Ever the Elder Scrolls fan, FBT plays the Morrowind total conversion
Recently, I subjected myself to a full, back-to-back play-through of Morrowind, Oblivion and Skyrim. It was an eye-opening and eye-watering 100-odd hours of mud crabs, diseases and ‘What’s that over there?’. I fondly remembered how I’d just wander as Morrowind’s Odd-Job Mer until some new game distracted me, only to return and wander more. But during that replay I sadly accepted it hadn’t aged well. It looked flat, and the nonsensical diary, the lack of a mission marker or fast-travel, the endless text conversations; Morrowind required commitment back in the day, but now it needed patience. It was just past it’s prime. Following it with Oblivion really brought home how deep Morrowind is as an experience but how hard it is to play; if only the two could be merged …
Amazingly, a fan collective called the “TES Renewal Project” recreated Morrowind in Oblivion. Such is the Morrowind love that Morroblivion isn't just a representation in Oblivion, it’s Morrowind in its entirety. Then they uploaded it in idiot-proof form. You just need to mess with Oblivion’s files and hey-presto, you’re an N'wah again.
Whoa. I knew this was a labour of love but Morroblivion is amazing. I spent a good hour walking around Seyda Neen trying to catch it out but it’s not just the buildings or landscapes – although that would be enough. The outfits, the junk, the Kwama eggs, the creaking planks and door creaks; it’s all here. Even the traders refuse to do business until I get rid of that Moon Sugar.
I take off into the wilderness just to marvel. Inevitably, I don’t get very far before I’m over-burdened, unarmed and killed by mudcrabs. The mudcrabs are of the Oblivion variety rather than Morrowind’s oversized brutes, but apart from that, this is it, I’m in Morrowind. All that remains of Oblivion is its gameplay structure; exactly what Morrowind was screaming out for – a solid map, fast-travel and a diary that doesn’t read like Burrows’ Naked Lunch.
I’m so excited to re-explore the world, even if there’s not a great deal to do in it. I’ve never played a game more committed to just leaving you to poke around – even the main mission doesn’t matter; combined with it’s age, the listless nature of Morrowind kills it now. But Morroblivion gives you the tools to really get into it, to click with the world and realise it’s as complex and compelling as it was fifteen years ago – there’s cracking tales and adventures everywhere you look.
Perhaps the most surprising part of this reinvigorated world is realising how … suspect the quest-givers’ motivations are. In one Mages’ mission, I get sent to kill a Necromancer only to discover she’d just had a falling out with the quest-giver. I just got set up to commit a murder! They’re all up to something in Morrowind, and I realise now how many of those seemingly inconsequential quests are actually pretty loaded. It wasn’t lost on me while playing the original, it was just that I spent so long lost that by the time I’d found what I was after, I’d forgotten why I was looking for it. Now, thanks to fast travel and a readable diary, I’m excited to dig into this complex world. It almost feels like a new game, and it’s also a testament to Oblivion that this looks great – and that’s over ten years old.
Some bits still grate – the slavery subplot that fizzes out, the ‘no more missions for you’ end to Guild adventures and the painfully laborious middle-section of the main mission (even with fast-travel and diary notes) but those are Morrowind criticisms not problems with this conversion, and for every niggle there’s some subtle bit of Oblivion DNA that brings Morrowind back to life – the NCPs have lovely little routines and interact more now and it’s so much easier to manage life around the Red Mountain. Not to mention your inventory. There’s even a nice Oblivion throwback in the way locals flip moods – “thank you for returning my family heirloom … you filthy s’wit.”
There are times when I find myself missing the original Morrowind; there was something quaint, unshowy about it. But Morroblivion has so much charm; it’s not over-designed, just believable. Looking back on my review of the original, what held me back in Morrowind was the aged game system. With that replaced, there’s nothing to hold me back. I’m gonna be here for a long time.
Morrowind is a great game, and Morroblivion is the best way to experience it. It puts all those other desperate remasters to shame. To think this came from the fans, not some money-grubbing publisher looking to refresh their franchise and fleece a few extra bucks. If you were a fan of the original, you need this in your fantasy-life. To the newbies, it might seem slow or inconsequential but Morroblivion will draw you in - and you’ll not want to leave.
The TES Renewal Project isn’t stopping here though; ‘Skywind’ is incoming - Morrowind on the Skyrim engine, which is going to be beyond cool, and Skyblivion, Oblivion in Skyrim - when that comes out, you won't see me for years. And since Bethesda revealed an Elder Scrolls VI will arrive (eventually), chances are there’s a MorroVI in the future. It’s going to become a generational thing; our grandkids loading up MorroX. For me though, Morroblivion is perfect, merging the two best TES games into one work of art. It’s an amazing achievement. Even if they recreated the bloody Cliff Racers too.
Morroblivion 2014 | Developer TES Renewal Project (https://tesrenewal.com)