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Elder Scrolls Why Morrowind is a bad RPG

ADL

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Morrowind was an acceptable downgrade from Daggerfall with an interesting world and nothing more. Back when it released I hoped this was just scaling down a bit because Todd almost bankrupted the company convincing executives that the series had to become more like Tomb Raider and made Redguard instead of The Elder Scrolls Chapter III Tribunal (which drove the creators of the series out of the company) but instead of building on what worked in Morrowind, they continued to dumb it down with Oblivion and Skyrim.

RIP the game that we should've gotten instead
FtgoLjA.jpg
qSa1yCT.png
 

luj1

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OP's wall of text reads like a 1:1 comparison with FNV (?). Unless you can summarize in 1-2 sentences and without saying "New Vegas" I doubt you know what you're talking about.

Here's your summary in two sentences:
  • Allegedly "deep" mechanics where all its depth comes from the ways you can kill people.
  • Allegedly "deep" quests & factions when pretty much any character can solve these quests bypassing any pretense of genuine roleplaying.

An RPG isn't required to employ a complex set of rules. Just like its acronym implies, an RPG is a *game* in which a *player* assumes a fictional *role* in an imaginary setting. There are many tabletops with simple rules.

The second sentence is false BS. I am not even going to bother. Anyway, your premise is false (RPG = deep ruleset).
 

Sigourn

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An RPG isn't required to employ a complex set of rules. Just like its acronym implies, an RPG is a *game* in which a *player* assumes a fictional *role* in an imaginary setting. There are many tabletops with simple rules.
The second sentence is false BS. I am not even going to bother. Anyway, your premise is false (RPG = deep ruleset).

You are missing the point. Morrowind presents itself as something that it isn't. That's its flaw. And it suffers because of those flaws.
 

luj1

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Well then, help me understand. What is Morrowind presenting itself as? How does a game present itself as something that it isn't, anyway? It's not like it has a will of its own.
 
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ADL

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Well then, help me understand. What is Morrowind presenting itself as? How does a game present itself as something that it isn't, anyway? It's not like it has a will of its own.
A successor to Daggerfall which it isn't and it deserves to be judged to hell and back by the people who actually played it.
 

Agame

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I get what the OP is saying, but I don't see it as enough to have MW be a bad RPG.

I think the worst that can be said of MW is that it paved the way for subsequent Bethesda games. They survived their gamble with Morrowind and then went full bore pushing the "safe" aspects of it while continually stripping out the legacy pieces still in MW from the older games while also disposing of most of the good weirdness that is the game's hallmark leaving most of it as just fluff.

Pretty much this. Another casualty of consolitis.

To be fair Morrowind was a decent compromise of "accessibility" but still maintaining great worldbuilding/lore etc. And difficult/complex enough that you didnt feel like you were being led by the nose through babies first magical unicorn playground. If they had simply continued to make ES games in this mode, and Cyrodiil was the actual in lore setting of jungle and all the other associated weirdness it would have been just fine. Lets face it, the main reason people like Morrowind is the unusual setting and lore of the series.

But instead Bethesda went FULL RETARD and we got Oblivion with its super generic western fantasy land green fields crap. And the dumbining down of all game systems...
 

Zed Duke of Banville

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I'm not going to argue quest design because Morrowind has one unfair advantage that makes its quests more interesting than they are. And that is the lack of quest markers. Add quest markers to Morrowind's quests, and you will quickly realize how most of them are Skyrim-level filler. I agree with the static NPCs. Hell, there are a lot of things I don't like about Morrowind, I just mentioned the one that stops me from replaying the game and enjoying it at the same time. I could also talk about:
...
  • How NPCs have no personalities and 90% of them are copy pasted.
...
Divayth Fyr
180px-MW-npc-Divayth_Fyr.jpg


