First Impressions on Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind
Pros: Visually stunning environment, new Warden class added, exciting combat, very story-driven
Cons: Sticking to the main quest line leads to long bouts of gameplay lacking action
We were granted an early access to Zenimax/Bethesda’s The Elder Scrolls Online newest “chapter” Morrowind, they’re calling it a chapter over an expansion, but we don’t want you to underestimate the sheer size and scale of this new addition. A huge fan favourite and the key location in the single player RPG The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, it’s been somewhere that fans have wanted to revisit for a long time and now they can, albeit the timeline of TESO is 700 years prior to what they would have seen in TES III, but this in itself adds some very poignant moments as players can see the “what will be” great city of Vivec City that is currently under construction. It’s a chapter added for the fans of the franchise for sure, but one that all fans of the game can enjoy.
Upon entering the game players can either visit the region of Vvardenfell, home to the dark elves, with their pre-existing characters or create brand new ones, with the previous addition of the One Tamriel update the enemies players face scale to their level (as well as scaling to the groups level if a new level 1 player groups up with their level 50 friend). Unlike other MMORPG expansions which typically add end-game content for those that have already burned through all the other stuff, Morrowind is for everyone and by starting here first you can then transport to Tamriel and continue all the other quests from the very beginning. It’s a pretty amazing way of doing things and, in all honesty, should be the standard for MMORPGs!
For us we made a new character, the new Warden class, who was in touch with nature and able to use animal companions and the healing spirits of the land as well as controlling ice and frost; with a new character and even a few hours of play it’s difficult to get a full gauge on the class as we didn’t have full access to all their abilities. With our early access pack we equipped our exclusive Warden costume, summoned our Dwarven War Dog pet and jumped into the tutorial. The tutorial is skipable for those that aren’t interested in learning the basics of the game, but it is also an introduction to the new zone and how you got there (basically you are attacked by a slaver ship and then escape); it’s not tied into the main campaign story-arc so those choosing to give it a miss aren’t missing out on story, but it’s a pretty cool experience that ends with you burning some slaver captain’s ship to pieces.
To the mainland and the first thing we did was open up our three free treasure maps for the zone, the maps are literal sketches of a point of view somewhere on the island, that once you find the location players will find a nearby mound to dig up some loot. It is possibly one of the best ways to do a treasure hunt system that we’ve seen in an MMORPG, unfortunately we had no idea about any of the locations on Vvardenfell so couldn’t really go digging anything up!
The quests, as ever with The Elder Scrolls Online, come thick and fast and it wasn’t too long until we were delving into an underground tomb filled with Daedra (the main bad guys from the Oblivion realm). It was a public dungeon area with a couple of people inside, but we managed to break away and do our own fighting, cutting through the various opponents. Having not played TESO for a while, and this being the same new player experience as anyone completely fresh to the game, we have to say that the combat was remarkably involved with all sorts of powerful spells being cast by enemies, particularly some dark mage like NPC that would cast an area fireball, as well as a travelling fireball (both of which you can try and dodge away from) as well as duplicating himself; it was very action packed and required a lot of concentration. The back end of the tomb faced us off against another heavy hitting boss type enemy and some goons, as it was our first real boss we weren’t too concerned as early game content is generally pretty easy to solo.
We got absolutely smashed to pieces. The bosses ability to heal his little minions caught us off guard, along with the fact he hit like a truck and soaked up a lot of damage; the result was us dying and then respawning on the spot, resetting the entire fight. Fortunately just in time for those other players who had been in the area to pass by and collectively we took all the enemies down and fought our way to the end of the tomb without even needing to be grouped up.
The quests lead us around the area, to a new settlement (the previously mentioned Vivec City) and it is incredible at how detailed the world is, particularly given that most of the areas are just for setting the tone and immersion with no real quest orientated purpose; the developers and art team have done an absolutely fantastic job with bringing this new location to life. The questing was a little hit and miss, from our swashbuckling tutorial and our dungeon delving first mission, we then got a few run around and pickup quests that slowed things a little, lots of story and narrative content, which is important to the game but when you’re just testing it for a few hours it was unfortunate for us at least that the action wasn’t back to back. That said, this was us just following the main quest line, there are tons of side quests all around the settlement, from wanted posters and bulletins to NPCs seeking assistance; so if you stray from the beaten path (which is pretty much a staple of The Elder Scrolls games) there’s plenty to whet your appetite.
A really fun experience and an absolute visual triumph of a “chapter”, anyone who hasn’t played The Elder Scrolls Online, or not checked it out in some time, really should give it a another go as so much has changed with the title to make it generally more accommodating for players and those with different playstyles. Whilst our time in Vvardenfell was only a short one it was very enjoyable and we can only imagine that further into the depths of this volcanic island there is going to be some truly great content.