Despite The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind’s modern trappings, it is proof that nostalgia in gaming isn’t restricted to Nintendo’s NES and SNES Classic consoles, or a slew of high-definition re-releases that have peppered this generation of consoles. It’s also about bringing back familiar places and settings in current context.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim was one of the high points of the previous console generation, and it's been re-released time and again since it first came out in 2011. For many, it was their first introduction to the world of Elder Scrolls. But many long-time fans of the series will tell you that The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was the best single-player entry in the long-running franchise. Well, it's back now, but rather than do a straight up remaster, Bethesda opted to make it a part of The Elder Scrolls Online, its two-year-old massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), as an expansion pack.
What this means is adventurers who buy the pack can explore the region of Vvardenfell which was playable in the original Morrowind. With it comes a new class, player versus player mode called Battlegrounds, and the Halls of Fabrication trial, a special player versus enemy instance that joins the other five trials in the game. But the biggest draw is Bethesda’s promise of 30 hours of quests and story content.
The plot of The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind has you helping a god reclaim his powers that are slowly being drained from him. Along the way you’ll visit volcanic Ashlands, the vibrant Vivec City, and forests filled with giant mushrooms.
Although the game is two years old now, the expansion still feels fresh, thanks to Vvardenfell being a wildly different place compared to the rest of the universe, which helps offset the slow narrative build-up. There are some intriguing characters such as the god Vivec, and Archcanon Tarvus, a high priest who aids you in your quest, who has some of the best lines in the game.
However, most interactions with The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind’s many citizens come down to simply listening to them or reading text. The lack of improvements in how lore or its many questlines are delivered is a distinct throwback to simpler times, and not in a good way.
It still manages to be immersive though, and many of the missions are remarkably entertaining. The game pulls you in thanks to The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind’s unique lore.
Unfortunately, core gameplay also feels dated. Set in first-person, it has the same floaty feel that Skyrim and other Elder Scrolls titles have always suffered from. Also, with a substantial portion of The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind’s content being single-player, it does feel odd that you have to login and be online. One wonders if this would be better served as a standalone game itself, particularly when you consider that it is on the shorter side when compared to other MMORPG expansions, such as Final Fantasy XIV’s Stormblood, or World of Warcraft: Legion.
At the same time, when compared to other Elder Scrolls experiences it’s a little more constrictive due to the fact that you’ll be stuck to a specific character class for most of your playthough.
Speaking of which, we checked out the game’s new Warden class. Being exclusive to the Morrowind expansion, it’s the game’s fifth class joining the Templar, Dragon Knight, Sorcerer, and Nightblade. The Warden has three progression trees: Animal Companions allows you to do more damage, Green Balance ensures that you and your friends are always healed up, while Winter’s Embrace lets you soak up enemy attacks.
None of them particularly stand out and their powers aren’t visually impressive either. The highly advertised bear companion skill isn’t all it is chalked up to be either. It just attacks foes that are hit with a heavy attack. There’s little else in way of control over it. Though useful against waves of enemies, the absence of proper direction feels like a missed opportunity. Nonetheless, thanks to its variety in skills, Warden does end up being the game’s first true jack of all trades class, managing roles such as playing medic or dishing out blow after blow with aplomb. That's useful when you consider that the player versus player Battlegrounds mode isn’t as balanced as it could be, matching low level players with those who have seen everything the game has to offer. Having access to different abilities ended up increasing chances of surviving when you’re up against more experienced players.
These missteps aside, The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind is worth checking out if you’re looking for a fix of single-player Elder Scrolls adventuring like Skyrim, especially as there's no mainline sequel expected for quite some time.
Rating (out of 10): 7
We played a review copy of The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind on the PS4. The game is available for $40 the PS4 (Rs. 3,162), Xbox One (Rs. 2,670), and PC (Rs. 2,670) and requires The Elder Scrolls Online to play.