Morrowind: Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

Posted by ahoodedfigure (4238 posts) -

I'm starting to remember just why this game always dies the death before I manage to complete everything I want to complete.  It's not any huge wound that kills my enthusiasm, but instead an accumulation of tiny cuts.
 
My Argonian "Infiltrator" has reached level 10, using one of the most reasonable builds I've ever used in any Elder Scrolls game, with major skills being mostly related to thieving and alchemy, with only blunt weapon as a weapon skill, and magical and social skills as my minors. Restoration, athletics/icism, and acrobatics are in the miscellaneous section because they're way too easy to level, and I've been purposely leveling misc. skills because I want to raise certain attributes (I've been using Illkurok the Spear so I can raise my endurance, which is damned pitiful right now). It takes a while to level, and I find I like it that way.
 
Because this is the Game of the Year edition one of my early goals was to head north to Solstheim. I spent so much money getting there that by the time I reached the port of Khuul I was broke and had to swim all the way there.  Thankfully no slaughterfish or dreugh spawn in the open sea; as ridiculous as it is to swim that distance it wound up being fairly economical and a good way to practice alteration spells. 
 
One of the first places I visited was a skooma brewery headed by a creepy man who had little regard for one of his servants. I murdered the guy to put an end to his drug manufacturing and took his pointy hat. Pretty much the rest of the journey was a cursory exploration of my surroundings to see if I could find a crashed airship, and then running from cave to cave trying to get to the imperial fortress that was inexpertly described as being on the southern tip of the island, of which there are actually several, with the southernmost tip being quite a walk away from the actual fort.
 
The encounters along the way were fucking deadly and I died many times. I also learned that, at least with the expansions, creatures without unique names respawn when you load. I had forgotten about this, but if you want to talk about the greatest proportion of tiny cuts, it's clearing a room of enemies, making some dumb mistake, loading, and having that past self that reloaded suddenly surrounded by people she thought she killed. Fucking horrible. 
 
The annoyance reached its peak later in Mournhold, when I was clearing out an assassin's den only to run into a very strong lead assassin. Upon loading, all the assassins I had painstakingly cleared out of the prior room were now all around me, stabbing me with their pointed sticks. I was not happy.
 
It's not like reloading on the XBox version of the game isn't already painful enough. The load time is significant compared to just about any other game I've played that has been made during the previous decade, and it's punishment enough to sit there waiting for the thing to chug to completion after I get creamed by a one-hit-kill enemy. Add on to that the respawn issue and it makes some of the trial and error that's sometimes necessary to understand the consequences of your actions seem like an excuse for the game designers to laugh at you.  None felt more like that, though, than the play-within-the-game.
  

No Exit


I tend to hate these sorts of things. There was one in Jade Empire. If you play a bard there's one in Baldur's Gate II (or so I've been told). You may know what I'm talking about: you're given the script, told to memorize lines (which, as a human being outside of the game you can write down on a scrap piece of paper if you feel the need), then pushed out on stage and told to break a leg.  Well, there's a play in Mournhold, you're told you look like the person who was supposed to portray so-and-so, and you are given a text that you have to draw from to play the part.
 
The text was long, so I spent some time reading it to make sure I memorized some of the key words in each of the lines, so that when the prompt came up I'd know pretty much what I needed to say, if not the exact line.  But when it came time to go out on stage, the prompts did NOT show the complete lines. They didn't even show complete sentences, for the most part. You were just given snippets. I got it perfect the first time, and then I was attacked.
 
The person attacking me had a blade that caused massive amounts of damage, and though I got a hit or two in I wasn't really prepared. I died and had to reload.
 
The director tells you that you only have two minutes to prepare, and I'd saved just after learning this, thinking this was going to be a peaceful side-quest, so I couldn't run back and buy a healing potion that I sorely needed. I read through the text again, took notes of the first words for each of my character's lines to make sure I got things right,  and started again.
 