  • Offer the Dwemer artifact as a gift. [Dwemer Coherer has been removed from your inventory.] "A gift? For me? How thoughtful. And shrewd. I suppose you know I am a collector. And that such a gift is bound to please me. I congratulate you on your diplomatic skills. So, why have you tried to butter me up? Come to consult the great Divayth Fyr? You have the divine disease? Want to plunder the dungeon? Or leer at my daughters?"
  • the divine disease: "The magical principles of corprus disease are elusive and miraculous, far more subtle and powerful than any conventional sorcery or enchantment. I'm persuaded that it is in some manner the curse or blessing of a god. Perhaps both a curse and a blessing. The victim, of course, cannot appreciate the marvelous nature of corprus. It saps the mind and destroys the body. But to a wizard, it is a profound and glorious mystery, a riddle worth a long lifetime of study."
  • plunder the dungeon: "When you live for thousands of years, you need a hobby. Something you love, always sparks your interest. I collect treasures, and invite thieves to steal them. I'm a collector, and a sportsman. I collect enchanted items and ancient artifacts. Have quite a few Dwemer pieces. And, as a sportsman, I love letting thieves try to steal my well-guarded treasures. Only a few rules. One, don't hurt the inmates. Two, don't hurt my daughters. My Warden and guards can look out for themselves."
  • daughters: "Not bad for someone born in a jar, eh? Charming and talented. Not daughters, really. A little project, a side benefit of my researches into corprus disease. Made them myself, from my own flesh. Nice, aren't they? Alfe Fyr, Beyte Fyr, Delte Fyr, and Uupse Fyr. Quite a comfort to me in my old age. Hah hah."

Morrowind contains enough generic, interchangeable NPCs in its cities to present a convincing illusion of a living world. However, there numerous unique, interesting characters; it's just that the presentation is understated and requires the player to put effort into exploring, reading, and making connections between various pieces of information.
 

HarveyBirdman

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Not even going to bother reading your word vomit. Morrowind is one of the best RPGs ever made.
Every single video game in the history of ever has a laundry list of flaws. The trick is finding the games that truly excel in certain areas while not fucking up the rest of the game so badly that it ruins the whole experience. One day, theoretically, technology and budget will catch up to ambition, and thus we'll get games that match LOTR in terms of perfection. Until then, enjoy Morrowind for having hands down the best lore of any video game ever made (much less any cRPG), an excellent explorative experience by game design, and an unforgettable atmosphere.
 
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Indeed as Zed said, Morrowind dialogue is far from the fake caricature that some prejudiced players tend to draw. But not only there are tens of npcs with a level of detail in their dialogues similar to Divayth Fyr, but several hundreds of npcs with unique answers even if less numerous than in the most developed ones. There are more npcs with unique dialogue in MW than in Gothic 1+2+3 combined.

And on the other hand, all npcs in Morrowind with guards exception are unique, in the sense that even the hundreds of npcs without unique dialogue are all handcrafted so their presence in the world is handplaced, they have level, skills, attributes, class, health/magic and fatigue level, inventory, and personalized looks, with most, several hundreds, having also faction and rank, a selection of spells, scripts with diverse functions, world possesions or mentions in other npcs dialogue, in books or notes. 3.000 true unique npcs counting expansions. More than 2600 in the base game. This is more than any other single player game ever. So the "90% of npcs are copy-pasted" is even more false and absurd.


How it is one of the most offensively ugly 3D RPGs ever made. Many people will laugh, but when you happen to be running from one place to the other all the time, you kind of expect the graphics to make it worthwile, because that's all you are seeing while pressing forward.
"Ugly" is something very subjective, but if you talking about "graphics" only (3d models, textures, shaders, lights other visual effects, water, etc), Morrowind is the most graphically advanced 3d rpg until some years after its release date. Far more advanced than 3d rpgs from 1999-2005, 3 years before and after its release. Obviously, I'm not even pretending to compare with later games, what would be ridiculous and at level of 15 years old teenagers complaining about how ugly are old games... But as beauty is not only a matter of graphical advance, we must think about concept design, its implementation and world design and then Morrowind is far superior to near every modern game and most old ones. Art design in Morrowind is superb.

It is very easy to break the game and thus rendering "progression" pointless very early into the game, meaning you lose any reason to explore the island since there is nothing of value for you to find. You find potions left and right, but I can't say finding a cave full of loot was more interesting than finding a single potion in Gothic.

