Morrowednesday: Back to Vvardenfell

Finding myself with a good bit of unstructured time this week, I decided to revisit a game I haven’t played in nearly sixteen or seventeen years:  The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.  The game was released right at the end of my junior year of high school, in May 2002.  I was familiar with The Elder Scrolls from picking up a copy of the first game, Arena, in the used games bin at Electronic Boutique in the Aiken Mall sometime back in middle school.  Arena came out in 1994; it was probably around 1997 or 1998 when I picked up my copy—including a mousepad map of the Tamrielic Empire and two fat instruction booklets.

That was back when the Internet was not so readily available (I don’t think we had it at home until the year 2000 or 2001), so playing big, open-ended roleplaying games like those in The Elder Scrolls series required a great deal of study before and during play.  That also meant actually reading the information characters imparted, and learning by a great deal of trial and error.

When Morrowind released I’d preordered it based solely on how much I enjoyed Arena.  Arena is very clunky by today’s standards (it was made for MS-DOS, after all), but the breadth of the world, as well as the game’s roots in tabletop roleplaying games, really drew me in.  I figured that if Morrowind was built on the same dedication to pen-and-paper roleplaying, it would be a blast.

Well, I was right.  Morrowind is, perhaps, the best game I have ever played.  That doesn’t mean it is flawless; indeed, Elder Scrolls games are notoriously buggy.  Morrowind is no exception.  But bugginess, clunky combat, and a steep learning curve aside, Morrowind delivered on the promise of an open-ended roleplaying experience, while also delivering an incredibly dense story, and a world jam-packed with characters, locations, quests, and lots of random oddities.

Somehow, though, I haven’t touched the game for any significant length of time since probably 2006.  The release of two follow-ups, Oblivion (the only time I skipped a class in college—a University Band rehearsal—was the night this game was released) and Skyrim (which came out on 11 November 2011, the year I began teaching again) would continue the series, but see it lose much of its depth of mechanics to become a more streamlined action RPG.

To further indicate this blog’s slide into pop cultural irrelevancy, I’ve decided to chronicle my newest playthrough here on The Portly Politico, doing so on Wednesdays when there is not a sonnet scheduled and when I have played enough to write something of interest.  In other words, the second and fourth Wednesdays in the month, and the fifth Wednesday when one appears in a month.

I’m dubbing these posts Morrowednesdays.

Some Christmases ago my younger brother gifted me with The Elder Scrolls Anthology, a massive collection that includes the main ES games:  ArenaDaggerfall (the one installation I have never played at length, and the one that purists insist is the best), MorrowindOblivion, and Skyrim (each game gets progressively narrower in scope, but I think Morrowind hits the balance just right).  Thanks to his generosity, I had clean install discs for Morrowind and its two expansions, Tribunal and Bloodmoon.

I had no issues getting the base game and its expansions installed, and excitedly went through character creation and the brief little opening sequence (more on my character shortly).  I went to the tradehouse in Seyda Neen to sell off everything I’d looted in the opening sequence and to outfit myself with some weapons and armor, at which point I decided to save.

That’s when I got this message:

Morrowind Error Message

In a game with a sixty-plus-hour main quest—not to mention all the side quests, faction quests, and simple wandering around—not being able to save isn’t an option (and the game crashed, too).

After consulting with my brother and the Internet, I tried a few things.  First, I simply rebooted my PC.  Second, I created the \Saves folder in the indicated folder, but that didn’t solve things. Finally, I tried running it in compatibility mode as an administrator, which did the trick:  the game saved without any problems once it thought it was running on Windows XP Service Pack 2 instead of Windows 10 Professional.

Of course, it took four starts before I finally got things working, so my play session was not terribly wrong.  Fortunately, I’d taken pictures of my character’s name, skills, and other important information, so I was able to recreate him identically each time.

