Oblivion was an overrated scrotum, filled with big old boring balls (one of which sounds like Sean Bean, the other Patrick Stewart). Should have been called The Elder Scrolls: Blandia. Almost like Bethesda ran out of imagination, and just decided to make the next Elder Scrolls game as stereotypically fantasy as possible, if you see what I mean.

Oblivion being boring was a bad thing, because its predecessor was (eventually) pretty far from boring. I say eventually, because Morrowind is a game where, in order to increase your athletics skill to run faster, you need to sprint everywhere. In theory, this makes sense. What doesn’t make sense is that your initial sprint speed is equal to the speed of the average dead, legless tortoise. Same with acrobatics; to level up your ability to jump and dodge blows, you need to jump. Constantly. Expect to beat the shit out of your space bar.

Little niggles like this aside, Morrowind is a billion times better than Oblivion. For starters, it is weird as fuck. There’s all sorts of non-human races like the khajiit (cat people), argonians (lizard people), elves (elves), and there’s probably another one but I can’t remember right now. There’s these massive fleas that you can use to fast travel round the place (although they don’t actually move). Generally, the landscape and the buildings you go into are weird and wonderful. Half the thrill of playing the game is exploring, seeing what the next town looks like, finding a new race of inhabitant, discovering all the time (oh, and Dalaran in World of Warcraft? Total rip-off of the big magic wall place in the middle of Morrowind).

Oblivion is also fairly linear. OK, it is linear to anyone who hasn’t played an Elder Scrolls game before; Oblivion will happily lead you through the entire main story by the nose, whereas Morrowind gives you directions to the first story character (who is miles away), and lets you just crack on. First time I played Morrowind back on the original Xbox, it took me weeks to get to the first story guy. Too busy finding tombs and raiding them.

I think the main difference between the two games is one of accessibility. Oblivion was designed with a n00b in mind; everything is spoon-fed to the player, instructions written in bold, the players hand is held the whole time. Morrowind was designed for the kind of player who doesn’t mind getting lost, who is happy running between towns for ten minutes at a time, who thinks discovery is its own reward. Oblivion shows you the game at its best, Morrowind hides it. Morrowind challenges you to find it.

Of course, to do it justice these days, you’ll need to download gigs of mods, install them correctly, get them all working together, and then Morrowind becomes something awesome. Even today. It’s a bitch to do though. Yet another challenge. Damn you, Morrowind! *shakes fist*

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