I remember playing the original Morrowind (of the Elder Scrolls III persuasion) on my Xbox way back in 2002. I had never seen a game like it before; in terms of scale and freedom, it was quite unlike anything else out at the time……I played it for about 2 hours. Perhaps it was the lack of structure, maybe it was its decidedly rough edges. Either way, I did not get on board with it at all.
Fast forward 15 years, and Morrowind makes its much vaunted return, and despite the fact that it now finds itself within the realms of The Elder Scrolls Online’s, MMORPG structure, I find that it still suffers from many of the same problems – more specifically, the problems that seem to be apparent in all of Bathesda’s big open world games. Fallout 4 and Skyrim are loved by millions upon millions of gamers, but I always thought they got a bit of a free pass when it comes to their technical issues and rough edges – the kind of rough edges that many other video games are absolutely slaughtered for.
Don’t get me wrong, I appreciate that ambition plays a large part in that general acceptance, and yes, an MMORPG structure means that Breath of the Wild levels of polish are all but impossible, but I for one struggle to get over just how, well, budget it all looks. I know, I know, what should I expect? Well, being relatively new the MMORPG genre, it appears that I was expecting a little bit more.
In fairness, I haven’t come across too many bugs in my time wandering the land of Vvardenfell, but I haven’t come across anything particularly impressive either. It has its moments, sure, but man, does this game look rough. I suppose you have to give it the benefit of it being an MMORPG, but without the gorgeous vistas of the core series, you’re left with what amounts to a rather ugly looking game.
Despite these issues though (and they are long running issues that I have always had with the Elder Scrolls series), this remains an entertaining expansion to an already rich online world. While it invariably falls well short of matching Tamriel’s scale, if you can get past those low rent visuals, you’ll be treated to a game imbued with inventive art design and a strong sense of nostalgia for those that played Morrowing back in 2002.
This Vvardenfell is of course a much more streamlined world than the overwhelmingly vast 2002 vintage, but it captures the spirit of its original incarnation, and despite being set 700 years before the events of, The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, its numerous nods to locations and characters will invariably make for an intriguing return journey.
While the world and relatively imaginative quests ensure that this is an MMORPG that can be genuinely enjoyed on your own, the big draw here remains going out with a party, collecting loot and making the most of the games’ new Warden class which remains easier than ever thanks to the One Tamriel update (admittedly released last year) that makes putting groups of players together (regardless of level) far easier than in the past.
As for the new class itself, well, that has to be one of this expansions’ biggest draws. A well balanced class with plenty of room for skill tree customisation, the Warden class not only allows for powerful animal companion conjuring, but also allows for a decent balance of offensive magical powers and defensive, healing abilities across the three skill lines available. You still have to put up with the slightly wonky melee combat, but its competent enough and sits well with the more magical abilities that you’ll build up as you progress.
Of course, balance is all well and good, but really, it’s the Animal Companion powers that ultimately prove the star of the show. Beyond offering a unique method of attack, well, they look really cool. The only problem here is that, despite the available options for balance, it’s tempting (it was for me at least), to put all my eggs into the Animal Companion basket; after all, summoning a bear into battle is much more fun than healing your companions.
If you can look past the decidedly last-gen visuals (which I would assume you can if you’ve made it to Morrowind), this expansion delivers more of what fans of ESO have come to expect with an added dose of nostalgia and a fantastic new class to enjoy. Those who experienced The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind back in the day will arguably get the most of this expansion, but either way, Vvardenfell delivers an intriguing (albeit it slightly ugly) land to explore and an enjoyable addition to the already vast world of The Elder Scroll Online.
REVIEW CODE: A complimentary Microsoft Xbox One code was provided to Bonus Stage for this review. Please send all review code enquiries to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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