MMOs and the MMORPG can’t thrive in mediocrity. In order for the game in this genre to please a consistent or growing player’s base of the size necessary to keep
an MMO world ticking over, there needs to be something about it that’s both different and should be brilliant. Upon the first launch which was three years ago, The Elder
Scrolls Online did not have this essential ingredient. It felt too much like an MMO by mere numbers and its splash of Tamriel flavouring was not quite enough to set it
Since then it’s been added to the, revamped and revitalised, with One Tamriel, which opened up the world via a new level of scaling system, and Zenimax Online’s forays
into more flavoursome RPG storytelling with its Orsinium DLC. Morrowind, ESO’s first additional ‘Chapter’,which is a fresh mark in the sand for the game, a point from
which all the fans will be able to say it really found its place in the wider pantheon of MMOs. And that place would be a teller of great stories.
I’m fairly late into a particularly long session of playing when this effectiveness of ESO’s new storytelling potential hits me. I have spent the better part of two hours in
Sadrith Mora, entangled in the plight of Sun-in-Shadow, an Argonian slave with untapped magical abilities , along with some of the cool mages and other classes
and an enthusiasm for the local mage community’s propensity for political intrigue. As I jog about the town, chatting to other wizards and councilors on her behalf,
smoothing her possible path to a higher rank, little nuggets of exposition are expertly planted all which adds extra spice to proceedings. There’s Eoki, a love-spurned
fellow slave waiting for his one-time partner to free him. There’s a deep seeded racism in the council chamber, with one character in particular seeming to hold a
meaty grudge against some of the Sun-in-Shadow’s lizard-folk.
What doesn’t feel that much of fresh at all is the game’s combat. This is an area that has had only minor improvements over the last years. It’s still clunky, preoccupied
with left and right mouse clicks in time with quite over-egged animations and stun markers. The new player class, the Warden, is perhaps a telling indicator of how
uninspiring the existing classes are to pick up from and why they are so hard to even remember beyond the character creation screen. The Warden is capable of performing in DPS, healing ,the DPS is low compared to
other classes and tank roles, and boasts an ultimate ability which sees a persistent bear guardian follow you around to aid in combat. It can do everything well, basically,
and picking anything other than Warden when starting the game afresh now feels like the wrong thing to do. That’s great if you’re just starting out, but for those already
wondering why they bothered picking Nightblade three years ago, the itch to just start over and get yourself a friggin’ bear will likely be high. I can’t help but wonder why more games in this genre don’t look towards FFXIV’s
excellent and superb class system, which simply lets your one main character be whatever you want it to be, whenever you want it to be. In ESO, and its new
Morrowind excursion especially, I ache for the freedom of my character development proffered up by the game’s mainline inspirations. One thing that is great about the Warden—again, is to the detriment of the other
classes—is that it is a very readable class. With all characters capable of wearing any armour sets, it can be hard in a pinch to clock what role any given player
character is supposed to fill in. Is that fully plated cat-person over there a tank or a healer? With the Warden, well, she’s got a bloody bear next to her for a start. Each
ability performed is also given a telltale series of persistent animations. A load of mushrooms sprouting at that Warden’s feet? Then she’s a healer. Covered in ice?
Then she’s a tank. It’s a shame that the old classes remain comparatively unmemorable or unreadable but some think as an advantage.
Given the quality of the storytelling in the main event and the fact that it can all be tackled solo, it does beg the question: why make this an MMO at all? In Morrowind,
there are not too many explicit excuses to partner up. In fact, in terms of PvE, there’s a new 12 player Trial (ESO’s version of a raid) and that’s about it. The Halls of
Fabrication Trial suffers from all the same problems that the game’s existing Trials do, and that is that there’s little incentive to get that involved.
On the hunt for a new game or new adventure to power through to the endgame of with a bunch of guild mates? ESO: Morrowind, despite being hugely improved from
the base game, still isn’t going to be scratch that itch. But this new chapter is one of the most encompassing and charming repositories for great stories I’ve played in a
long time. Morrowind is an essential excursion for those of a certain gaming vintage, loaded as it is with reverence for that 15 year-old childhood adventure. It’s also an
ideal way for those unfamiliar with the original Morrowind to discover this enrapturing landmass for the first time and to explore. Just don’t feel like you need to invite all of
your friends along for the trip.