Posted April 25, 2017 by David Latham in Feature

The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind Closed Beta Impressions

The Elder Scrolls Online (ESO) was technically the game that got me off World of Warcraft. I didn’t get addicted to ESO like I did with WoW, but it got me to remember that MMORPG’s can be more than just a dull end-game grind. When Bethesda teased Morrowind as an expansion for ESO my jaw hit the floor. A game I pre-ordered on the original Xbox being remade into a MMO expansion? This I couldn’t miss.

After the initial announcement and watching some annoying Twitch videos which included sneak previews of gameplay, I was itching to get my hands on the new Morrowind, so when Rocket Chainsaw got an early access closed beta code I jumped at the chance and hurriedly installed the 50GB Public Test Server so I could jump in.

Straight away, the nostalgia set in. The character creation screen is inside a boat en route to Vvardenfell, the island Morrowind is set in. Stepping off the boat into Seyda Neen felt so surreal that I accidentally attacked the first NPC I came across which caused me to have a bounty. Too excited to figure out how the bounty system worked and with literally no gold to my name, I got chased by a few guards before I decided to delete the character and start again. Of course I know now I could have simply waited for the bounty to disappear, although I think what I did was faster anyway.

Take two went a little more according to plan, and I was soon tasked with several quests including one to travel south to Vivec. It felt somewhat unusual traveling to Vivec so soon after beginning Morrowind, as I don’t remember getting there so quickly in the original game, but nevertheless Vivec is a stunning city still under construction. In case you weren’t aware, ESO is set hundreds of years before the events of The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind, and therefore the island is a bit different to how you would remember. The large town of Caldera for example does not exist and is literally a caldera (volcanic crater), while Gnisis and Balmora both have striking familiarities to the original game.

The Warden class is sort of a blend of the Templar and Dragon Knight classes, while having some unique factors. The bear pet unlocks once your animal companion mastery reaches level 12, and becomes somewhat of a tank to your DPS in solo combat, similar to the Hunter class in World of Warcraft. A great addition to ESO, Wardens will dramatically change PVP, as well as become a very useful class to use in dungeons and trials. While the Warden itself can’t tank, it does well as a healer or DPS class depending on which trait you focus on.

Fortunately in the PTS closed beta we were given a whole bunch of crowns to spend in the crown store, and everything was nicely priced at 1 crown each so after a bit of unlocking and increasing in stats, a big tour of Vvardenfell was my primary objective. The land size is about two times the size of Wrothgar, a previously released DLC map for ESO. It appears to be the same size as the original Morrowind game, but given most players will be able to jump on their mount as soon as they get off the boat, it feels smaller as travel times are shortened. Unfortunately the two new purchasable homes in Morrowind were buggy and not working properly in the PTS internally, but from outside they were architecturally sound and provided plenty of breathing space in the gardens for decorating and relaxing. Fortunately however, you are rewarded with your very own inn-room in Vivec fairly early in the expansion, so you have somewhere to call home in Vvardenfell. Unfortunately, you can’t just kill someone and claim their house in this version of Morrowind. Hopefully more homes will be added in future updates.

The Morrowind expansion introduces battlegrounds, where three groups of four players fight against each other in small-scale PVP zones. Team deathmatch, capture the flag and domination (defending nodes) are the three types of battlegrounds you can join, and there are three new maps for these battlegrounds. The battlegrounds on the PTS were a bit of a hit and miss with experienced players dominating casuals and newcomers alike. Once the expansion launches, battlegrounds will become a new way for players to gain gear, and is a great way to hone the traits of their character(s). The new dungeons and 12-player trial also looked great, and once again hopefully Bethesda will continue support for Morrowind with more end-game content in the future.

No matter where you are in Vvardenfell, the volcano known as Red Mountain is always lurking in the background, overshadowing your gameplay. As you move closer towards Red Mountain the environment gets darker and more hostile. The whole island is a massive ecosystem in itself, and while it’s all the same island, parts of it can feel quite unique. Mudcrabs, shroom-beetles, centipedes, dragonflies, butterflies and many other bugs help fill Vvardenfell with life, and actual NPC enemies are never too far away. From the swamps around Seyda Neen to the arid, rocky north, Vvardenfell has been sculptured perfectly to fit with both the ESO style and what fans of Morrowind remember.

I previewed the game using an EVGA GTX1080 FTW GAMING graphics card and had everything running on the highest settings with no noticeable drop in framerate. Loading screens were quick after the initial load, and the game didn’t crash once which is great news for a closed beta. I did however submit a couple of bug reports as I worked my way through many of the new quests (which were much more involving than most of the quests from the base game), so hopefully Bethesda will address those issues before the expansion’s release in June.

With an overwhelming amount of updates in the new Morrowind expansion it’s hard to summarise everything. It really is an absolutely massive update to an MMORPG that continues to grow in popularity, and definitely worth getting if you’re an Elder Scrolls fan. Don’t forget, The Elder Scrolls: Tamriel Unlimited doesn’t require a subscription, and while it does have a Crown store full of goodies to assist you in your travels, you can experience everything Bethesda has created for a once-off price. If you haven’t played ESO or you tried it and never got back to it, now’s the time to get on board as it’s an Elder Scrolls experience you don’t want to miss.

The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind launches on June 6th for Windows PC, Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

David Latham

David has a Bachelor of Arts (Journalism) from a Go8 university but only uses his unique set of skills writing for passion. By day he's a stay-at-home father of two, by night he responds to the Bat-Signal. Where does he find the time?


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