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The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

one-armed dwarf

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Been playing a lot of this the past week, the openmw version (which is an open source re-implementation of the game engine to run better on modern systems, with more modern visual tweaks while still being the same old ass game). It's a game I've a ton of half hearted attempts at getting into but this is more of a proper attempt, primarily cause I figured out how to install openmw on steam deck and get save syncing working between it and pc using something called syncthing. If people are interested there's guides out there to get openmw working on deck, you want that, you don't want vanilla cause it won't run as good or play as well.


I did try to see if there was a thread to bump but seems there isn't, so I mean the effort was made there. Maybe it exists but I can't find it 🤷‍♂️


Anyway, it's cool. It's very interactive in the way Bethesda games usually are but moreso in some ways and less so in others if you compare it to their modern output. Everything is dice-rolley as fuck. Even casting a spell can fail if you aren't properly learned in its school of thought, even if you have the spell 'learned'. Getting around doing quests means following actual directions relative to specific cities and locations on the map, one quest in particular is given to you as a series of sermons from a church which follows the teachings of 'Vivec', who is like Morrowind's JC figure, telling you to go to specific locations like caves beneath vivec city or a big wall made out of the remains of deceased dark elves and give offerings. You have to figure that shit out yourself, it's up to you, and it's a cool approach which demands you actually spend time reading books of lore and listening to what people say to even know what the hell a 'ghostgate' even is or why you probably shouldn't press beyond it cause it's a bit shit on the other side.


Anyway, this will be the time I beat Morrowind. The really wordy bits where you spend ages reading actual novella length backstories of a Dark Elf queen and demigods tearing things apart and putting them back together are pretty well suited to deck gaming, tho in general the whole game is tbh. It's got an immersive sim quality to the way you can figure out some stuff, like it doesn't have a fast travel system, not really, so getting from Pelegiad to Balmora is a bit of a pain but there are some workarounds like this involving alteration and special potions



There's others which require you to invest a bit of time into the game's systems, like being able to use telekinesis to open booby-trapped doors from across the room, or use the same skill to pickpocket someone really far away without having to take risks out in the open. Right now my khajit is a neophyte in a lot of this stuff and all his potions have the fun secondary effect of causing temporary status decreases, so a little bit of poison to go along with the buff, but my more recent potions have less of that in it. It's clunky and difficult but a lot of the quests and skills force you to invest the time to interrogate the RPG clockwork which allows you to do lots of interesting stuff, while at the same time improving your understanding of the world itself and its history. It's not quite botw cause you don't have a physics engine but finding different interactions is still a lot more interesting here than in Oblivion imo which while it had tons of physics interactions they did not improve the gameplay which was mostly just action based. I never played enough Skyrim to really have an informed take on it but I didn't get into it in any of my attempts (X360, PC and PCVR). Besides Morrowind it is probably my biggest gaming blindspot, but unlike Morrowind I'm not as likely to address it I think cause I kinda know what it is but MW still has lots of fun unknown stuff for me cause even now it feels pretty unique and worth playing, even 20 years on




Quest wise it's being mostly ascending to apprentice-hood in the thieves guild and mages guild, at the same time as trying to decide which of the three houses suits me best (decided Hlallu cause they about money) and deciding if I want to do a fighter's guild quest where someone is asking me to kill fellow guild mates, if there's any consequences to it or whatever. All my stats are heavily speech and money focused, which is a probably weird way to play the game. But the way you are supposed to do things anyway is cram points in your misc skills to get the most level ups rather than just focus on your base 10 stats. So figuring out the mysteries of conjuration, illusion, alteration and mysticism is what I'm into, too magicka starved to go into the deep end of some higher level magicks or destruction tho



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I am obsessed with this, it's so good.