"Very early" only applies to horrid "mmorpgs-ratkids" gameplay style in which you must do every quest in every faction with the same character and only because Morrowind has more content than most games, +4 times more playable content than New Vegas, +10 times more than Gothic, etc. Playing normally, in a pure first or second gameplay, you need tens of hours (30-60 hours) to become a walking god, so the same amount of time to finish most games. Even abusing of some exploits, minmaxing a bit in character creation or trying to maximize bonuses in level ups, if you don't abuse of metagaming or previous knowledge in a tenth play, this remain true.

How despite some iconic sounds, the sound design is pretty bad.

What is false, specially comparing with games in the same date but even comparing with some recent games. For example sounds underwater: Morrowind has different sounds for weapons or magic subaquatic use and you can even hear the raining and thunders with a different sound underwater, what isn't implemented at all in many modern games. Or talking about these storms they sound very well for the date, as many other athmospheric effects.
 
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thesheeep

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In an RPG, what you see is only a representation of what your character is doing.

By this reasoning Deus Ex is not an RPG. Nor New Vegas, or Gothic...
And they aren't.
At least not pure RPGs. All of these are action-RPGs, with a very, VERY strong focus on the action part for the latter two.
While Morrowind is as purely an RPG as you can get. Almost nothing, hell even movement is very strongly RPG influenced, is action-gameplay in that game. No shitty casual minigames for lockpicking/etc., no QTEs, no hellish Mario Paint for spellcasting, no FPS pixel-perfect aiming, nothing. Almost everything is commanded by the player, but executed by the character.
Morrowind is gameplay-wise kinda the antithesis to New Vegas. While the latter has very little RPG and lots of action, Morrowind is the opposite.
 

luj1

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A successor to Daggerfall which it isn't...

Most games cannot be called spiritual successors of their precursors anyway, so I fail to see your point. Not being a true successor to Daggerfall doesn't make it a non-RPG or a worse one.

... and it deserves to be judged to hell and back by the people who actually played it.

Like any game should, ever. No one is disputing that.
 

MWaser

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"Ugly" is something very subjective, but if you talking about "graphics" only (3d models, textures, shaders, lights other visual effects, water, etc), Morrowind is the most graphically advanced 3d rpg until some years after its release date. Far more advanced than 3d rpgs from 1999-2005, 3 years before and after its release. Obviously, I'm not even pretending to compare with later games, what would be ridiculous and at level of 15 years old teenagers complaining about how ugly are old games... But as beauty is not only a matter of graphical advance, we must think about concept design, its implementation and world design and then Morrowind is far superior to near every modern game and most old ones. Art design in Morrowind is superb.
"Offensively ugly" would probably be what people say about Morrowind because its deisgn in of itself is very bleak and brownish and depressingly dirty, however quality wise that was not a problem. What was a genuine, unquestionable fuck-up in Morrowind for certain however were body models, which are some of the most horrid 3D body models I've ever seen, and in that respect Morrowind loses out to its contemporaries without question. This is, of course, a rather minute detail in the grand scheme of things, but it's something actually ugly and bad about the graphics that is neither made up for nor justified in art design (like how you can justify creatures like Nixhounds looking rather disgusting as that being their very point).
MW-npc-Marelle.jpg
MW-npc-Jiub.jpg
 

Popiel

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Divayth Fyr
180px-MW-npc-Divayth_Fyr.jpg


