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Return to Vvardenfell in The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind

08 Jun 2017

In the three years since the release of The Elder Scrolls Online, Bethesda’s massively-multiplayer online take on their award-winning game franchise has matured considerably. After dumping the game’s subscription-only access for a free-to-play model, for the Tamriel Unlimited relaunch, the game is now open for both casual players and hardcore fans alike.

Casual players opting for free-to-play have the opportunity to invest as little or as much time and money in their experience. Hardcore fan paying a monthly subscription get access to all the premium downloadable content as part of their plan.

Morrowind is the sixth DLC expansion and the only one that can’t be purchased using the game’s crown points. Only available as a standalone game or via digital upgrade, just like Tamriel Unlimited, Morrowind is intended as a soft relaunch, providing a jumping in point for new players. Veteran players also get to (re)visit the island of Vvardenfell, an iconic location in Elder Scrolls lore.

Seyda Neen

A profound sense of déjà vu greeted me as I stepped upon the shores of Vvardenfell for the first time in over a decade. It was on this island that adventurers found themselves stranded in 2002’s The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. And it’s this nod to what has gone before that makes The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind such a big deal.

My first port of call on the Tamriel mainland back when I started playing ESO back in 2014 was Bal Foyen, in the southern part of the province of Morrowind and included in the original release. The new expansion, however, expands the playable area of Morrowind to include, Vvardenfell- The Black Isle, home of the Dark Elves.

New players are greeted with a new intro movie offering some background on this new land added by the Morrowind expansion. After a brief tutorial sequence player will find themselves disembarking from a ship moored in the settlement of Seyda Neen, in a sequence not unlike that of the beginning of The Elder Scrolls III.

Players pining for the game’s old starting locations can catch a boat back to Bleakrock Isle or wherever their character would have originally spawned. Players with characters already adventuring through Tamriel will find, with the expansion, that the Seyna Neen wayshrine (i.e. fast-travel point) is now available to them after registered Morrowind against their ESO account.

Volcano

The first thing I did as I got off the ship dock in Seyna Neen was look at the water. Back in 2002, playing The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, this location was the first time that I’d seen anything resembling realistically rendered water. Of course, the visuals of ESO are a lot more refined. To be honest, the graphics are breathtaking. Continuous improvements and optimisations to the game engine means that, even though ESO is three years old, it can still stand shoulder to shoulder with recently released AAA games.

Whilst the game is 100% Elder Scrolls, I still have the same issue with the game as I had with it when I first played it back in 2014. The Elder Scrolls games, like the original Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim, work by making the layer the hero – the central character in the story. Bethesda supremo, Todd Howard echoed this in a response to a question asking about multiplayer modes. Playing the Morrowind expansion on the preview server before release was, for me, the perfect Elder Scrolls experience. Just me and the worlds, with little of no other players. Since launch, areas are now full of players all carrying out the same quests. Hordes of players are waiting their turn to kill the mobs and claim the loot. In time, the community of players will disperse again, across the huge game world. But right now, it’s a little silly.

The above is a problem that MMOs have had going all the way back to the likes of Everquest. It just a little more grating with ESO, as it looks so similar to the superb Skyrim and Oblivion and is otherwise a great game.

Fast travel

The Elder Scrolls Online has masses of content for players to enjoy, solo or in a group. The Morrowind expansion adds the biggest new land mass of any of the game’s expansions. It’s packed with new quests, the expansions main story being a quest to save the city of Vivec from meteor! There’s a new character class, enabling you to play as a Warden, a new companion and the Ashlands player-verses-player battleground.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind is the perfect jumping in point for new players and offers up a fantastic new region for veterans. The free-to-play model is well implemented, never forcing casual players to part with cash in order to get the most out of the game. Of all the MMOs out there, as a family man with less time than I’d like to invest in this sort of game ESO is the only one that I continue to return to.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind is available now on Windows PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.

Verdict: 8.5/10

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