Basically it just measures your progress across the map in a super satisfying way, and the quests and obstacles on the map funnel you around in such a way you don't easily go to later regions of the map so it has a nice flow to it. The map is much smaller than Cyrodil in Oblivion, which is apparently a similar size to Skyrim I guess. But because it takes an absolute age to get anywhere early on and cause the world is so dangerous in certain parts there's a sense of satisfaction in that power creep you get as you get stronger to deal with the (non level scaled) enemies, as well as the crazy things you can do with alteration. As I was doing my chores in Vivic city I found out that one of the shrines on the pilgrimage gives you a 'day' of max level alteration levitation, which lets you do this at a high speed.




You shouldn't go too crazy with these abilities though, as there are missable opportunities on the ground as well. Also you can't get this levitation skill without significant investment, this is just a freebie they give you at the capital's temple and you have to give over an expensive levitation potion to do it. But there's a lot of this sort of stuff in the exploring, where you set out to go somewhere and you have to prepare and think about what you might need. At one poibt somebody is like 'be careful about the ashlands, motherfuckers inflict blight up there and if you go through the ghostwall the windstorms do it also'. You better believe that, so if you aren't invested in either alchemy, restoration, illusion (to dodge motherfuckers), or have tons of cash to buy scrolls to defend yourself you're in trouble. Tho enchanted gear appears to maybe trivalise these things a bit, I wonder why they made it so powerful.


A thing this one lacks tho is it doesn't really inject super interesting stories into its quests. In Oblivion some of the quests felt like Star Trek episodes, like the one with the guy who got lost in a painting. Or the orc who is the arena champion who asks you to find out the truth about his lineage, stuff like that isn't really present in Morrowind. It's much more lore rich than Oblivion tho and as you figure the RPG mechanics out you are also finding books which explain the religion and culture of the land of Vvardenfell, the history of the Tribunal and who these dudes are and figuring out how to separate the myths from the reality 


actually as way of example I


pickpocketed some rando in the Hall of Wisdom and he had the key to Vivic's palace, who I am sure is not a character I am supposed to meet so early on and he gave me a very cold welcome when I broke in. But I walked in the back anyway and read a document which was clearly a bunch of spoilers saying how the religion is all lies and the Tribunal are all mortals who were given their powers by the same method as the big bad who I've yet to meet (something to do with a Heart, and some other daedric entity beginning with letter K I forget), but the fact you can look behind the curtain like that whenever you want is a cool thing in any event


Right now I've decided to just wear no armour, paid the skooma addict guy a ton of cash to teach me to get good at unarmoured so I move way faster now at the expense of being a bit squishy, but overtime the ability scales well enough to keep up to a decent level of armour and now I can move faster without encumbrance. Conjuration is one of my major skills already, so I just summon daedric daggers instead of lugging swords around, might learn hand to hand to sort of 'complete' the build out a bit better. Lots of little choices you can make in this game to make exploring easier and faster, which is something that would be obliterated with a 'go anywhere' fast travel system (there is some fast travel in the form of mage guild teleporters and silt striders, but these have a limited selection of points and won't get you anywhere too far outside of civilisation where you'll have to trek a bit)

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Made some decent headway into the main story of this, where I went deep into the Ashlands to 


find a tribe which sent me on a merry hunt through a crypt for some family heirloom to decide my worth as the 'Nervarine', or something like this. I ain't looking up how to spell it, but it's Dark Elf Jesus basically (even though I'm a Khajiit)

Basic enough 'chosen one' nonsense but they way it's interweaved into the world and its lore is really good. 



I also made some progress with House Hlallu and gained a sponsor by doing a very bad thing I shouldn't talk about but now I have a stronghold. I am hiring miners to go slave... I mean work in the mines to make the house money and stuff. I did not think this particular quest had this kind of scope to it, or have any idea how far it goes with that stuff, but I'm super impressed by the extent of some of it (this is a questline you may not do if you choose one of the other 2 houses). A lot of the guildlines in this basically feel like jobs and there's not much of a story there but it does also give a real sense of progress as you earn your reputation. Right now I can't actually progress in the mages guild because I don't have a magic stat at a high enough level, which makes sense and has cohesion with the RPG mechanics of the game. I'm sort of tapped out magic potential wise with this character so maybe my mage career ends soon enough anyway.