  • Offer the Dwemer artifact as a gift. [Dwemer Coherer has been removed from your inventory.] "A gift? For me? How thoughtful. And shrewd. I suppose you know I am a collector. And that such a gift is bound to please me. I congratulate you on your diplomatic skills. So, why have you tried to butter me up? Come to consult the great Divayth Fyr? You have the divine disease? Want to plunder the dungeon? Or leer at my daughters?"
  • the divine disease: "The magical principles of corprus disease are elusive and miraculous, far more subtle and powerful than any conventional sorcery or enchantment. I'm persuaded that it is in some manner the curse or blessing of a god. Perhaps both a curse and a blessing. The victim, of course, cannot appreciate the marvelous nature of corprus. It saps the mind and destroys the body. But to a wizard, it is a profound and glorious mystery, a riddle worth a long lifetime of study."
  • plunder the dungeon: "When you live for thousands of years, you need a hobby. Something you love, always sparks your interest. I collect treasures, and invite thieves to steal them. I'm a collector, and a sportsman. I collect enchanted items and ancient artifacts. Have quite a few Dwemer pieces. And, as a sportsman, I love letting thieves try to steal my well-guarded treasures. Only a few rules. One, don't hurt the inmates. Two, don't hurt my daughters. My Warden and guards can look out for themselves."
  • daughters: "Not bad for someone born in a jar, eh? Charming and talented. Not daughters, really. A little project, a side benefit of my researches into corprus disease. Made them myself, from my own flesh. Nice, aren't they? Alfe Fyr, Beyte Fyr, Delte Fyr, and Uupse Fyr. Quite a comfort to me in my old age. Hah hah."

Morrowind contains enough generic, interchangeable NPCs in its cities to present a convincing illusion of a living world. However, there numerous unique, interesting characters; it's just that the presentation is understated and requires the player to put effort into exploring, reading, and making connections between various pieces of information.
And as all who write such things you start with quotes from Divayth Fyr.

There are legitimately very good characters in this game, there really are. Main actors of the true story of the game (Red Mountain drama all those ages ago) are all an excellent cast: Tribunes, Dagoth, Azura, heck, even folks only mentioned (like Dumac) are interesting. In game there is, obviously, Fyr (and his daughters for that matter) and Yagrum, there are Telvanni masters, there is Crassius Curio, there are some more obscure gems (like Larrius Varro). And I'm only talking about vanilla Morrowind. Yes there are very good NPCs in this game, and a lot that are more or less competent (vast majority of important guild characters). But they are simply drowned by sheer amount of bad, Wikipedia-style writing that this game has. Like 90% of NPCs are lore and info dispensers and it's just as intolerable here as it is in, I don't know, Pillars of Eternity or some other shit.

And on the other hand, all npcs in Morrowind with guards exception are unique, in the sense that even the hundreds of npcs without unique dialogue are all handcrafted so their presence in the world is handplaced, they have level, skills, attributes, class, health/magic and fatigue level, inventory, and personalized looks, with most, several hundreds, having also faction and rank, a selection of spells, scripts with diverse functions, world possesions or mentions in other npcs dialogue, in books or notes. 3.000 true unique npcs counting expansions. More than 2600 in the base game. This is more than any other single player game ever. So the "90% of npcs are copy-pasted" is even more false and absurd.
But they are generic and copy-pasted, have you even ever looked into how dialogues look like in Construction Set...? Vast majority of NPCs are random, with only a small group having truly handcrafted dialogue trees.
 

octavius

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Morrowind is really made for playing pure mage yes. Nothing beats the experience of glorious LARP or never taking a weapon in your hands and wearing anything but a robe and solving everything just with your own crafted spells.

It's interesting how people comment on static NPCs. They are static, but not any more than in any other RPG, like Fallout or BG or well, basically any RPG out there with exception of very odd little games like Space Rangers or Dwarf Fortress. Animated or not, they still lack what affects the world - they lack agency.

NPCs were always decorations in RPGs. Sometimes they are animated decorations, as in they don't just stand there, but can walk from point A to point B and play a few animations, but their purpose as objects with no agency to interact with to push player forward doesn't change much. Adding life routines to NPCs is like changing some cutouts to a theatre of shadows. It is still just an illusion made of shadows.

Not that it wouldn't be better to have more life in the game, of course, but I can't say I was more immersed in Oblivion or Skyrim because NPCs began to walk around a bit more. The fragility of AI and sleeping in their beds and shit breaks whole immersion thing developers tried to do as easy as glass. Even New Vegas, which had factions, did not impress me that much. If anything, I liked custom hand placed NPCs like a traveler with guitar more than NCR and Legion circus of AI invalids trying to kill each other with awkward animations and occasionally running from each other half of the Mojave like morons.

