Elder Scrolls Online, and I make no secrets about this, is my current favorite MMORPG on the market. But I’ve loved the regular quarterly DLC that comes with the ESO Plus subscription. Can Morrowind, ESO’s first chapter, truly make spending the extra $40 or more a worthwhile leap? In short, if you love story and ESO’s best adventuring content – yes. This is our Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind review.
Up front, let’s be honest about something here. There’s a reason Zenimax isn’t calling this an expansion. It’s not just because it doesn’t add content to the top end of the game solely, but it’s also because it’s not quite as content-packed as most traditional MMO expansions tend to be. There’s comparatively more content in a World of Warcraft expansion, for example. But the question is, do I feel like I’m getting my money’s worth out of Morrowind?
Yes, I bought my copy. A Collector’s Edition is on its way from Amazon as I write this. I’m a sucker for statues, even when I just have to hide them from my kids. But if I’d merely paid the $40, I still think there’s a solid value to Morrowind. One new class, massive, content-rich Vvardenfell, new PVP Battlegrounds, tons of new recipes, housing stuff galore. It feels like two DLC packed into one. And if you’re buying DLC without ESO Plus, that’s what Morrowind costs. If it’s your first foray into ESO, you get the entire base game as well. Which is simply hundreds of hours more content beyond Vvardenfell. It costs $60 then, but is definitely worth the price.
I get the folks who pay for ESO Plus and feel a bit left out. I hope in the future, some additional “bonus” is given to them since they don’t get four “free” DLCs anymore. Maybe Wayshrines for free, eh ZOS? But on the whole, Morrowind is worth every penny. If only because its content is remarkable and pulls off exactly what it aimed to: this is a return to Morrowind. It feels a lot like the game that made Elder Scrolls a break out RPG series, and that’s no small achievement.
We’ve talked about the story before, but it’s worth noting that not only the main questline of helping Vivec maintain his power is well done. The questline of Balmora, featuring the Morag Tong and Naryu herself is sublime storytelling. I winced and was shocked at its outcome. The many secret Easter eggs for fans of TESIII are welcome surprises, and the off-the-beaten-path questing that was perfected with the Orsinium DLC shines even more here. Vvardenfell is huge, lush, and packed with little nooks and crannies to uncover.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t speak to the Warden as well. While I think a lot of the panic over Warden being intentionally overpowered is misguided, there’s little doubt that the class is a powerful jack of all trades. But healing is still done better by Templars and Healing Staves, Tanking may very well still be better when performed by Dragon Knights and Shield-bearers. DPS, definitely still feels as though its owned by Sorcerers. This is all anecdotal from my time spent in-game, and against other classes in PVP. I suck at PVP, but even I can tell that Sorcs still have insane damage. Meanwhile I feel the Warden, at least early on with Animal Companions (DPS) seems a bit underpowered in anything but single target fights.
It’s worth noting I’m only in my 20s on the Warden, so a late game player can better detail its strengths and weaknesses. I’ve put 30 hours into Morrowind since early access began, and I’m still not done with the island’s content – it’s a nice long burn.
Speaking of the new PVP Battlegrounds: if there’s any one spot in Morrowind that feels a little flat, it’s probably the Battlegrounds. Don’t get me wrong. They’re fun at the core. But they’re a little hum-drum too. The big difference in ESO’s instanced PVP is actually something I’ve been missing without knowing it – instanced PVP with three teams. The hallmark of Cyrodiil, and indeed the ZOS team’s past with Dark Age of Camelot, is its three competing realms. The battlegrounds though are not Ebonheart, Daggerfall, and Aldmeri. The three teams (Pit Demons, Fire Drakes, and Storm Lords) are based on the factions of Elder Scrolls: Arena, fittingly enough.
There are three match types – Team Death Match, Capture the Flag, and Domination. As always, my least favorite is CTF, but TDM and Domination play out usually very well. Capture the Flag seems to always devolve into madness and someone doing something stupid with the flag. I hate it, OK? But win or lose, you’ll get rewards mailed to you upon successful completion of the matches, and if you do the Battleground Quests given out in Vivec City, you’ll also earn points to spend on Battleground themed gear and other rewards. Plus you’re able to level through Battlegrounds, gain PVP skill line experience and ranks, and so forth.
So how do they fall a little flat then? As Star Whisper notes in our GameSpace review, it often feels like the matchmaking is somehow off. Even if you’re leveling still, it feels like you’re often pitted against people that are well into their Champion Ranks. That could just be because we suck, and we’re getting out played, but it definitely feels like some players can wipe a whole team when you’re killed in a few good hits during certain matches.
But this little inconsistency alone is not enough for me to steer you away from Morrowind. Zenimax Online’s inaugural Chapter is a fresh start for game that’s already proven itself as one of the genre’s best titles. It didn’t need to get as good as Morrowind, but here we are. Morrowind, along with all the rest of the DLC we’ve received, has made it so that I don’t care to ever see the basic content of ESO again. That’s profound. The original game’s story and questing is now the last thing I feel compelled to do, and Zenimax’ “go anywhere, do anything” design has made it so that’s a perfectly acceptable way to play.
I cannot wait to see where Morrowind’s story ends, and where the next year of content takes us in Nirn. It’s fun to think that this is just the first chapter in years of content ESO has up its sleeve. Talk about starting off with a bang.
SECOND OPINIONS NEEDED?
GameSpace's Own Review - 9/10:
At the end of the day, if you’re coming to Morrowind for a new story experience or to discover a reimagined Vvardenfell, you’re in the right place. The new region is lovingly crafted, and the Warden class is really fun to play. It’s also only $39.99 for a digital upgrade, and contains quite a bit more content than previous DLC packs.
MMOGames' Review - 7/10:
Although the quality of the content present in Morrowind meets expectations, it lacks long-term staying power. Players should look at this new chapter as a bundled piece of DLC rather than an actual expansion; it’s essentially Orsinium with a new class and battlegrounds. It does provide an alternative starting path for new players or those who really want access to the Warden, but most of the content is one and done. Morrowind has a little something for everyone, but it’s hard to justify the price for those who don’t plan on experiencing everything it has to offer.
MassivelyOP's Morrowind Thoughts:
I can comment on the biggest pull for TESIII players: nostalgia. There is a lot of it. ESO Morrowind was clearly pulled from the same patch of member berries as Star Wars: The Force Awakens. From Azura to Chodala, there are nostalgic characters sprinkled throughout the storyline of Morrowind, and they are specifically intended to help you don your rose-tinted glasses.