Everything in Morrowind is very cohesive like this, especially the 'fast' travel system. Most of the grassy marshlands in the south and west of the map are easiliy accessible via silt striders, mage guild teleports or you can teleport yourself with a spell that binds you to a Tribunal Temple or Imperial garrison. But as you go further out from imperial-friendly dunmer civilisation into more hostile ashland territory you lose a lot of these, you're in a place where people don't particularly want to be reached. The Empire doesn't stretch its tendrils far inland so you lose the garrison teleports, the temple is persona non grata here as well. You can go spelunking around daedric ruins for these evil looking portals and fast travel that way, but you must find the 'index' first to activate the device, there are 10 and I have found 1 (stole it at a temple with a telekensis spell around the corner), which is useless by itself as it only works from certain devices. But a lot of this is really good at making you engage with the lore of the game, why is the middle of the map full of demon worshippers? Explore some more, play the story and read the dialogue/books to find out why.


It might be a smaller map than Cyrodil but it feels way larger, not even seen half of it yet. Right now I'm in the upper regions of the map, House Telvanni territory, they have houses made out of mushrooms and they often don't have stairs which is a deliberate 'fuck off' if you don't know how to levitate up to the top floor. Take the hint, STR mains, you aint welcome round these parts. Enjoy swimming with the slaughterfish while the rest of us just cast or drink 'water walking'


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Completed this in a highly irresponsible manner, playtime will not be shared. But it's one of the best games I've ever played, certainly a top 3 WRPG and the best Bethesda game I've played (beat Oblivion and Fallout 3, played maybe 10 hours of Skyrim on 360 and a couple hours in VR, I don't really count Skyrim as a played game though)


It's a hugely textual game, literally in the sense that there's tons of reading. Lots of religious sermons and historical summaries of generations of kings and the history of the dwarves and dark elves. But also figuratively in like how the gameplay feels like text itself, because of how the different factions interact and how certain classes will have an easier or harder time progressing with them, and how the quest design feels like it's always carefully acknowledging the history of the region and of the war with the empire, along with Morrowind's incomplete assimilation into Cyrodilic culture and all its contradictions. It's a game about starting off lost and weak and ending up gaining obscene power and prestige in tandem with getting to know the culture and history of this world. Gaining trust from as many different groups both within the main story and side content and finding a solid footing in an alien world. There's this thing the game does where they leave just enough room for doubt in some of the larger scale story questions, differing accounts all over the place, such that you can arrive at your own conclusions a bit and role play yourself into the different roles allowed without it feeling contrived. 


Speaking of role playing, maybe some of the best interweaving of side quests content in an open world game I've seen. It's so well paced, whenever there's a natural pause in the main action your spymaster recommends you go off and join guilds. The main quest, like other questlines, will impose skill checks to even accept new quests so you will have to take breaks regardless, but you will always want to do so anyway. So you do jobs, investigate some Dwemer ruins or whatever, which leads to huge gameplay tangents where you progress through the different factions. While doing so learning a lot about the political tensions of the island, getting kicked out of some factions or reaching a standstill because your membership with one puts you at odds with the interest of another. Like maybe a mage guild member wants you to assassinate a Telvanni sorceror, or a fighter's guild member wants you to rob something from someone in the thieves' guild, things like that. So pick and choose who you want as your friends, or at least buy all the mage guild spells before someone makes you do something that pisses them off lol.


Besides the guilds, join one of the great houses, organizations which can act as power brokers between different interests on the island. Hlallu, who have influence with the empire but also the Commana Tong (native dumner underworld organisation, sort of like Dark Brotherhood but tolerated by the ruling groups because of their power) and a competing interest with the thieves' guild. Redoran, who historically did not seek good relations with the empire and are more at home with native traditions (like the Temple) than imperial (not good friends with the legion or cult of the 9 divines). Then you got Telvanni, who largely do their own thing and try to keep as far away from everyone and everything as possible, literally, and don't get on with anyone from what I saw. 


