(This is a post from the archive. Originally posted on 2019, August 7. I have edited the ranking to match the current ULTRA rank of 2020, May 15.)
From the very beginning, Morrowind gives you the sense of wonder and adventure. The first notes of music coming into the menu is a soft drumming. The melody that introduces you to the game is not played by a trumpet, a violin, or a piano. It’s not a grand instrument. It’s a harp. After the intro, the music swells and becomes more and more grand. The sense of a growing adventure is a constant feeling in The Elder Scrolls series, and I feel like Morrowind does it best out of the series.
This is a game that was introduced before worlds got really big. I mean, there were a good amount of big worlds already, but not so prominent as today, where I feel like every game is getting ludicrously big. Morrowind isn’t just a grand adventure, it feels like a grand adventure.
You start as a nobody without much of a past. I don’t know, maybe you have amnesia like in a ton of other games. You’re also treated like an outsider. The interesting feeling about Morrowind is how learning about anyone in the game can be something of an exploration. Your reputation with the different NPCs feel important. They’re not just quest givers. They have lives, and your adventure is changing things on the island of Morrowind. You grow out of that outsider label, and you really feel that as you progress through the story.
Learning the lore of the island of Morrowind enhances your experience of your adventure and main quest on the island. Remembering names, people, and places all came in handy for me and it helps me in knowing who to trust and who I shouldn’t trust.
There’s something grounded about the way The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion and Skyrim feel that Morrowind doesn’t have, and I mean that in a good way. Oblivion and Skyrim are placed in a more traditional fantasy feeling. Everything is so strange and new in Morrowind. The creatures, characters, and enemies you fight all feel very new. The traditional fantasy monsters are actually rather lacking. Instead, you get all these weird creatures like scamps or grub-like kwama. I know the other games have strange creatures (and scamps) as well, but, especially in Skyrim, much of the time you’re fighting dragons, spiders, trolls, and wild animals. While that’s fun, I am never surprised to see something like that. In Morrowind, everything is new and it drove me to find out what else was out there.
Unrelated to the sense of wonder, there are a couple of things that also helped my loving of Morrowind. I really like the infinite progression system. It doesn’t get wonky like Oblivion if you level a ton. I also like the simplicity of the pause screen, where you can see the map, character attributes, and inventory all with one button. No needing to navigate much really.
Of course, the music by the marvelous Jeremy Soule is absolutely fantastic and helps with that amazing feeling of an adventure that just grows in scale.
Few games can reach the intensity of exploration and learning lore that Morrowind did for me. They exist though, and perhaps I’ll talk about them later. And unfortunately yes, Morrowind’s graphics haven’t aged particularly well, but if you’re willing to let some imagination fill in those polygons, you’ll be fine. This is just my experience, and I really don’t know how your experience will be like, but I feel like it’s important to sometimes feel unknown and let yourself be amazed by a new world and more importantly, enjoy it.
writing editing this (2020, May 15) on the ULTRA, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind is rank 38. The ULTRA consists of all the alumni from the 12 games list. Thanks for reading this! I hope you take the time to love games despite their faults.
See you next time on ULTRA!