It was here that I noticed that one of the multiple choice questions actually didn't reflect any of the lines in the play. It was written down wrong by the programmers.  It was perhaps my anger at this that made me die again and again and again.
 
Prepared for battle, I do it yet again, this time with my dwarven warhammer at the ready. The assassin pops up, I crush him, and my co-actor starts attacking me. Apparently I had hit her, too, and she went into the "I Will Destroy You!!" zombie mode of permanent attack, ruining that save, too.
 
Finally, I decided to leave the stage once I was free to move so that I didn't accidentally hit anyone. A few more tries (each load lasting a minute, and the play lasting a minute of unskippable dialog), and I beat the bastard into the ground.  
 
All that for a minor quest. I'm afraid to even look up how much time it took me to complete it.
 
--

This series of annoyances was done, but since then I've experienced many insta-death traps that have worn down my ability to want to play this game. Yeah, Mournhold's for high level characters, which translates into characters with high hitpoints and a preternatural foreknowledge of traps, but even if I die I wind up getting smashed to the ground by the respawn issue. I'm at the point now where I'm going to quit a quest that had the player pursuing someone with urgency because I'm just not strong enough "bah, just leave that murderer to the sewers for now. Wait until I level."
 
I've been careful this game to dispose of corpses and put any items I can't carry into containers rather than leaving them on the ground where they never disappear, and I wonder if that's why I have yet to get a glitch despite many hours of play. One of the theories is that over time the game tries to keep track of too much stuff at once and it sort of cripples the game. I'm beginning to think they might be right because this run has been relatively smooth.  It's too bad it didn't spend less time keeping track of items and more time keeping track of quest accomplishments, I have in only a few days play run into several quests that were busted by my not doing things in the proper order. This, for a supposed sandbox game, is disappointing.
 
Smooth is a relative term, of course, since I still feel like I'm on the moon in this game. Movement is so sluggish that I'm much more prone to hopping than walking (and it doesn't help that the fastest movement speed is reserved for characters moving EXACTLY straight ahead, because my old controller doesn't make it easy to find that exact notch unless I use the D-pad). This would be a little easier to take if navigation in the world itself wasn't so difficult, with directions being vague enough that you can be lost for hours trying to obey even the simplest of orders that would have been much, much easier to follow in real life (where the hills are less pointy and the roads are more clearly defined).
 
All that said, I still like it, even in its XBox awkwardness. I enjoy the alchemy system, in part because there's a chance of failure when making potions (risk vs. reward), and there are secret combinations that you can discover by putting two items together that I think they did away with in Oblivion (please correct me if I'm wrong about the alchemy systems being different).  The 3D graphics are at just the right level of sophistication that I can look at the people I see as characters (albeit characters milling about with nothing to do).   And though it breaks the game a bit, I'm glad The Creeper is in there. After being so poor for so long, and having expensive weapons I couldn't sell anywhere, it was nice to get 1 to 1 pricing from that guy so I could be comfortably rich again.
 
And as a credit to the ingenuity of the developers, I STILL find plenty of interesting tidbits and in-jokes that I hadn't found in previous run-throughs of the game. There's still a lot to discover, and that's probably what helps me ignore getting battered by the faulty game engine. When you think about the scale of content, even if it's not organized well, it feels generous.
 
Eh, and I'll probably play some more when I'm done writing this. If you notice a small fire coming from my general direction, it's just steam coming out of my ears. I'll probably give up should the glitches make it no fun to play again, but for now the main benefit, finding new little discoveries, outweighs the pain of the thousand cuts. If you'll excuse me, I've heard rumors of a submerged daedric ruin northwest of Hla Oad...
#1 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4238 posts) -

I'm starting to remember just why this game always dies the death before I manage to complete everything I want to complete.  It's not any huge wound that kills my enthusiasm, but instead an accumulation of tiny cuts.
 
