It has now been a year since Bethesda Softworks released their gem of a game - Morrowind. This third iteration of the Elder Scrolls series added a new dimension of open-endedness to role-playing games, and since its release the XBOX version was added, an expansion by the name of Tribunal was made, and very recently the second expansion hit the stores, this time named Bloodmoon. The two first games took place in the great island of Vvardenfell, where you first came by boat, and after a while discovered that you were the Nerevarine, a god-like person who according to the prophecy would save the world from the nasty goons of hell, or at least some seriously bad place. In this expansion you again head by boat to a new, much smaller island, by the name of Solstheim. The Empire, which you should be very familiar with from Vvardenfell, has established a new Ebony mining colony - so you decide to check out what they’re up to. Once there, things start going bad, so you need to sort out troubles - which revolve around Werewolves, ancient creatures, and a few Ã¼ber-monsters who you will definitely want to rid the world of.
There are quite a few differences in this expansion compared to the two first games, which pretty much shared the same monsters and scenery. This time you’ll run through a whole lot of forests, hide in tombs when the snowstorms are at their worst, but as usual clean dangerous dungeons, be chased by packs of monsters, and stumble across impressive treasures. The main quest will take you to an interesting tribe named the Skaal, which are very much like the Scandinavian Vikings, and it should be particularly interesting for Norwegians like me because many of the names and phrases are used, or have been used here. These guys live in harmony with nature, so understandably they don’t really like the colonists who have been killing the animals, making castles, and generally messing things up. Even though finishing the main quest is what most people will want to do, you can also disregard it completely and do what you feel like. One of the biggest new features this time around, which actually was included in the Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall, is the ability to become a werewolf. You get the extra strengths of doing so, and basically make life a living hell for peaceful colonists. What’s important is that you turn into a werewolf when no one’s watching you, because if you don’t then people won’t ever talk to you again, which pretty much screws up everything.
The open-endedness of the two first games isn’t as well implemented this time as it was before, because besides the main quest there are not many other quests to do. Since this new island about a forth of the size of Vvardenfell - you won’t find that many diverse kinds of people, who would offer quests and when you think about it it’s a bit odd how none of the many races of the main island have moved. I guess we should just appreciate that so much on the island is brand new.
I personally hoped there would be a lot new items in this new expansion, because the quality of the prior high-end items has been very good, but I particularly craved a better set of light armor, since that’s what my wood elf assassin uses. I was disappointed. Mid- and low-end characters should definitely like the Nordic item set, and maybe even some of the items that the new monsters use, but there’s nothing besides a few neat weapons to entice high-end characters.
Even though the new items were a disappointment to me there are a few things that are even worse. For starters, Solstheim is almost completely covered in forest, and this forest is almost covered with outrageously annoying monsters, which unlike in real-life, attack you for no reason what-so-ever. These monsters who respawn fairly quickly, not only sound like injured pigs but pack a considerably greater punch than many of the monsters found in the first two games. Luckily you won’t have to face the almost equally annoying flying creatures of the past, but you’ll want to travel light (for increased speed), or with a chameleon spell, because after a couple of hours you’ll be so tired of constantly facing new monsters that avoiding, or outrunning them becomes a viable plan.
What is worse is how the engine performs. Morrowind has, and will probably always be looked upon as a visually very good looking game. Both technically and artistically pleasing, but with awful loading times. Solstheim is a reasonably big island and every square inch of it is split into quite small regions - which you can run across in between five and fifteen seconds. When crossing these regions you’re interrupted by a brief loading period - so when you have been doing your best to avoid the very annoying creatures for about an hour and have to be interrupted for a second or two by constant loading breaks you just get more and more irritated. Imagine streaming something extremely cool over the Internet, in full screen, and have to be interrupted by lost frames every five to fifteen seconds.
When Morrowind was first released I, and very many other people were amazed at the game’s visuals. A year has passed since then, and it’s just not as impressive, but still very appealing when looking at the attention to detail put in the great Viking buildings, and the very neat looking pieces of armor and weapons. The new monsters look quite good, although you should definitely not expect the fur simulation of Black & White 2.
In my opinion the audio included in Morrowind is some of the best to date, and luckily all of it was included in this expansion, ranging from the awesome theme music, to the more up-beat “danger music”, which changes dynamically. Unfortunately no new music was composed and made for Bloodmoon, so I guess Jeremy Soule, who did the original music, was busy doing something else. However, new sound effects and voice-overs were done, which all sound reasonably appropriate, disregarding the sometimes not so great pronunciation of the Norwegian words.
To me the Morrowind games are special. They have in my opinion an intriguing story and freedom in which you can just “live” for a long time. The games keep you going for a good load of hours, but you should be able to finish the main quest of Bloodmoon over a weekend, depending on how powerful your character is. I don’t recommend that you start the main quest with a new character, because the monsters you face are considerably harder than the ones found in the two first games. So even if you have like me finished both Morrowind and Tribunal, you should find a good challenge here. This expansion adds some neat things which fans will undoubtedly want to check out - but there are so many irritating things that I can’t really say it is particularly good.