqs and internet walkthrough were really an established tool, guidebooks were still essential tools. I still have that guidebook, as beaten up and well-loved as it is, and remember sitting with it spread open across my lap, consulting regional maps so I could find that one elusive cavern I needed for a quest, still hidden from me despite NPC and guidebook instructions telling me where to go.
It’s true that some aspects of Morrowind’s gameplay left much to be desired, the combat being the number one gripe. Though modern mods have done something to remedy this (like making it so that if you physically hit an enemy you actually hit them in the game, rather than leaving it to a random dice roll like in vanilla) my initial run through the game (and every one I’ve done after) was spent flailing away with whatever weapon I had and hoping that the other guy died first. But Morrowind also had a rich and creative spell-making and enchanting system that’s severely lacking in the later games. I used this to my advantage to make a drain skill spell that let me drain a selected skill down to 0 so I could not only get training in it for free but also bypass the 100 level limit (I ended up with a level 150 Nord with 100 in all attributes and skills, not counting buffs coming from gear and otherwise; I was a god).
Morrowind also had it’s funny moments, like the Bosmer who falls out of the sky near Seyda Neen. I initially just nicked all his stuff to sell for money, like I did in practically every other house in that town and Balmora as well, since NPCs would just stand there and yell at you), but when I decided to try out those Scrolls of Icarian Flight (the reference went right over my pre-teen head) I was met with the pleasant and unexpected result of being launched straight into the air and then dying once the spell wore off. I had to reload my last save, which was probably quite a ways back, but I was too busy laughing my little head off to be annoyed.
I’m fond of Oblivion and Skyrim and I’m still convinced that if they were combined with Morrowind the perfect fantasy RPG would come from it, but no Elder Scrolls or even RPG experience I’ve had had managed to really beat Morrowind. 17 years on and I’ll still go back to it, for one reason or another. Recently I started a new game just because I wanted to make a spear-wielding Khajiit hunter in addition to my current Dunmer warrior. The most annoyed I ever was with the game was when, while playing the game of the year edition, I would occasionally glitch through the worldspace and fall forever. I just learned to save more.
Oh, and don’t forget the absolutely amazing soundtrack by Jeremy Soule
Truly, Morrowind is a gem of a game, and something that every TES, RPG and fantasy lover should play at least once in their life.