My Argonian "Infiltrator" has reached level 10, using one of the most reasonable builds I've ever used in any Elder Scrolls game, with major skills being mostly related to thieving and alchemy, with only blunt weapon as a weapon skill, and magical and social skills as my minors. Restoration, athletics/icism, and acrobatics are in the miscellaneous section because they're way too easy to level, and I've been purposely leveling misc. skills because I want to raise certain attributes (I've been using Illkurok the Spear so I can raise my endurance, which is damned pitiful right now). It takes a while to level, and I find I like it that way.
 
Because this is the Game of the Year edition one of my early goals was to head north to Solstheim. I spent so much money getting there that by the time I reached the port of Khuul I was broke and had to swim all the way there.  Thankfully no slaughterfish or dreugh spawn in the open sea; as ridiculous as it is to swim that distance it wound up being fairly economical and a good way to practice alteration spells. 
 
One of the first places I visited was a skooma brewery headed by a creepy man who had little regard for one of his servants. I murdered the guy to put an end to his drug manufacturing and took his pointy hat. Pretty much the rest of the journey was a cursory exploration of my surroundings to see if I could find a crashed airship, and then running from cave to cave trying to get to the imperial fortress that was inexpertly described as being on the southern tip of the island, of which there are actually several, with the southernmost tip being quite a walk away from the actual fort.
 
The encounters along the way were fucking deadly and I died many times. I also learned that, at least with the expansions, creatures without unique names respawn when you load. I had forgotten about this, but if you want to talk about the greatest proportion of tiny cuts, it's clearing a room of enemies, making some dumb mistake, loading, and having that past self that reloaded suddenly surrounded by people she thought she killed. Fucking horrible. 
 
The annoyance reached its peak later in Mournhold, when I was clearing out an assassin's den only to run into a very strong lead assassin. Upon loading, all the assassins I had painstakingly cleared out of the prior room were now all around me, stabbing me with their pointed sticks. I was not happy.
 
It's not like reloading on the XBox version of the game isn't already painful enough. The load time is significant compared to just about any other game I've played that has been made during the previous decade, and it's punishment enough to sit there waiting for the thing to chug to completion after I get creamed by a one-hit-kill enemy. Add on to that the respawn issue and it makes some of the trial and error that's sometimes necessary to understand the consequences of your actions seem like an excuse for the game designers to laugh at you.  None felt more like that, though, than the play-within-the-game.
  

No Exit


I tend to hate these sorts of things. There was one in Jade Empire. If you play a bard there's one in Baldur's Gate II (or so I've been told). You may know what I'm talking about: you're given the script, told to memorize lines (which, as a human being outside of the game you can write down on a scrap piece of paper if you feel the need), then pushed out on stage and told to break a leg.  Well, there's a play in Mournhold, you're told you look like the person who was supposed to portray so-and-so, and you are given a text that you have to draw from to play the part.
 
The text was long, so I spent some time reading it to make sure I memorized some of the key words in each of the lines, so that when the prompt came up I'd know pretty much what I needed to say, if not the exact line.  But when it came time to go out on stage, the prompts did NOT show the complete lines. They didn't even show complete sentences, for the most part. You were just given snippets. I got it perfect the first time, and then I was attacked.
 
The person attacking me had a blade that caused massive amounts of damage, and though I got a hit or two in I wasn't really prepared. I died and had to reload.
 
The director tells you that you only have two minutes to prepare, and I'd saved just after learning this, thinking this was going to be a peaceful side-quest, so I couldn't run back and buy a healing potion that I sorely needed. I read through the text again, took notes of the first words for each of my character's lines to make sure I got things right,  and started again.
 
It was here that I noticed that one of the multiple choice questions actually didn't reflect any of the lines in the play. It was written down wrong by the programmers.  It was perhaps my anger at this that made me die again and again and again.
 
Prepared for battle, I do it yet again, this time with my dwarven warhammer at the ready. The assassin pops up, I crush him, and my co-actor starts attacking me. Apparently I had hit her, too, and she went into the "I Will Destroy You!!" zombie mode of permanent attack, ruining that save, too.
 
