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Morrowind Xbox Review

Bethesda Softworks
Xbox Launch Title
Xbox Live:

Thursday, October 30, 2003 

When one thinks of role-playing games and the hardware associated with them, The Xbox probably isn't the first thing to come to mind. Arguably the least RPG-oriented console on the market, the Xbox is targeted almost exclusively towards action gamers. There are a few noteworthy RPG's like Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic and Fable, but nothing geared towards hardcore role-players. That is, nothing except for Morrowind. Morrowind, an in-depth role-playing game from Bethesda Softworks, puts players in a universe that is unparalleled in both size and variety, offering an experience that is truly unique.


Morrowind's gameplay is something of a hybrid between action games and traditional RPG's. The game is still an RPG at heart - your stats are the most important factor in any action requiring skill, and they are improved through the usual routine of practicing and gaining experience so that you can level up.

Where Morrowind differs from many RPG's, however, is in how these skills are used. Morrowind is not a "twitchy" game, but it isn't a turn-based game either - it's both. High stats and good equipment will almost always be a necessity in any situation, but timing also plays a factor as well. Don't think that these rules only apply to combat, either - there are literally hundreds of different tasks involving this system, ranging from picking locks to making your own spells. All in all, this is an original approach to an important gameplay element that is often warmed over and clichéd.

The thing that makes Morrowind truly special, however, isn't its leveling system or its combat. Morrowind offers you a level of freedom that other game's couldn't possibly touch. The Morrowind universe is simply enormous, covering an entire continent that would take you days to see in entirety, even if you never stopped to do anything. Better yet, you can go anywhere on the continent whenever you want to, provided you're tough enough to get there. You'll be given a brief introduction in which you will learn that you are a slave bound for the country/continent of Morrowind, where you are to be set free, according to the orders of the Emperor himself. After that, you'll be allowed to create your character (who is highly customizable, meaning that no two characters in the game will ever be the same) before being set loose.

As the game informs you immediately following your release, you're on your own. You can do whatever you want. This may sound great to you now, but in reality it is something of a mixed blessing. Freedom is a good thing in games, but players need to know what they're doing. The brief tutorial at the beginning of the game covers some aspects of gameplay, but you're left to figure out the rest on your own. Additionally, while the game has an exceptional storyline and central quest, it is only suggested that you follow it. You can spend months on end playing the game and never once begin the main quest. In fact, even if you do decide to do the main quest, you'll have trouble keeping track of what you're supposed to be doing, because you'll have tons of other side quests to do as well. Regardless, no matter what you're doing, you'll probably be enjoying it.

Morrowind isn't for everyone. While there are more quests and activities in the game in the game than you can ever hope to do, ranging from looting dungeons (which is extremely common in quests and may turn some gamers off) to stealing from nobles and freeing slaves, they probably won't give you much of an adrenaline rush. Morrowind has plenty of action, but the combat is mostly by-the-numbers and involves you casting lots of spells and using potions to make sure you don't end up getting killed. Not only may gamers find the combat unexciting, they'll probably be discouraged by the game's high learning curve, which will make combat very difficult until you've built up your character. Basically, you need to have a lot of patience to enjoy Morrowind.


Morrowind is a beautiful game. Every aspect of the game's visuals reflects great detail and style. Each area of the game's huge environment has a completely different look. You'll be amazed by how great the city of Tel Vos looks, with its houses carved out of plants, or how the Imperial City of Ebonheart makes you feel as though you're in Medieval Europe. You may even find yourself traveling to different parts of Morrowind just to see what they look like - that's how enveloping this game's atmosphere is. Do note, however, that some of the game's best-looking areas are also the most dangerous!

Morrowind's environments may be the star of the show, but that's not to say that they're the only noteworthy element. Characters and objects all are all very detailed and look great. The game's wide variety of races and cultures come to life through their appearance. The continent's native Dunmer inhabitants are particularly chilling - their blood red eyes, said to have been given to them by the Gods as a curse, will make you feel quite uneasy. The only problem with the game's characters is that their animations are very sparse. While the world that the game manages to create will surely draw you in, the characters themselves probably won't. They basically just stand in one place, only moving if you provoke them. This is certainly noticeable and detracts from the game's overall appeal.

Despite Morrowind's great graphics, it still manages to perform well, keeping a consistent framerate. Slowdown does occur, but only during combat with lots of enemies onscreen at once. While most load times are rather lengthy, they tend to only happen when you are killed or moving from one area to another via fast transit. There are load times whenever you enter a building as well, but these are relatively brief.


Morrowind for the most part sounds great. You will be impressed by most of the sound that you hear, but you'll still be wanting more. There is almost no spoken dialogue in the game. Instead, NPCs will speak to you through text. The only speech you will hear is in game, usually when you're in combat or when you first approach an NPC.

The game's music is excellent, but much like its spoken dialogue, isn't very prominent. Since the game would seem rather awkward with only the sound of your footsteps audible as you move across the continent, the game's original score will play in the background at all times, switching to a fast-paced tune whenever you enter combat. This is nice, but since the game is so long, the music will repeat itself often.


Morrowind is an outstanding game that is unfortunately overlooked by many gamers because of its hardcore RPG elements. If you can look past the game's slow pace and unforgiving nature, however, you're in for a truly unique and unforgettable adventure that will keep you coming back for years to come.

Overall Score

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