It's been more than ten years since I first stepped off the boat onto the rickety docks of Seyda Neen, and yet when I started Morrowind for the first time in years the other day, it was just like coming home.
Recently I've just turned 28 and I was feeling nostalgic for my relative youth. So I reinstalled a game that I loved when I was at college aged 16. At the time myself and my friends must have each invested at least a hundred hours each into the third Elder Scrolls game, the first of the series any of us had played. While I loved the game to pieces, I never really got that far into it, beind a teenager at the time, I was always too impatient to fully explore the game. Now I'm at least marginally more mature, I wanted to see if the rose tinted glasses of hindsight had made me think the game was so much better than it actually was.
Whilst the vanilla game does look fairly clunky, the Morrowind Overhaul mod works wonders and makes the game a thing of beauty again. Stepping off the prison boat on the swampy south coast of Vvardenfell, I created my character, an Imperial Knight named Ulath.
The first thing that struck me about coming back to Morrowind after my time with Obilvion and Skyrim, was how unforgiving the combat seemed. I was used to being able to grab anything to hand and lay waste to my enemies, but Morrowind is far more old school than that. No skill in marksmanship? Good luck hitting anything with a bow. But in the game as with life, practice makes perfect, so don't let that stop you. Just don't complain when you keep missing, you N'wah.
Having said that, I do understand peoples frustration that you can 'miss' a target that you're clearly pointing directly at, but once you invest in the world, it's a small sin, and not one that I even notice after a few hours.
There are so many little things that I had totally forgotten about this game. The way your kill tally shows up, carved in the back of your shield when you block an attack. The echoed sounds of a Nix Hound or Betty Netch out in the wilds. My favourite thing about this game, however, is how organic it feels. It makes you work for things.
Making my way to Vivec I did a few odd quests on the way. Helping a damsel find the dashing highway man who had stolen her heart along with her jewels, stopping a murderer who was spilling blood in the holy city. I took a few quests for the Fighters Guild, one of which needed me to travel to Ald'ruhn, quite a distance on foot. Luckily, thanks to my restoration skill, I was also a novice of the Mages Guild so I teleported across to their local chapter, thinking that I'd be back in Vivec before I knew it to turn in for my reward. Instead I ended up spending the next several days questing for House Redoran and the Imperial Legion.
Whilst Skyrim let you fast travel to any location you'd previously visited, Morrowind forces you to walk, or at best use boats, Silt Striders and magic to move from one fixed point to another. I can see how some people would find that irritating, especially given the games incredibly slow movement speed at lower levels, but with a game world as rich and unique as this, I don't see it as any hardship. Every region and town feels different from each other. And they all make sense. Towns in the scorched and sandy interior of the island often extend far underground, where it is so much cooler, and the dust from the sand storms which often blow through town, will struggle to build up on the low angled roofs.
There's a new story and sight waiting behind every hill, be it the nude Nord riveted to the spot, or the traveller who asks you to fish her ring from a pond, only to attack you with her nearly invisible accomplice.
In short, Morrowind is a game that makes you work hard for your enjoyment. I've played a little over 350 hours of Skyrim, and while I enjoyed the game, I've never finished the main quest, or indeed gotten a character to level 60. Everything is handed to you. Looking for a long lost artefact no one has seen in centuries? It's right here, in this chest.
Want to be the Arch Mage but prefer to stab people? Go ahead, you only need to cast one spell.
Yet in Skyrim's elder brother, each guild has certain requirements that must be met before you can progress, and while the roads are sign posted, you'll need to find your own way to those places that aren't on the map. Following directions can be a little annoying and fiddly, but as I've said, when you're walking around a world with as much wonder and variety as Vvardenfell, it's hardly a chore.
So far I've put about twelve hours into this latest play though and I've only just hit level three, because Morrowind only lets you level up when you improve your major skills. Making me work harder for my levels is making me all the more eager to earn them. I know I've bearly scratched the service of this classic, and I've not even glanced at the two expansions yet, but while I wander the Ashlands or the West Gash region, I wonder why I ever left this place in the first place.
I'd love to say more but I need to go and complete the Path of the Pilgrim.
Catch you around Outlander. Watch out for the Cliff Racers.