Finally, I decided to leave the stage once I was free to move so that I didn't accidentally hit anyone. A few more tries (each load lasting a minute, and the play lasting a minute of unskippable dialog), and I beat the bastard into the ground.  
 
All that for a minor quest. I'm afraid to even look up how much time it took me to complete it.
 
--

This series of annoyances was done, but since then I've experienced many insta-death traps that have worn down my ability to want to play this game. Yeah, Mournhold's for high level characters, which translates into characters with high hitpoints and a preternatural foreknowledge of traps, but even if I die I wind up getting smashed to the ground by the respawn issue. I'm at the point now where I'm going to quit a quest that had the player pursuing someone with urgency because I'm just not strong enough "bah, just leave that murderer to the sewers for now. Wait until I level."
 
I've been careful this game to dispose of corpses and put any items I can't carry into containers rather than leaving them on the ground where they never disappear, and I wonder if that's why I have yet to get a glitch despite many hours of play. One of the theories is that over time the game tries to keep track of too much stuff at once and it sort of cripples the game. I'm beginning to think they might be right because this run has been relatively smooth.  It's too bad it didn't spend less time keeping track of items and more time keeping track of quest accomplishments, I have in only a few days play run into several quests that were busted by my not doing things in the proper order. This, for a supposed sandbox game, is disappointing.
 
Smooth is a relative term, of course, since I still feel like I'm on the moon in this game. Movement is so sluggish that I'm much more prone to hopping than walking (and it doesn't help that the fastest movement speed is reserved for characters moving EXACTLY straight ahead, because my old controller doesn't make it easy to find that exact notch unless I use the D-pad). This would be a little easier to take if navigation in the world itself wasn't so difficult, with directions being vague enough that you can be lost for hours trying to obey even the simplest of orders that would have been much, much easier to follow in real life (where the hills are less pointy and the roads are more clearly defined).
 
All that said, I still like it, even in its XBox awkwardness. I enjoy the alchemy system, in part because there's a chance of failure when making potions (risk vs. reward), and there are secret combinations that you can discover by putting two items together that I think they did away with in Oblivion (please correct me if I'm wrong about the alchemy systems being different).  The 3D graphics are at just the right level of sophistication that I can look at the people I see as characters (albeit characters milling about with nothing to do).   And though it breaks the game a bit, I'm glad The Creeper is in there. After being so poor for so long, and having expensive weapons I couldn't sell anywhere, it was nice to get 1 to 1 pricing from that guy so I could be comfortably rich again.
 
And as a credit to the ingenuity of the developers, I STILL find plenty of interesting tidbits and in-jokes that I hadn't found in previous run-throughs of the game. There's still a lot to discover, and that's probably what helps me ignore getting battered by the faulty game engine. When you think about the scale of content, even if it's not organized well, it feels generous.
 
Eh, and I'll probably play some more when I'm done writing this. If you notice a small fire coming from my general direction, it's just steam coming out of my ears. I'll probably give up should the glitches make it no fun to play again, but for now the main benefit, finding new little discoveries, outweighs the pain of the thousand cuts. If you'll excuse me, I've heard rumors of a submerged daedric ruin northwest of Hla Oad...
#2 Posted by AuthenticM (3699 posts) -

I cannot count the number of times I started another character even before I beat the main quest. I just loved that game so much that I wanted to create the perfect character before fighting the last boss. This game is a fucking masterpiece. I'm going to play it again this summer before Skyrim gets released.

#3 Posted by Skald (4367 posts) -

Last time I played Morrowind was when the 2011 Mod Compendium was released. It had a hell of a lot of mods, but it didn't credit the people who created them. Needless to say, it got taken down pretty quickly. Damn good package though.

#4 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4238 posts) -
@AuthenticM:  There's actually a significant amount of Nord stuff in Morrowind too, so it might be a fun way to contrast how much things have improved. As I said, I have a lot of problems with how it's executed, but I still love the little details.  When I watched someone play Oblivion recently, it took them so little time to move across Cyrodiil it felt like the place wasn't much bigger than a suburb. With Morrowind it seems to take double or triple that time to move about the same distance. Of course, what's important is what's between, and there are spots that just feel like blobs of rocks. Skyrim may be pretty cool, as long as they keep the bugs down.
 