When I played and beat the game way back in the early 2000s, I’d played through as a Wood Elf Bard, capitalizing on a mix of stealth and combat to sneak my way through the game.  I’d figured out with that character how the major and minor skills work for leveling up and such, and that if your fatigue is low,  you won’t hit your opponents in combat!

For this playthrough, I wanted to try something different:  instead of playing a rogue-ish thief skilled with a bow and a longsword, I wanted to roleplay as a wandering mage with a religious bent.  I’d always wanted to create a character skilled in Spears, an unconventional weapon class that the developers somewhat neglected (it’s clear that other skills like Long Blades are preferred), and I wanted a monk-ish class that didn’t just rely on Unarmed combat.

I also wanted to play a Breton, a magical humanoid race that are meant to be the game’s version of the French (Imperials are the main human race, modeled loosely on the Roman Empire).  Bretons lend themselves well to magic builds, but they also have that great bowl cut hairstyle that monks used to wear (there is a formal name for it that I can’t remember, but it’s the Friar Tuck cut—bowl around the outside, bald on the top).

Thus, Harold du Bournais, the Wandering Acolyte, was born (the old man is not my character; he is the character that lets you create your character):

Harold du Bournais Stats
Harold du Bournais Stat Sheet

Harold du Bournais - Wandering Acolyte

Wandering Acolyte is a custom class, rather than one of the game’s premade classes.  I wanted to create a character that wouldn’t be super overpowered at Level 1, but who had a  good balance of skills, while still focusing on magic.

A handicap of this build is that my character, while quite intelligent, is not very strong.  Even the main weapon I chose, Spear, is governed by Endurance, not Strength, so as I level up the skill, it will result in increases to Endurance, not Strength.  My other non-magic offensive ability, Marksman, is governed by Agility, so while my character will get better at dodging attacks, he won’t be getting stronger.

That is kind of the point, though:  I wanted to play around with a character who relies more heavily on support-based magic and unconventional weapons who won’t breeze through the game.  I also wanted to adjust my style of gameplay to a character that can’t simply sneak around every obstacle.

In keeping with the roleplaying aspect of my character, I think I will have Harold join the Imperial Cult, the official religion of the Empire, and complete its quests.  I never did many of those quests with my Wood Elf character, so I think it will be fun to explore that part of the game.  I toyed with the idea of him joining the Tribunal Temple, which worships the three main gods of Morrowind (the province), but it’s too incongruous with my character, and the Temple doesn’t get along with many other factions.  Also, the Imperial Cult seems to fit in better with my character’s skill set.

Once I got the troubleshooting done, I outfitted my character with a spear, a bow, some arrows, and a partial set of chitin armor, a light armor made from insect exoskeletons.  I did a short quest involving stealing a magic ring back from someone I returned the ring to in the first place, then I started traipsing about the countryside around Seyda Neen.

Seyda Neen is a ramshackle fishing village, so it’s right on the coast.  I used my spell of Water Walking to run out to an island, and then to another, where I discovered a shipwreck.  Not relishing underwater combat, I skipped it, and instead harvested various flora growing around the area, while also dispatching some pesky mudcrabs.

After a night on this little spit of land, I ran back to Seyda Neen, then set off for the fishing village of Hla Oad.  The Main Quest really starts in Balmora, a larger city on the island of Vvardenfell (Vvardenfell is an island within the larger province of Morrowind, and the island contains the famous volcano Red Mountain), but I decided to take a less direct route and walk to Hla Oad, then following the Odai River up to the city.

Along the way I stumbled upon a cave with an incomprehensible name, and was promptly stomped by the bandits within, so I reloaded my save and decided to skip that cave for now.  I made it Hla Oad in one piece, and sold some items I’d picked up along the way.

Hla Oad is a seedy little place.  There’s a boat there that travels to other parts of the island, but otherwise there’s some ramschackle huts, with one shack serving as the local merchant shop.  It’s also a front for a smuggling operation run by the Camonna Tong, a disreputable gang operating in Vvardenfell.

