Regarded as a true milestone in the genre, the third game in the Elder Scrolls series brought the franchise to home consoles and worked to revolutionise the fantasy RPG genre. 15 years to the day of its release, Zenimax Online Studios has enabled players to venture back to the beloved land of Vvardenfell, this time through the next chapter of the Elder Scrolls Online. The Morrowind expansion features a wealth of new content including a new PvP mode, a new warden character class, and the largest new explorable region since the MMORPG's launch in 2014.
On your voyage to the shores of Vvardenfell your ship is torn apart by crashing waves and you awaken to find yourself behind bars, held captive by slavers. You soon become acquainted with Naryu Virian, a skilled assassin, who teaches you the basics of combat and devises a plan to lead you and your fellow slaves to safety. The tutorial centres around your escape, introducing you to the basics of inventory management, combat, and quest objectives, whilst also giving you a clear goal to strive towards. After dealing with Captain Svadstar and firebombing his ship down into the depths of the ocean, you're then free to venture out into Vvardenfell at your own pace, exploring dungeons, joining guilds, and delving deeper into its rich lore.
The expansion is set roughly 700 years prior to The Elder Scrolls III, long before volcanic ash had begun to spill across the land of Vvardenfell. The main quest line involves aiding Lord Vivec, one of the land's three gods, who has been drained of his powers by a mysterious illness. Simultaneously, you must work to prevent Barr Dau, a giant asteroid, from colliding with the world. Without spilling too many revealing details, the narrative evokes a sense of curiosity throughout and there's an admirable amount of detail given to the player through optional dialogue with characters. Voice acting, especially with some of the minor NPCs, does feel a little sketchy at times, but the dialogue is consistently well scripted.
Vvardenfell is the largest region to be introduced to TESO and its personality shines brightly through its mushroom covered planes, mystical wildlife, and molten ruins. The map feels like it has been torn directly from the original Morrowind, and returning veterans will feel completely at home regardless of the divide of several centuries. That being said, there are noticeable differences, as the Red Mountain has still yet to erupt and areas of Vivec City remain under construction. Even for those who won't feel the same nostalgic rush, there's still much to enjoy as the expansion provides the perfect introduction to Vvardenfell, free of the clunky combat and masses of scrolling text that plagued the original.
Quite likely the most anticipated feature of the expansion is the introduction of a fifth character class, the warden, which feels especially balanced with tanking, healing and special attack abilities. Utilising the power of nature, the warden's standout ability is to summon a ferocious grizzly bear to maul attacking enemies. Just like all other classes, the warden has three individual skill lines, which are called Animal Companion, Green Balance and Winter's Embrace. The first skill line, Animal Companion, lets you send swarms of attacking fetcherflies at your foes and unleash blue betty netches to replenish magicka.
Green Balance is handy because it allows you to heal yourself and your allies through plant-based magic, summoning forests and mushrooms to aid your recovery. The final line, Winter's Embrace, enables you to use frosty magic to shield your physical resistance and can be used to launch deadly ice shards. Returning players can check out the new warden class thanks to additional character slots, but what is particularly irritating is that you have to purchase tokens from the crown store to then edit your character's name and appearance.
Naturally, being an MMO, The Elder Scrolls Online is best played with friends (it's not nearly as fun played solo), and there's both PvP and PvE distractions on offer. One highlight is the battlegrounds PvP mode, which features chaotic bouts of close-quarters 4v4v4 action. These arena battles can be accessed simply through a queuing system and allow you to match with players of a similar skill level, regardless of your pledged alliance. Battles last for a maximum of 15 minutes and there are currently three different match types: capture the flag, domination and team deathmatch. Maps are varied, encompassing many environments characteristic of Vvardenfell, and each game mode can be played across each of them. These provide a quick and refreshing way to level up if you're looking for a break from the deeper and more involved quest lines available. The PvP mode can't be accessed, however, until you've reached level 10, and remains exclusive to owners of the Morrowind expansion.
The title isn't lacking PvE content either, as it features the first new trial since the Thieves Guild DLC, and it's called the Halls of Fabrication. Found within Sotha Sil's Clockwork City, the trial can be tackled with up to 12 players and it is swarming with deadly traps, giant mechanical bosses, and exclusive enemy types. If you're successful, however, you'll gain access to some of the best gear around and you can also find additional books and documents further exploring the world's rich lore. Boss battles within the trial are extremely memorable and it serves to scratch the itch for those seeking more challenging gameplay. We'd highly recommend banding up with a group of friends or joining a guild before entering, though, as it can prove to be punishingly difficult fighting solo.
After suffering quite a rocky launch, we're fortunate that The Elder Scrolls Online didn't fade into obscurity, as Morrowind is a fine example of the potential that it initially possessed. Returning to the mushroom-covered planes and molten ruins of Vvardenfell was largely a joy, especially with its newfound visual polish and the game's refined mechanics. Despite some repetitive side quests, the warden class, PvP mode, and many of the other new additions have worked to strengthen what was already a pretty strong package, in the process also making it the perfect jumping off point for newcomers. With such a bold commitment to the online IP, we're excited to see where Zenimax Online Studios will take us next within the Elder Scrolls universe.
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