I also think it is not a stretch to believe that, simply due to size of Morrowind, they did not have enough powah yet at the time to make more dynamic NPCs. Most mods that add them, as far as I heard, are pretty performance intensive and that's with modern PCs.

It's more than NPCs not moving.
It's that the whole game world revolves solely around the PC. For example if one NPC should hit another with unfriendly fire (usually from a modded spell, since in vanilla no NPCs ever use AOE spells), all guards in the entire game will be instantly hostile to the PC.
 
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Rinslin Merwind

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Morrowind have it's flaws, but what kind of games does not have any flaw from objective perspective? Yes some mechanics of Morrowind (such as combat, level up system and some others) need improvement, but calling Morrowind as bad game, after years of shit games produced by industry and labeled as "RPG"? Are you nuts? With this logic, all games are shite, just because they have some flaws. I can't believe we have this conversation after more than decade since release of game.
 

MWaser

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Frankly I don't really understand why "90% of NPCs are generic" is even a complaint. Most humans just don't have much of a role in anything other than basic society upkeeping, it's just natural that most NPCs exist just as space filler to make cityscapes not appear completely empty and to give you opportunities to ask random people for directions and quest rumours. As such, they fulfill this role of filler in spite of being generic, and it's an intentional choice. Is the complaint about them being walking wikipedias? Well most people know a decent amount about local politics, surroundings and recent events, but if you were to mimic reality more the NPCs should probably just refuse to talk to you outright since you're a bothersome stranger with too many questions.
 

DalekFlay

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Besides what combat system do think is more challenging, allows for more complexity and diversity of design (and ways to be experienced) by both the player and the dev, and is overall more fun?

It's just about being different really, not better or worse. Sometimes I want an action experience, sometimes I want a stat-driven one. Morrowind and Deus Ex are rare games that are first-person 3D but stat-driven, and they confuse people because they think that perspective mandates action. At the end of the day though, both styles offer something beneficial, and a lot of people like myself enjoy both. Some only prefer one or the other, and they should avoid games that don't offer what they want. Pretty simple really.
 

JarlFrank

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Frankly I don't really understand why "90% of NPCs are generic" is even a complaint. Most humans just don't have much of a role in anything other than basic society upkeeping, it's just natural that most NPCs exist just as space filler to make cityscapes not appear completely empty and to give you opportunities to ask random people for directions and quest rumours. As such, they fulfill this role of filler in spite of being generic, and it's an intentional choice. Is the complaint about them being walking wikipedias? Well most people know a decent amount about local politics, surroundings and recent events, but if you were to mimic reality more the NPCs should probably just refuse to talk to you outright since you're a bothersome stranger with too many questions.

I guess them having names and actually answering questions about the local area makes people expect more from them than just being generic signpost NPCs.

Other games would call them "Peasant" or "Citizen", while Morrowind gives them actual names and usually homes, too. And the names fit to their racial background, and their clothes reflect their social/financial status.
Which is a lot cooler from a worldbuilding and flavor standpoint than generic no-name NPCs, but I guess it makes people expect more than there is.
 

DalekFlay

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I honestly wish more RPGs filled the cities up with "filler people" for realism's sake. You could even make them unable to be interacted with, to avoid confusion. I was playing Zelda: Twilight Princess recently (shit game btw) and one good thing about it was the big "castle town" was filled with people, which really made it feel more real and immersive. You could only talk to certain ones though, so it didn't feel like a chore going around and getting the same repeated nonsense from everyone.

The idea of going around a city talking to every single person who lives there has always been a weird one.
 
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Frankly I don't really understand why "90% of NPCs are generic" is even a complaint. Most humans just don't have much of a role in anything other than basic society upkeeping, it's just natural that most NPCs exist just as space filler to make cityscapes not appear completely empty and to give you opportunities to ask random people for directions and quest rumours. As such, they fulfill this role of filler in spite of being generic, and it's an intentional choice. Is the complaint about them being walking wikipedias? Well most people know a decent amount about local politics, surroundings and recent events, but if you were to mimic reality more the NPCs should probably just refuse to talk to you outright since you're a bothersome stranger with too many questions.