That’s about where I left off with my first session.  It’s not much, but it is a start.  My character is still at Level 1, but he’s making some gradual progress, and I’m figuring out how to make the most of magic.  During my next session I will walk up the river into Balmora, and hopefully drop into the neighboring Imperial fort to join the Imperial Cult.

Well, that’s it for this first installment.  I know this won’t be to every readers’ tastes, but I hope you’ll indulge me as I take this self-indulgent trip down memory lane.

Happy Thanksgiving!

—TPP

37 thoughts on “Morrowednesday: Back to Vvardenfell

    • Yea, I knew Ponty at least would like it. One of my favorite parts of Morrowind is how my friends and I would discuss our exploits in-game. The game is PACKED full of goodies, so no two games are ever truly alike outside of the main quest line.

      I’m going to include more screen shots for the next post, but just stuck with what I had when I slapped this post together last night. The landscape of Vvardenfell is beautiful, even without graphical mods.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. A gaming article – brilliant! You should do some more blogs on gaming, Port, and the many different games you’ve played and enjoyed.

    Did you need a patch to play Morrowind? Considering the updates and so called ‘improvements’ in tech, many older games need a patch or dodge to play. Some of the PC games we have, for instance, require you to delete the annoying Windows KB ‘security’ update in order to play them. I know of someone who permanently deleted that update (KB3086255) only for it to reappear under another line of code which took him ages to trace so he could delete it again. I’m more savvy than that and only delete it when I want to play.

    Back to the Elder Scrolls. Great RPGs, from what I hear and one of the reasons I bought them for Tina. The PC needs a good fix and clean before she’ll get the chance to play them but I do remember the first 2 being awkward. Graphics, movement, options all being a little sketchy. I know some of them were updated for new platforms and you can get the latter Elder Scrolls for consoles, like the PS4. Good to know, especially since it’s much easier to play from a pad.

    I’ve been checking on various platforms of anything new and interesting coming it. It seems the gaming world is branching out from the usual FPS and sports into more puzzle orientated games and platforms. You should have a look at Ori and The Will of the Wisps for XBox One/PC. It looks like an awful lot of fun.

    Liked by 2 people

    • All I needed to get Morrowind to work properly was to run it in compatibility mode, as the game was not saving. My brother also advised me not to install games from the early 2000s in the Program Files folder in the future, as games from that era do not like the Program Files folder for some reason. I also run the game as an administrator for good measure.

      That said, there are some quality of life mods for Morrowind that enhance the experience. There is a graphical overhaul, which apparently makes the game look MUCH better.

      My brother sent me this link and suggested I get the mods from the first part of the list: https://wiki.nexusmods.com/index.php/Morrowind_graphics_guide

      I haven’t modded the game yet, but it is easy enough to do. Morrowind shipped with the TES Construction set, which is the same suite of design tools the devs used to make the game, so they definitely intended for the game to be modded extensively.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Compatibility mode – the annoying thing about OS updates. I don’t know why they don’t just allow for the fact that some games/programs need the old algorithms to run and let that area of code be. Many of the old games we still have (and I know many other gamers do too) but on PC, it can be a minefield getting them to work. I didn’t know about the program files issue but I tend to separate gaming folders anyway.

        It’s much easier on consoles. Patch downloads tend to come with a game and a lot of gamers still have hold of older consoles. We still have a PS2 and XBox360 (with the relevant memory cards for PS1 and older games) and the PS4 plays PS3 and PS5 games. Great for Tina because she loves the old TR series and we both love the original Resident Evil and Silent Hill series (the remakes for Resident Evil for the newer consoles, by the way, are excellent).

        Are you planning on running more gamer articles or will this be a flash in the pan?

        Liked by 2 people

      • I would love to do some more gaming posts—and would welcome contributions! I plan on doing Morrowednesday a couple of times a month as I play through the game. I just don’t know how frequently I will be able to play after this week, but Christmas should provide ample opportunity to game further.

