Y’all know how I said I wasn’t going to start Morrowind until I finished my two current Skyrim playthroughs? Welp, I had a change of plan, because I just felt in the mood for playing something different tonight. So I started up an attempt to play Morrowind, since I already have it installed on the PC where I’m running Shenner.
So here’s a post about that!
- Play date: 8/6/2022
- Session number in this run: 1
- Decided to name the character Tembriel, female Wood Elf
- Not impressed by the character UI so picked a hairstyle and face that looked least goofy
- Interesting voiceover on startup, wiki confirms this is Azura
- Much more primitive graphics than Skyrim and it’s disorienting because the music is familiar but the game is not!
- Had to reset the Y-axis control like I did in Skyrim
- A lot of the controls are mapped to where I’d expect them to me on my controller but not everywhere; curious if I could re-map things to get them closer to Skyrim equivalents
- I can move around as i expect in the controller but even with sensitivity gunned all the way down it’s a little too sensitive; wondering if I could adjust this with different performance rings on the thumbsticks?
- Character creation process felt simultaneously familiar and not familiar
- Tickled to see the actual living Jiub after being used to seeing him in the Soul Cairn
- Weird to have the administrator asking me all the character setup questions though; he wound up defaulting me to ‘Archer’
- And I had to choose a birthsign which had many of the same name as the Skyrim Standing Stones
- But then the game locked up and I had to restart
- Second time through I picked stuff on my own, just because it felt weird to be blathering about this stuff with the guy who really didn’t need to know more than my name as far as I’m concerned 😉
- Also noted: text about prophecy that popped up seemed to assume that I’m playing a guy and yeaaaaah no
- Made it as far as the store in the starting town, and couldn’t figure out how to buy stuff, wound up accidentally stealing something, and having the npcs start to attack me, ooops
- So restarted from last save (because at least at this point i’d figured out how save files work in this UI)
- Next time through actually bought at least a little armor, and figured out how to find the road to Balmora
- Signs were interesting, not in readable characters, but I could hover over them to get the translations; I kinda like that, the characters should not look like English
- Terrain was beautiful in a very simplistic way, reminds me of Solstheim, which, not surprising; going to be real intrigued as to how this looks when Skywind finally happens
- Tromped along on the road for a while
- Had a fight with a kwama forager
- Found an NPC who was looking for a bandit who took her jewels; agreed to help her
- But then got lost, and killed by a cliff racer 😛
- Game hung at that point and I had to quit; the wiki says I should have been prompted to load a save but I wasn’t?
- Morrowind doesn’t seem exactly stable! But i’m seeing this called out on the wiki too 😛
- Finally tried again on the road, peeked into a town called Pelagiad
- Then tried the road again and found the same NPC, Maurrie Aurmine, who really wants to find that bandit. Not because of her jewels, but because she thinks he’s hot! And apparently back in Pelagiad?
- So I aimed back there, but saved for now, will pick this up again later
Right out of the gate, after four consecutive Skyrim playthroughs with two more in progress, going back to a game ten years older than Skyrim–and therefore twenty years old now–felt about as jarringly retro as I expected. LOL.
By which I mean: yep, the graphics in Morrowind sure are primitive by modern standards! But on the other hand, this also meant I got some hilariously high frame rate numbers on my Steam FPS counter. I saw it get frequently over 100. Which is also about what I expected, since my old stupid PC that is barely able to run Skyrim is a lot better equipped to handle Morrowind.
Still though there were certainly some familiar aspects. And the very first thing that struck me was a voiceover clearly addressing the player. The voice isn’t identified, but it sounded like it was probably Azura, based on what I know going in about the game and what function the player is supposed to be playing in this storyline.
One other thing I noticed right off the bat was some text representing bits of prophecy, presumably about the player. Not a fan of the “he” pronoun automatically being thrown around. Really hoping all the in-game textual references aren’t going to be assuming I’m playing a male? Because yeah no.
Moving on from that, though…
Although Morrowind’s character creation progress isn’t nearly as exciting or involved as the iconic Helgen sequence in Skyrim, there is still the same idea here of your being a prisoner, and having to go through steps to identify yourself before the game actually begins in earnest. Unlike with Skyrim, though, you aren’t being sentenced to execution–you in fact are being released! So that was kind of a nice change of pace.
I was also highly amused that the very first NPC that talked to me was Jiub. Which I knew was coming, but it was still funny to see it actually play out, given that I know this character only from past experience meeting him as a ghost in the Soul Cairn in Dawnguard. He sounds pretty similar in Morrowind, really–same kind of very gravelly voice. The wiki says it’s the same voice actor playing him in both games, awesome. <3
And now that I’ve played a little Morrowind, I spotted at least one other NPC that had a similar sort of voice. So not sure what’s up with that? If it’s just a “that voice actor” thing? Morrowind is set before the Red Mountain’s disastrous eruption, so it can’t be a question of “Dunmer whose throats were wrecked by the ashy air”.
