By Nathaniel Hawk, Guest Blogger
Most people nowadays are satisfied with the games that come out each year. They look pretty, aren’t too difficult (most of them anyways), and normally don’t take up too much of your time to play and beat. However, most modern games lack a certain depth and personality that some of the older games have. While many people would be quick to point out that older games are outdated, time consuming, and not user friendly, there are some old games that still have a strong (and growing!) following. One such role playing game would be The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. For those looking for a game without sex, gore, and with very little swearing, Morrowind might be for you.
Morrowind was the third installment in The Elder Scrolls series of games (by Bethesda), a predecessor to the much-loved Skyrim (2011), as well as Oblivion (2006/2007), games. It came out for PC in 2002; the Game of the year edition, which included all the expansions, came out the next year. It’s been more than ten years since its launch and in game years, that’s a long time—sort-of like “dog years” to today’s generation. However, Morrowind is a game that is still played widely today, and in my opinion it deserves all the attention it’s been getting.
While Morrowind may lack the flashy graphics and voice acting that most games today have, it has something that many modern games lack. Morrowind has a certain depth and feel to it that drags you in and leaves you wanting more. It has a mystery about it that makes you want to understand it. The “vanilla” game—the original game without modifications (“mods”)–itself has so much content that even though I’ve been playing it since 2002, I’m still discovering new things. However, there are more reasons why I think you should give this game a whirl.
Graphics and Gameplay Modifications
The Morrowind community has created mods for the game since its release, and they are still making them even now as 2014 fades into the New Year. These mods can add new quests, new areas, and more content to extend game play. Of all these mods, there are a few that stand out that make Morrowind easily comparable to any modern day game.
Tamriel Rebuilt is a massive mod project run by a very large group of Morrowind lovers that aims to add the mainland of Morrowind into the game, as the game makers originally intended. Not only did the developers lack the time to code it all in, but only very few systems would be able to run such a game at that time anyway; so, they limited the game to the island of Vvardenfell. Tamriel Rebuilt is about as professional a job as you could ask for from a game studio, yet it was done for free by fans. The levels of detail and content, and the attention to accuracy and lore, that went into this mod is simply astounding. While it isn’t finished yet, it can still be used. They are making amazing progress on it, however, and when it’s done it will add a whole new level to Morrowind the likes of which has never been seen before. It will most likely cause Morrowind to jump back into the spotlight of the gaming world for a time.
Another mod that works well with Morrowind is Morrowind Graphics and Sound Overhaul (MGSO), which aims to bring Morrowind’s graphics and sounds to the modern day gaming level that we’ve come to expect. It’s not so much a single mod as it is a mod compilation, which is installed via a program made to make it easier. While this mod is not necessary, I do recommend it for those of you who simply “can’t get past the old graphics.” I must warn you, however, that it does not cover mainland Morrowind, or other modded-in land masses. Unless this mod is ever updated, it will only apply to the original (unmodded) Morrowind, which is probably fine for most players.
Here’s a short video showing the original Morrowind graphics and then the MGSO modded graphics. Pretty amazing!
Another mod to consider, especially if you don’t get MGSO, is Morrowind Graphics Extender. It enhances the default Morrowind graphics and improves the view distance. This keeps the game closer to its original state while tweaking a few things to make it more “bearable” for today’s gaming community.
While not technically a “mod,” there is a project going on that aims to replace the Morrowind engine with a far superior one that will increase modding capability, stability, and performance in the game of Morrowind. This engine, called OpenMW, will bring the game to a whole new level and will allow for much more to be done to the game to give it a true overhaul.
Life and Atmosphere Mods
A lore friendly mod set that aims to immerse you further into Morrowind is Scenic Travel by Abot. His mods allow the player to take real time trips on boats, silt striders, water striders (if you have Tamriel Rebuilt), and gondolas. Abot’s mods work with a variety other landscape-changing mods and make the game feel more alive, as the boats and such are always active. He has created other mods that allow you to ride Guars, pack animals akin to mini T-Rexes, as well! A few other of his mods add birds, fish, and fishing to your game. These may be a bit lore breaking, but I don’t see how anyone would find these objectionable except, perhaps, the most rabid purist.
Animated Morrowind and Morrowind Comes Alive both add non-playable characters (NPCs) to Morrowind, doing various tasks basically living their lives as normal. They add a feeling of life to the cities and towns in Morrowind that it didn’t have before. You can use either mod, or both at the same time, to greatly improve your games towns and cities. Animated Morrowind, however, creates less lag issues for me.
If you play Morrowind already, have you ever wondered why there are no children? I have, and I was curious to find out if anyone had made a mod to add them. And yes, there is a mod made by a group on Emma’s Morrowind that adds children to the game, complete with voices, their own dialogue, and quests. With another add-on you get the ability to adopt a family of sorts. This may seem like an edgy mod since it doesn’t change Morrowind’s “all characters can die” format (unlike many modern games where children can’t be killed), but the mod gets around this by having the children teleport away from danger (also—and this was not intentionally coded in–you will be plagued by glitches if you attack children!). This mod does not extend to Tamriel Rebuilt yet, but it may in the future once that mod is finished.
The main story of Morrowind is deep and exciting, but the end seems like the developers may have rushed it together a bit. Well, there is a mod that sees to that issue as well, called Darknut’s Greater Dwemer Ruins Volume One (volume two expands non-end related Dwemer ruins). It adds more challenge, game play, and possibilities to the end-game Dwemer fortresses. I won’t go into detail so as not to spoil the game for you, but Darknut’s mod certainly fits in well with the main quest line!
Other Mods Worth Checking Out
There are several more mods that one could add to the game that are both lore friendly and fun, but to go into detail about them all would take far too long. I have, however, listed them here for you.
- Ashlander Tent Mod
- Carry Your Bedroll
- Necessities of Morrowind (NOM)
- Vivec Voice Add-on
- Almalexia Voice Add-on
- Dagoth Gares Voice Add-on
- Dagoth Ur Voice Add-on
- Companion’s Hurd and Beryl
- Sotha Sil Expanded
- Project Tamriel’s Cyrodiil
With the variety and scope of the mods available for this game, and the ongoing productivity of the Morrowind modding community, Morrowind can easily overshadow many contemporary games in terms of content alone. Once all is said and done, Morrowind almost feels like a recently completed game that that was worked on with care. There are many other mods out there that I did not list that could very well improve your game, but honestly they aren’t needed. Also, a good handful of Official Bethesda Plug-ins are available for free on their main site, and I recommend you check them out.
All in all Morrowind is a great game, and you might be able to find it for as little as $10. While it may not be as flashy as Skyrim, with these mods it can certainly compete. In terms of downright feeling like you live there, it wins hands down. It is an old game that survives to this very day, and should be played anyone who is a true role playing game or Elder Scrolls fan.
Nathaniel has this play-through blog if you’re interested in knowing more: Gabe’s Adventures in Morrowind. His Morrowind LP trailer is below. Vicki Priest contributed to this article.