Two hours with Morrowind


I really ought to know better by now.

Every so often, I find myself staring at a carrot dangling in my face. And for whatever reason, I’m never quite able to figure out that this carrot is not a freshly picked carrot, nor is it a well-cooked one. It’s some nasty abortion of a vegetable that is covered in mud and Aphids. And for whatever reason, I always seem willing to devour this shit.

The carrots in question are, if the title of this entry or the tags at the bottom weren’t obvious, Bethesda games. Bethesda’s games are well and truly wretched mutant horse shit, yet I always (used to) get this strange urge to play one whenever my mind was in dire need for an open-ended Action-RPG and I didn’t feel like playing Shadow Tower. Oblivion was some droning, boring story about LARPers running around like unsupervised children at the world’s largest Renaissance Fair and Fallout 3 was more or less a digital middle finger directed at anybody who has ever enjoyed a good video game at some point in their lives; in other words, just about anybody vaguely familiar with video games. They are garbage. Million dollar garbage, to be certain, but I imagine discarded containers of Caviar are too.

Despite all this, there was one endlessly repeated line spoken into my ear: play Morrowind. “Morrowind is the best game Bethesda has ever done!” “It’s the perfect game for people who didn’t like Oblivion!” Nevermind the fact that perfect game for people who didn’t like Oblivion would be just about any other video game in existence, I kept that in mind. I have a terrible habit of letting the wrong people get in my ear.

I, uh, acquired, a copy of Morrowind for my PC with the goal of trying to enjoy myself; to see if this truly was some example of Bethesda Softworks magically becoming a good developer all of a sudden. I started up a new game and was immediately asked to create a character. Normally, in games like this (i.e awful Western RPGs where my standards hover somewhere around the ground floor (i.e Mass Effect)), I tend to create either an Asian or Black woman with a rebellious haircut (mohawks and whatnot) who follows the “evil” path, or its closest approximation. I eschewed my standard protocol of character creation to make a male Dark Elf named Yuri. I’m not sure why I did that; I just did. According to the Ork who is standing next to me after the opening cinematic, I’m a prisoner on a ship that has all of two doors in its interior, neither of which are attached to the holding room that we are in. The guards are overwhelmingly scary nice to me and then tell me that I’m free to go. All I need to do is fill out some forms, which is Morrowind speak for, “put your stats together and pick a class that dictates your future abilities,” and I’m off into the big, scary world. Several screens of exposition later, I’m working for a guy who’s clad only in a pair of hobo pants who is also some kind of medieval super-spy for the Emperor. He then sends me off to go look for half a dozen different people for half a dozen different reasons.

Aimlessly wandering around, I take in my surroundings. Surprisingly enough, the game actually kind of looks good. As in, there appears to have been some actual thought put into the game world’s appearance. Rather than some boring caravan or, ugh, “quick travel,” moving from one area to another is done on the back of a giant insect. I thought it was pretty cool, and I imagine somebody at Valve did too and decided to base their Striders off of the strange insect creatures in this game rather than the mechanical tripodal aliens in War of the Worlds. With only one touch, it added a small sense of wonder to its world.

Then, of course, you remember that this is a fucking shitty Bethesda game that sucks and that you have to actually venture out past the first town to accomplish anything. Venturing out into fields full of giant mushroom led me to a cave full of giant rats. Without any form of hesitation, I pull out the sharp Halberd I purchased in town and thrust it directly into a rat’s face. It does nothing. I back up, prepare my weapon and thrust again, this time getting the weapon to clip through the rat’s entire head. Still nothing. I back up to avoid the rat’s biting attack and get ready for hit number three. From about six fucking feet away, the rat is able to bite me. And this just isn’t any bite; this is a bite that causes my vision to shake violently and my movements to slow to a crawl for a full five seconds. It was as though I’d just been concussed by a Massive Ork’s club to the head. Except that wasn’t a Massive Ork’s club, it was a rat, some preliminary geek that can be easily handled in any Dragon Quest game known to man. Prior to Morrowind, I had been spending time playing the following three games: King’s Field, Monster Hunter and Secret of Evermore. What these games have in common, aside from being everything Bethesda wishes their shit could be, is that not only does each title contain their own fantastic and well-thought out worlds loaded with Common Sense and Artistic Conscience, but that their combat systems are also not complete bullshit. A swing of a sword and the thrust of a spear in those games produces a hit (light or strong, depending on the circumstances of the attack). But while I’m reflecting on my experiences with better games, this rat is kicking my ass.

According to an online forum post I read, swinging a weapon is merely an interpretation of what would happen if you swung a weapon; there’s no guarantee that it will hit. After all, using your imagination, that insignificant rat could’ve done some type of Matrix-type bullshit and backflipped out of your way. I guess? Either way, that is so stupid that I’d be making a mockery of the term “broken” to call it just that. And considering that, amongst all the exploration and questing and walls of text and playing Twenty Question with NPCs, Morrowind is completely centered around its combat. Its quests revolve around killing monsters, killing enemy soldiers or stabbing an Archduke or some other royalty in the back. And why would I want to suffer through what Bethesda Softworks considers excellent writing battling meaningless caricatures of Medieval folklore as though I’m a Big Bad Wolf attempting to blow down a brick house? It’s completely asinine and completely validates the opinions of any jackass who’s ever mocked somebody for enjoying video games.

After two hours of slogging knee-deep in shit, I ended up playing Secret of Evermore again. And that’s really the lesson here: play Secret of Evermore

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