I guess them having names and actually answering questions about the local area makes people expect more from them than just being generic signpost NPCs.

Other games would call them "Peasant" or "Citizen", while Morrowind gives them actual names and usually homes, too. And the names fit to their racial background, and their clothes reflect their social/financial status.
Which is a lot cooler from a worldbuilding and flavor standpoint than generic no-name NPCs, but I guess it makes people expect more than there is.
I honestly wish more RPGs filled the cities up with "filler people" for realism's sake. You could even make them unable to be interacted with, to avoid confusion. I was playing Zelda: Twilight Princess recently (shit game btw) and one good thing about it was the big "castle town" was filled with people, which really made it feel more real and immersive. You could only talk to certain ones though, so it didn't feel like a chore going around and getting the same repeated nonsense from everyone.

The idea of going around a city talking to every single person who lives there has always been a weird one.
This would be a good place to use procedural generation.
 

Sigourn

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Morrowind contains enough generic, interchangeable NPCs in its cities to present a convincing illusion of a living world. However, there numerous unique, interesting characters; it's just that the presentation is understated and requires the player to put effort into exploring, reading, and making connections between various pieces of information.

Of course there are numerous unique characters. By definition, the main quest and the different sidequests demand them. Dyvaith Fyr, Vivec, the last dwarf, Caius, etc. are but some of them. That doesn't change the fact that this

to present a convincing illusion of a living world

is a lie. The moment you can speak to any NPC and see how copypasted they are, the illusion is broken.

I honestly wish more RPGs filled the cities up with "filler people" for realism's sake. You could even make them unable to be interacted with, to avoid confusion.

This is what Gothic and The Witcher did, and it is the best approach, as opposed to Morrowind's. It's also less about "avoiding confusion" and more about immersing the player. Though in Morrowind's case it is a necessary evil to be able to ask for directions (and thus make NPCs interactable), it is not necessary for the player to ask about NPC's generic "worker" background and many other things.

Just keep it simple to what a real person would ask:
  • Where am I?
  • Know where I can find X?
And so on.
 

Sigourn

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Morrowind have it's flaws, but what kind of games does not have any flaw from objective perspective? Yes some mechanics of Morrowind (such as combat, level up system and some others) need improvement, but calling Morrowind as bad game, after years of shit games produced by industry and labeled as "RPG"? Are you nuts? With this logic, all games are shite, just because they have some flaws. I can't believe we have this conversation after more than decade since release of game.

Every game has flaws, but that doesn't make every RPG bad. I think New Vegas is a mediocre RPG, speaking purely about vanilla of course. At the same time, I think Fallout is a fantastic RPG and arguably the best I've ever played. The issue with Morrowind is that there are too many flaws that become readily evident the more you replay the game.

Not even going to bother reading your word vomit. Morrowind is one of the best RPGs ever made.
Every single video game in the history of ever has a laundry list of flaws. The trick is finding the games that truly excel in certain areas while not fucking up the rest of the game so badly that it ruins the whole experience.

Nearly everything about Morrowind's gameplay ruins the whole experience for me. With Morrowind I'm feeling now what I felt about Fallout 3 the second time I tried to play it. I stood there watching the screen after leaving the Vault, and thinking "why am I even playing this?".
 

Jack Of Owls

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I can't put my finger on it but there's something about Morrowind that really puts me off. NWN1 was released around the same time and once I started to get into user-made modules for it any prospective interest in Morrowind disappeared. I've tried several times to play it but I always get that "I'm not enjoying myself" depression before the first 10 minute mark. Maybe it's those cookie-cutter guards that all resemble actor Tony Lo Bianco with the perpetual grin looking like they're dropping a deuce and enjoying it too much. The same thing happened with Oblivion initially until my second attempt but then something clicked with that game and I discovered it was one of my favorites (with the right mods).
 

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