As a person who sunk oh-so-many hours into The Elder Scrolls Online on PC during 2015, it is interesting to return to the game both on a console and playing through the first released ‘chapter’ (read: extended DLC): Morrowind. In doing so, much of what made the game great is retained. However, the flaws which I perhaps glossed over in my memory hamper an enjoyable addition to the Elder Scrolls Online and wider Elder Scrolls canon.
Fans of the Elder Scrolls franchise will be happy to hear that Morrowind’s backdrop of Vvardenfell has been beautifully re-realised, bringing the locale up to 2017 standards without sacrificing any of the atmosphere created by the 2002 original. Casting aside the typically medieval European fantasy setting found in Skyrim and Oblivion, Vvardenfell derives its influences largely from Middle Eastern culture, albeit with giant fungi and giant insect taxis are thrown into the mix for good measure. This alternate take on fantasy means travelling the four corners of the map as the story dictates is anything but a chore.
The story itself is also a solid addition to this new chapter. Involving great houses and god-kings, the main quest has a suitably epic feel to it that is typical of the Elder Scrolls franchise. As a longtime ESO fan, it was particularly nice to see a personal favourite make a return in Naryu Virian. A Dark Elf assassin introduced in the base Ebonheart Pact storyline, she helped form a tangible link with the other regions of the game while easing into the Game of Thrones-esque complexities of the story. Issues of hit-and-miss voice acting remain from previous Elder Scrolls games, however, and hamper what is otherwise a compelling story.
Sidequests are also aplenty in ESO:M, something that fans of MMORPGs will be more than familiar with. What is unfortunately also a mainstay of the genre is that many of these side quests take the form of fetch quests. Being asked to collect ‘X’ amount of a certain object to satisfy an anonymous NPC works to take away from the immersion. On a second playthrough, the fact I clicked through all the dialogue just to get to the point where I get the XP from completing many of the quests available says a lot. This isn’t to say that all of the quests are like this. There are what I would call ‘regional’ quests (think of the Jarl quests in Skyrim) which help flesh out the main cities in the game and add plenty of character to each. Overall, the side quests available are largely hit and miss, with the misses made ever more obvious by the hits.
Thankfully, while the quality of the questing varies, the gameplay itself helped keep me entertained throughout. For those not familiar with ESO, the class you choose at the beginning of the game determines the skills you can learn throughout the game. While this may seem a daunting choice to be given right at the start, there is enough variance in each class to allow you to make the character how you want. For example, my main throughout my time playing ESO has been a Dark Elf Dragon Knight called Thados Damori (I get quite into the character creation which, by the way, is extensive). Drawn to this class because of its use of fire magic, Thados has since become proficient in the dual wield skill line, as well as trying his hand at healing and tanking. This variety available in the game may well be ESO:M’s strongest point and means each character is unique.
New to ESO:M is also the new Warden class. Harnessing the power of nature, this new class is designed to specialise in all three party roles: healing, damage dealing and tanking. In my relatively brief playthrough of this class (I’ll never betray my Dragon Knight heritage) I had a blast summoning my animal companions in combat while drawing healing powers from nature itself. Whilst fun, a word of warning for anyone pursuing playing the Warden class at the highest level: Imbalances within the class hamper it at the higher levels, meaning that if you’re looking for competitive play the Warden class is not the best idea. Hopefully, this is something ZeniMax Online Studios addresses as it is a genuinely enjoyable new addition to the series.
The soundtrack to ESO:M continues in its predecessors’ footsteps in providing a beautiful score for transporting you through this beautifully realised world. From the epic beats of the main Elder Scrolls theme to the tranquil score that plays as you casually travel Vvardenfell, the soundtrack truly adds to the immersion and is definitely a worthy addition to my Elder Scrolls playlist on Spotify.
Playing through ESO:M is an interesting experience. The strengths of the series are clearly on show here. The main quest lines, the music, the setting and the gameplay are all high quality and provide enough to keep me coming back regularly to explore Vvardenfell further. However, many quests available are mainly padded out with cheap fetch quests that truly break the immersion. I feel this might be an unfair criticism as the wider Elder Scrolls franchise has suffered from this since forever, but it definitely detracted from the overall experience. Regardless, the positives certainly outweigh the negatives in this new chapter and ESO:M provides a greatly enjoyable addition to the Elder Scrolls franchise as a whole.
This copy of The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind was provided by Bethesda European PR. Andrew Evans spent 7 hours gallivanting in Vvardenfell