Of course, I recognized the music immediately, since it got re-used for Dragonborn. Which caused me some cognitive dissonance, given that I associate that theme very strongly with being on Solstheim! So it’ll be interesting to see if I wind up mentally associating that theme with “places controlled by the Dunmer”.
I definitely had to dig into the game options to find the toggle for inverting the Y-axis, because I had some of the same startup problems with that that I did in the early days of playing Alarrah in Skyrim. Also noted that some standard functions were doable on my controller, like moving around and wielding my weapon, but I couldn’t get other things like accessing my journal to work without resorting to the keyboard. So I’ll need to play with changing mappings on my controller for this game, maybe, and see if I can get them to a state that more closely matches what I know from Skyrim.
Moving around with the controller is also still too sensitive, even with the sensitivity sliders turned all the way down. This suggests I may actually need the next higher grade of performance rings on my thumbsticks for this game.
It was very odd to go through the round of questioning from the NPC in the census house, which is supposed to help you decide what character class you are and what birthsign you were born under. Which makes sense from a game mechanic, but which nonetheless felt very weird from a roleplay perspective. If anything, it reminded me of Blade Runner! So I’m all .oO (Is this guy trying to help me be released from prison, or find out if I’m a replicant?)
The character setup also led me to the concept of “birthsigns”, which is how Morrowind handled the same idea covered by the Standing Stones in Skyrim–i.e., ways to get you various specialized boosts to skills. I want to say I like the Standing Stones version of this better, but I can’t really justify that yet. I want to say that it just feels more “natural” to me, but I think that’s just a matter of that being the mechanic I’m actually familiar with, rather than any fault of the concept of a “birthsign”. And hell, I’m outside Skyrim now, it would make sense for there to be some other cultural concept to use for governing this part of your character setup.
Wandering around the terrain between the first town, Seyda Neen, and my presumed destination of Balmora, that part was actually kind of neat. The terrain was a lot more primitively rendered than what Skyrim makes me used to, of course. But at the same time there was some opportunity for beauty that I appreciated, with how some of the background trees rendered. And once I was out late enough in game time for it to be night, the sky treated me with some pretty stars that hinted at the eventual aurora-drenched glory that I love in Skyrim.
I realized only belatedly, as I discovered that I couldn’t walk with the same speed I’m used to moving at in Skyrim, that I really should have tried to investigate taking the silt strider to Balmora. I even remember one of the NPCs told me that was an option, too. Now that I’m hanging out on the Skywind and Skyblivion Discord servers, I saw a mention there that Morrowind doesn’t have fast travel–which means that if I’m going to get from point A to point B, at least at first I’m definitely walking.
Now, I’m used to this with Skyrim of course. But in Skyrim, once I know where point B is, I can just fast travel there. But apparently Morrowind makes you hoof it all the time, unless you use one of the other in-game mechanics for faster travel. Like, say, the silt striders.
Relatedly, I did find road signs similar to ones I’m familiar with in Skyrim, pointing me in the general direction of Balmora. Which was helpful, because Morrowind does not have a HUD like Skyrim’s. And it apparently doesn’t do quest markers, either. So it’s going to take a whole new mindset of keeping track of where the hell I am and where the hell I need to be, if I’m going to make it very far in this adventure.
I really rather liked, though, that the road signs were not rendered in readable characters. I was able to see their translations by hovering over them with my pointer, which was a nice touch. Because even if Tamrielic is the general common tongue of the land, there’s no in-character reason that alphabet has to look like English!
(Plus, I daresay it helped with localization of the game, too. They wouldn’t have had to make localized assets for the signs, they could just have localized the hover captions.)
Didn’t get much farther than finding the NPC Maurrie Aurmine and agreeing to help her by finding the hot bandit–who was apparently back in Pelagiad? So going to Balmora is clearly going to take me a bit longer.
Not sure when “next time” is going to be on this yet, as I may only sporadically play this in between doing Faanshi and Shenner’s runs in Skyrim. I think I’m going to have to experiment a bit with controller configuration before I can really play this game in earnest. Right now the movement speed just feels too weird.
But whenever that “next time” winds up being, I think I’ll just keep it simple and try to find out more about that hot bandit for Maurrie. And maybe swing back towards the town I started in, to see about that silt strider. I think I probably need better armor before I go wandering around cliff-racer-infested roads all by myself.
Editing to add
- 11/23/2023: Restored missing gallery.