As for the amount of characters, I must have created at least 10.  :)
 
@extremeradical: Although I think it would be a bit foolhardy of Bethesda to release Morrowind for free like they did with Daggerfall and Arena when Morrowind's 10th anniversary comes up, stuff like those mod packs you mention are what have me secretly hoping they do :)
#5 Posted by Claude (16254 posts) -

I was going to try and play Morrowind again, but I lost my Tribunal and Bloodmoon disks. I know they're here somewhere. If I had it on Steam, this wouldn't be a problem.

#6 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4238 posts) -
@Claude:  The digital stuff is mad convenient. I know that if this whole place gets sucked into a giant sink hole I can still play GOG games...  although I guess that would be the least of my problems at that point. 
 
The main game is decent enough. I like the detail in Tribunal, and the intrigue has some interesting choices but at times it feels like they're out to murder me. And Bloodmoon feels like I'm marching a first level character through a high level area in someone else's MMO, with a bunch of creatures just milling about waiting to attack me and only me.  
 
My advice to you would be to load up the basic game and see if you even want to keep playing it. If it annoys you that the bonus stuff isn't there then, yeah, I guess you'd have to look for stuff. If not, you'll be free! FREE!
#7 Posted by Claude (16254 posts) -
@ahoodedfigure:  I would play just the original, but I believe one of the expansions added a health bar for the enemies. I don't want to play Morrowind without that.
#8 Edited by eroticfishcake (7782 posts) -

As much as I liked Morrowind it always seems to find new ways to annoy me. The combat, the wonky animations and the god awful journal (to which I've yet to find a mod for), despite this, I really do appreciate the details, variety and uniqueness of Morrowind. Now that I think about it, I've got Bloodmoon and Tribunal for years and I've barely scratched the surface on those two (crazy I know!) Should go back to that some time. 
 
Also, cheers for these blogs of yours. I'm really enjoying them even though I don't comment on them much.

#9 Posted by Carnin (40 posts) -

That is alot of writing i hope people actually read all of this to make the writing worth it.

#10 Posted by Claude (16254 posts) -
@Carnin said:
"That is alot of writing i hope people actually read all of this to make the writing worth it. "

This is a short blog compared to some I've read from ahoodedfigure.
#11 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4238 posts) -
@Carnin:  The risk when blogging about ANYTHING is that no one will give a damn, but I write about these things because my gut tells me to. At the very least I get some writing practice, better yet I get a little conversation going.  Some people have found older blogs, too, and commented on them. I figure if I have to move on to greener pastures I'll have a body of work that I'm proud of, even if it's uneven.
 
One thing I'd really like this site to have is metrics that let you know who is reading your blog but not commenting. I have to judge my success based on comments, but there may be people who are into what I'm writing that don't feel like saying anything, and I'd at least like to know they checked it out.
#12 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4238 posts) -
@Claude:  Ain't that the truth :)
 
@eroticfishcake: Hey, I'm glad you're still reading my stuff after I went crazy-linguist on you.
 
Since I have GOTY now I've had Tribunal and Bloodmoon there, but the former is very questy and I just like roaming around, while the latter felt sort of impenetrable to me.  Also, what's with the materials in tribunal all weighing one pound or whatever the unit of weight is?  Little flowers are heavy in Mournhold. I could have kept listing my complaints but I figured people got the idea :)  Thanks for poking your head in.
#13 Edited by Claude (16254 posts) -
@ahoodedfigure:  I've read a lot of your blogs and not commented. Some are over my head, some are about games I've never played or will never play. But for whatever reason, I read them and didn't comment. I'll try and work on that. I do it to other bloggers as well.
 
