Whilst The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim might be the most famous entry in the Elder Scrolls franchise, with the most re-releases and new versions, easily the second favourite entry in this expansive fantasy saga is the third entry in the series, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. And now that this stand out piece of gaming has turned twenty it feels like the perfect time to take a look back at it.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind puts you in control of a recently released prisoner (a series staple), who has been transported to the island of Vvardenfell, a part of the Dark Elf nation of Morrowind. Unlike in previous entries of the Elder Scrolls series you’re unable to explore an entire region, with developers making the choice to limit the game to just a single part of Morrowind itself. However, this didn’t reduce the scope of the game in any way, as the team at Bethesda were able to give Vvardenfell more depth and detail than any previous Elder Scrolls game to date, making it a vast and expansive place to explore.
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Once you have arrived in Vvardenfell, chosen your race, class, starting stats, and appearance, you step out into the wilds of Morrowind and are given pretty much free reign to go where you want and do what you like. Yes, there is a central story, and a pretty important one that sees you joining a secret group of spies and fighting to overthrow a powerful god-like being, but this is actually pretty optional. This was a system that had already been put in place in previous entries in the franchise, but The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind really expanded upon this, giving players more factions to join, more quests to complete, and more locations to explore. As a result, you could spend dozens of hours progressing your character, improving your skills, and becoming a hero in Vvardenfell, yet never progressing the main quest.
The creative team behind The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind were given the chance to put more detail than ever before into the game by getting rid of the random content generation that was a staple of previous releases, and actually getting to design every detail and item placement. The creators were able to craft a more cohesive environment for the player to explore. They could tell stories with environmental details, and even had more then 300 books scattered throughout the world totalling more than 1,200 pages of background information, history, and extra context clues for the world.
Upon its release the game became a huge success, with close to 100,000 copies sold within the first two months of release. This was in part due to the fact that this was the first Elder Scrolls game to be released outside of PC, with the game also coming out on the original Xbox. The game was able to release on the Xbox thanks to the console’s larger processing power compared to other consoles at the time, making it the only place The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind could be played outside of PC. The game proved to be hugely popular on the Xbox, and was was one of the top selling titles for the console for a full year after its release; only being beaten in this regard by Halo.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind received high scores across the board from a variety of publications, including IGN, Metacritic, and PC Gamer. This popularity, along with the high sales, encouraged the team behind the game to expand upon their work, and over the next year two expansions were released. The Elder Scrolls III: Tribunal sent players to the self-contained, walled city of Mournhold, the capital of Morrowind. Players were able to transport in and out of the city, unable to explore any of the surrounding area, and were able to explore more into the Tribunal deities that make Morrowind their home. The Elder Scrolls III: Bloodmoon was the larger of the two expansions, and gave players a whole new landmass north of Vvardenfell to explore. This expansion gave players new, snowy environments to explore, as well as bringing werewolves back into the series. Both of these expansions were eventually released alongside the base game as part of the Game of the Year edition.
The huge popularity of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind never really went away, even when other entries in the series were released. Even with new titles on offer, fans continue to go back to this game to replay it, and dedicated modders have continued to release new content to add to the game. It’s been that popular that modders have even been working on a huge re-master of the game for several years, planning to release The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind with improved graphic and game-play for free. The region also featured in The Elder Scrolls Online, much to fan delight.
Whilst other entries in the Elder Scrolls franchise might be better known, and more technically impressive, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is sure to remain one of the stand out and most popular parts of the series for many more decades to come.
The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind was first released on 1st May 2002.