        Liked by 2 people

    • Tina might get onto it as well. She’s an excellent gamer. The original Tomb Raider is her favourite. One of the games I’ve never completed.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. Tina and I have a couple of new games to try at Christmas. We could send you our thoughts, if you like? Both of us, being Oddworld fans, decided to buy the new Abe’s Odyssey which we’ll be putting on at Christmas. It’s made by the same people so hopefully, they haven’t simplified it, as is the case with many newer games (except for the RE remakes – they’re tougher than the originals).

    We’re both gaming all-rounders – we like a whole host of genres so get the opportunity to play a wide variety of games. A lot of gamers would probably tell you, for instance, that the Travellers Tales games are for kids but we reckon they’re family games and an awful lot of fun. Great 2 player options too. If you haven’t played their games, may I suggest Lego City Undercover and Lego Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues. There’s some quite tricky bits to do in both games and we believe they’re the best of the TT games. We enjoyed the Lego Hobbit but for some reason, they didn’t include Battle of the Five Armies. Never did understand that.

    If you get into the survival horror games, the remake of Resident Evil 2 and Resident Evil Zero are brilliant.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I would love for you and Tina to write-up your reviews of and thoughts about these games. That would make for some fun posts, I think.

      I, too, am a bit of an all-around gamer. I am much more of a casual gamer, as I don’t really have time to get deeply invested in games these days. I also have such a huge back catalog on Steam, I am increasingly content to play what I already have. I will play any Elder Scrolls and Fallout games that are released, as well as any future iterations of Civilization.

      Liked by 2 people

  3. For Audre. This is the original and best version of the game. Don’t let that intro fool you – it’s a lot harder than you might think:

    Liked by 2 people

  4. If you ever wanted to get into gaming, Audre, whether PC or consoles, if you let us know the type of game you like to play, or would like to play, I’m sure I, Tina or Port could give you some good recommendations.

    Like

    • Here’s the problem. I’m cheap. LOL! If I have to buy an XBox or something (still quite expensive here), it’s not going to happen. I’ve never used a ‘console’ (is that a joy stick? Doesn’t matter; I’ve never used one of those, either). But the graphics on Little Nightmares is very compelling. Too bad those games aren’t online in the same manner in which what I refer to as ‘flat’ games are. I like bubble shooter, hidden object, mahjong – that kind of game but the games you play do intrigue me.

      Liked by 2 people

  5. You can download the Little Nightmares games off Steam (for your computer). Steam doesn’t cost anything to download and from what I can remember, the games aren’t overly expensive so you could play LN1 and 2 that way. Many of the hidden object games (like the Ravenhearst series) are usually to be found on Steam anyway. Your flat games, you can either play for free online or, if you have a tablet, you can download them off Amazon for free. For the type of games you describe, most of them will either be free or for a minimum fee. You should check out the Steam option, if you don’t have it already. As Port will tell you, you can get an awful lot of good games from there.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. Tina asked me to ask whether you’ve played any of the Broken Sword games, also available on Steam? You’d like them. They’ve got a very good puzzle element and are intriguing.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. This is part of the gameplay for the third Broken Sword game, The Sleeping Dragon. I tried to find something more appropriate for the more recent one, The Serpent’s Curse, but could only find the gameplay links for Nintendo Switch (tablet) and didn’t want to pop a walkthrough up in case you are interested in playing them. Anyway, this is the sort of game you would play with BS:

    Liked by 1 person

  8. This is the trailer for one of the Mystery Case Files games we have, Ravenhearst 3. Interesting puzzles and in some cases, pretty creepy. You can get those on Steam too:

    Liked by 2 people

  9. It’s a shame you can’t play The Last of Us on PC. The second game tried its level best to ruin the 1st but the original was a masterpiece. Brutal but beautiful – just what you’d expect from a zombie apocalypse. Check out the trailer and let me know what you think:

    Liked by 2 people

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