I was also going to add, when you post your blogs to the forums you can see how many views you get. You just have to check the forums to do so.
#14 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4238 posts) -
@Claude:  I appreciate that, but don't feel like you have to. I'd hate to make that sort of promise  to someone and then keep running into topics that didn't interest me enough to comment for whatever reason. I figure with the Wasteland stuff I was hitting a universal as well as talking about games at the same time, so even if you hadn't played any of them one might still have something to say. I might try to weave more of those in than I usually do from time to time, because they feel more appropriate as actual essays than just geeking out on random games.
#15 Posted by ArbitraryWater (11488 posts) -

The bard part in BG 2 was hard (although, I only call it that because its where you would get the headquarters if the main character is a bard, which my guy was), but I don't remember it being Trials of the Luremaster level of infuriating or long . Not to mention, you get a nice suit of magic armor for completing it, which can be worn by Bards and Fighter/Mages without losing spellcasting.
 
But yeah. Morrowind. That game is still on my desktop, waiting for me to give it yet another chance. I probably will, eventually. But for now, I'm going to play Icewind Dale II.

#16 Posted by Malakhii (1443 posts) -
@extremeradical said:
" Last time I played Morrowind was when the 2011 Mod Compendium was released. It had a hell of a lot of mods, but it didn't credit the people who created them. Needless to say, it got taken down pretty quickly. Damn good package though. "
You can still get it here. I'd suggest it to anyone who wants to give Morrowind a go. 
#17 Posted by melcene (3056 posts) -
Morrowind
I love Morrowind, and have gone back to it many times myself.  My own problem with the game is that I always end up getting mods for it and have yet to ever complete the game itself (even though I maxed my faction with everyone).  That was why I ended up getting Oblivion on 360.  I hoped that having the vanilla version of the game would help me complete it.  Still didn't work. 
 
I've considered giving Morrowind yet another shot, but instead decided to dust off Dragon Age.  I just can't bring myself to go through Morrowind again, as much as that pains me. 
#18 Posted by Skald (4367 posts) -
@Malakhii: Does it come with instructions? I remember there being a lot of things to do in a particular order.
#19 Posted by Claude (16254 posts) -

I was rereading your post, yes, I do that sometimes. This line caught my eye.

 All that said, I still like it, even in its XBox awkwardness.
 
I had no idea your were playing the XBox version. Have you played Morrowind on the PC? Just curious... I played Morrowind on the Xbox and PC having never finished either one.

#20 Posted by ahoodedfigure (4238 posts) -
@melcene:  Every time I play Morrowind I do things differently, but I think I'm almost reaching a point where I'm surpassing what I've done prior. It's almost like I'm sick of screwing around and want to see what this game has to offer. I forgot some of the secrets in Tribunal that I'd discovered a long time ago, and have been rewarded with some interesting sights.  I do like how the creators are generous  with players who travel far enough in. I'm pretty sure if I'd just scratched the surface I wouldn't have gotten crazy rich off of selling an ancient sword given to me by a forgotten god whose temple I helped rebuild on the west coast, or gotten imbued with power from a god-among-mortals. Pretty neat. For the most part I've done as you've done, though, and I pretty much stumbled upon the areas that are part of the end of the game just through my usual reckless exploration.  
 
The bugs, though...  I wonder if the PC version has fixed a lot of the broken quests and respawning. They're sort of infuriating.
 
Your gal looks like she's got a pretty snappy set of armor. Mine's just a set of glass armor, hidden underneath a robe. She's also usually wearing a magical bear helmet, so she looks a bit ridiculous.

@ArbitraryWater: Wouldn't mind that kind of armor for my dual-wielding rogue/wizard in ID2
 
@Claude: I've only seen others play the PC version. Looks much better, for the most part; beyond the modding it seems like the game is designed with a mouse in mind. If I ever find it at a reasonable price I don't see why I wouldn't pick it up if they manage to nuke a lot of these dream-killing bugs. It has me wondering, too, how optimized Skyrim will be for consoles. 

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