Join the Tribunal Temple, spread dogma but also help and cure people who are inflicted by blight. Keep the peace with the Imperial Legion. Do... stuff with the Cult of the Nine Divines, I don't know what they do because I was a Temple Khajitt and don't believe in heretic nonsense like Akatosh. Maybe another playthrough I could see what those guys are all aboot.


It's clearly and naturally put together so you will not see everything on a single character, it's a game about perspectives and their limits which really complements the role playing gameplay mechanics, you'll naturally find yourself at home with some factions and not others depending on your own personal abilities and also interests/biases. But it also comes back into play with the main story, where certain quests have alternate ways to go about them if you are sufficiently high up enough with another faction or have a high reputation. Not that often, admittedly, but for instance


there is one where you have to break someone out of this floating meteor prison in Vivec, if you are a high ranking member of the Tribunal Temple you can pop in and just pull rank on people and bluff your way out, no stealth needed. If not, it's just a messy stealth mission with lots of invisibility spells and potions. But that attention to detail is really impressive.


You also have an entire string of quests where you have to convince the house leaders that you are a suitable agent to unite the houses and tribes together to stop the big Sauron menace of the story, but if you already have a very high reputation you can skip this quest entirely.


Basically it just gives a great sense of a world that's reactive to your deeds and actions and rewards a close reading of quest dialogue, lore entries and gameplay/quest design. It feels much more than something like Oblivion where it was like you do these questlines completely isolated from each other, they end in a grand finale that has zero impact on other storylines going on and then an NPC will occasionally quip in with 'oh shit its the hero of Kvatch'. Of course this hits its limit in an admittedly immersion obliterating way if you try to go kill some rats for the fighter's guild after saving the world and people are talking down to you in their quest dialogue, but within reason it's a remarkably cohesive construction which tries as much as possible to give the tabletop DnD experience in an open world RPG. Also you are so powerful at the end of the main story that some of the investment to continue guild progess sort of evaporates, then it's DLC time


Not just a great video game but absolute top tier bit of fantasy fiction right here, huge influences from Dune and Star Wars all over the shop. 10/10 stuff if you are patient with the early game mechanics and have a high tolerance for hideous visuals and some pretty grey and boring wilderness at times (Ashlands got really dull). Also, install the mod which makes 50 percent of the cliff racers passive, because fuck those screeching cunts omg. When I got the magic to jump over mountains I just had a conga line of these fuckers following me into the major towns, I don't usually recommend mods which make games more easy but this one is justified 



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  • 1 month later...

I looked at a few mods like that I think, but I found a lot of them changed too much or made the game look worse (too dark, oversaturated, way too much ambient occlusion and black crush). In the end I think the best way to play Morrowind is openmw with a few QOL tweaks like the ones that make cliff racers less annoying.


At some point I'll get back to Morrowind and do the DLC, but I wanted to try it on a different character with a stronger spell casting focus so it'll be ages. I heard the DLC wasn't that good though so it might just spoil the impression. One of the DLC has you go to Solstheim which is an area they remade for Skyrim later on, it's like Skyrim in Morrowind and Morrowind in Skyrim, you can become a werewolf. The other one is a sort of dungeon crawl set in the capital of Morrowind, Mournhold.


edit now that this got bumped I'm posting this cause it made me lol



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  • 2 weeks later...
On 09/09/2022 at 14:17, one-armed dwarf said:

In the end I think the best way to play Morrowind is openmw with a few QOL tweaks like the ones that make cliff racers less annoying.

Scratch that



M..maybe my mind can be changed




The realistic lighting doesn't always blend well with the wooden looking characters but it's so cool to see this game used to demo this tech

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