For years since launch, the island of Vvardenfell has sat on the Tamriel map in Elder Scrolls Online… taunting me, blank as the digital parchment it was drawn upon once was. But no more. Though I traveled down to Maryland to see the official unveiling of the new ESO chapter, we didn’t get any time to actually play the new Warden class or the new zone. Now I can safely say that if you love ESO, Morrowind is set to give you heaps more of the game you adore.
Zenimax is walking a fine line. They don’t want to call Morrowind an expansion, as it’s not in a traditional sense. It’s not only for the top-end players, but also because it what many would consider less than enough content to truly match what other MMORPG retail expansions offer. Vvardenfell is indeed the game’s largest single zone to date, and there are roughly 30 hours of questing content packed into the area. But that’s on the low end for any RPG, much less an Elder Scrolls RPG.
What pads Morrowind out and makes it feel closer to worth its $40 base asking price is the new class and new PVP Battlegrounds. That said, there aren’t any real quality of life or game systems being added with Morrowind. In essence, it’s a huge DLC which normally costs $20. When looking at the prices, the $40 for what you get puts it right in line with other DLC – except the ESO plus folks still have to shell out the cash when they’d normally have access for free.
So, all that said – how does Morrowind play? This is where I’m happy to report that the adventures into Vvardenfell build upon the lessons learned from Orsinium, Thieves Guild, and Dark Brotherhood. Once this update goes live, I imaging it’ll be hard to want to quest through the old Tamriel zones. For starters, I’ve done most of them several times over. But the main reason is because Morrowind (and its other DLC brethren) are so much better designed in terms of interesting quest flow and exploration.
Where the original Tamriel zones have you essentially work through a pattern of quest area to quest area, the exploration of Vvardenfell fees more organic with less “NPC waiting for you with an arrow over its head” design. This makes the questing feel more like other TES games and ergo far more engaging. I had to stop myself from playing too much of Morrowind’s closed beta because I don’t want to spoil the return to Vivec City and the quest to help the gold and blue god find what’s sapping his energy.
Starting the game as a new character is quite refreshing too. No more “same three islands” and beginning life in Coldharbour. Yep, they still make sure you start as a prisoner in true Elder Scrolls fashion, but it’s great to finally have a new place to start out live. It’s interesting to play an ESO where you’re not called the Vestige, where there are no companions, and where Dumbledore isn’t your fearless leader. What’s novel is that once the adventure in Morrowind is complete, that same tale of defeating Molag Bal is waiting for you, as is all the other content in Tamriel.
But how does the new class play? The Warden is, as expected, a superpowered beast. There’s already been an uproar on the forums about how powerful the new class feels compared to others who are nerfed in the PTS balance pass, prompting a long time champion of ESO (Deltia) to take a break from the game (among other personal reasons). Yes, the Warden is awesome. Yes, there are nerfs to other classes, but I won’t go so far as to say the Warden is suddenly “pay to win”. Like all new classes in MMOs, he innately feels overpowered. He’s going to need adjusting to come more in line with the changes to the other classes. Perhaps I’m just used to this cycle brought on by new classes, but I’ve seen my fair share of new MMO class launches. It may be that the Warden’s power early on is to help sell the expansion, but that’s not going to stop me from playing one at launch.
With or without power, the utility and uniqueness of the class is what excites me. The most attractive skill line is the Animal Companion line because of the fun of having your own bear and using cliff racers as attack skills. But the varied healing abilities of Green Balance, and the protective and attacking skills of Winter’s Embrace (frost mage!) make this the first class in ESO where all three of the main skill lines seem fun to play. I almost felt guilty not putting weapon skills on my hotbar, but there may not be a need until you start figuring out your ideal build and rotation.
While I long for more systems (farming, new weapons, and stuff like that please!), Morrowind seems to be some of the best content added to ESO since its launch. I did not have time to try the PVP Battlegrounds at level 10, but I’m so very glad a quick and rewarding sort of PVP is available outside of Cyrodiil. I’m only a little sad that you must purchase Morrowind to partake in it, limiting the playing field a bit. In any case, if Morrowind is a hint of the Chapters to come every year from Zenimax, consider me on board. There are still bugs to be worked out and voice overs to be added to many NPCs, but Morrowind is looking like one of the best MMO releases of the year and a great place for new and old players in Tamriel to continue their journey.