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- The Elder Scrolls Online
These days it takes a little something extra to bring new players to the MMORPG fold. Everyone recalls their days of World of Warcraft and Runescape, everybody has fond memories, and yet a vast number of players fail to return to the genre as years pass, even when certain MMOs interest them. Gaming backlogs generally grow exponentially in tandem with age and responsibilities, so if online RPGs hope to win over attention and eyeballs, they have to get creative with their content, updates, and how they make news. For me, that’s exactly what ZeniMax Online Studios is doing with The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind.
I had the chance to speak with ESO director Matt Firor, and he’s well aware of this current state of affairs. And yet, I detected nothing but confidence in speaking with him; the team at ZeniMax knows that ESO: Morrowind will please not just the game’s existing pool of dedicated players, but also seize the attention of those who, like myself, haven’t thought all that much about The Elder Scrolls since being utterly enthralled by the original Morrowind as a kid back in 2002. Nostalgia is power, and Firor and his team know it.
Watch: The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind Trailer Shows Off Gameplay
My full interview with Matt will be posted soon (and linked here once it is), but I’d first like to break down the details of what I learned regarding the Morrowind expansion’s features and content in speaking with the leader of the development team.
Return to Vvardenfell
First off, it’s important to note that “expansion” is not technically the correct terminology, as the ESO team is instead referring to Morrowind as a new chapter. This is no small update either; unlike DLC packs for the game, you can’t get away with acquiring it through in-game currency. Morrowind is a full product, to the extent that it will replace the original game on store shelves as the latest retail version. When you take on one of Elder Scrolls’ biggest surnames, you don’t mess around.
What stood out to me was Matt’s excitement about reviving Morrowind’s Vvardenfell for players to really sink their teeth into, and explore it the way they did nearly 15 years ago. “Oblivion and Skyrim built on Morrowind, it was the first big console Elder Scrolls game. So a lot of it is kind of reminding people of the status is has in the pantheon of games.” When I mentioned that Morrowind was the Elder Scrolls title I personally enjoyed the most and invested the most time in, he replied simply “you are our target demographic.”
Story and Lore
Notable in the introduction of Vvardenfell in full to the ESO playable and explorable universe is its plot and story significance. It’s not just about jamming disparate Elder Scrolls references together. In keeping with ESO’s existing lore, this Vvardenfell exists 700 years prior to the one traversed in the original Morrowind. Matt explained that though some locales would remain similar, others won’t yet have benefitted from progress and the passing of time. For example, visiting a familiar and presumably vibrant hub of commerce and activity instead reveals a fledgling locale and a man who “hopes to start a settlement.” Such quirks can be expected throughout the experience.
Regarding specific Morrowind plot points, the Ministry of Truth makes its return, but we’re several hundred years ahead of it being referred to as such. Instead it is simply Baar Dau, a floating, impending, moon-style mass of rock that you’ll witness drawing closer and closer to the surface as Vivec himself loses power. I was also told that when traversing Vvardenfell, Red Mountain can be seen on the horizon at nearly all times, belching smoke and moving between varied degrees of volcanic activity. It’s a nice touch, and despite ESO Morrowind using the same graphics engine as before, some of its vistas do look genuinely stunning.
Next was our discussion of Battlegrounds, the 4v4v4 PvP mode being added alongside the Morrowind chapter. As current ESO players know, the existing competitive mode takes place in Cyrodiil, a massive open-world province where the plot-important Ruby Throne is located .That’s all well and good, but the vastness of the experience can sometimes grow tiresome, as can being repeatedly terminated by more powerful players in an experience that can occasionally feel short on strategy. That’s where Battlegrounds come in.
Battlegrounds aren’t tied to the alliance system, and instead zero-in on three teams competing for an end goal. The mode will launch with three maps, and a variety of modes including Domination and Capture the Flag, with more on the way at a later date. Firor went on to describe the “difference between Battlegrounds and Cyrodiil,” namely that “in Cyrodiil you can hide, you can run away. There’s no running away in Battlegrounds, not at all. They’re very small, there’s line of sight everywhere, and it’s you and your group against everyone else.” He also let slip that there will likely be formal tournaments set up in the future, so there’s that to look forward to as well.
No MMO expansion would be complete without an added class, and for ESO: Morrowind that class is the Warden. A healer primarily, the Warden is also a nature-themed damage dealer wielding techniques that vary from summoning deadly trees and vegetation beneath foes, to commanding a formidable bear companion to distract or tank, freeing Wardens to heal whatever lies directly in front of them. This is important to note too; unlike existing healers in ESO who deal more in area healing, the Warden specializes in what lies directly before him. So strategize with your bear buddy accordingly.
My full interview with Matt Firor of ZeniMax will be posted soon. In the meantime, what are your thoughts on the latest ESO chapter? Does the Morrowind name alone draw you toward it in ways you may not have expected? The team at ZeniMax holds zero reservations about embracing nostalgia, and it seems fair to assume that interested players don't either.
The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind is scheduled to release in June, so there's time to not just decide on your interest level, but even replay the original game if you feel so inclined. Which, inevitably, will raise your interest level.