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PC Review - 'The Elder Scrolls III: Bloodmoon'

by GreyOoze on July 20, 2003 @ 1:46 a.m. PDT

Released a little over a year ago, Bethesda’s third offering in their venerable Elder Scrolls series, Morrowind, gets it second expansion pack, with the usual assortment of new areas, quests, and monsters. But how does this expansion pack add to the game, and will it make a follower out of any of the non-believers? Read on to find out.

Genre: RPG
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: June 3, 2003

Buy 'ELDER SCROLLS III: Bloodmoon': PC

Like many of you, I love RPG’s. The stories, the quests, and the combat. I love the genre, and everything it has to offer. Also like many of you, I religiously followed the development of Morrowind, from the time of its announcement, all the way up to the day it hit the shelves. I preordered the Collectors Edition, and hastily picked it up ten minutes after receiving the call informing me it had arrived. I raced home and installed it. And like some of you, after several hours of play, the game ultimately found its way on to my list of greater disappointments.

The game certainly had its good points. The graphics are still some of the best I have ever seen. Beautiful, picture quality landscapes and vistas. Like its predecessors, Morrowind was huge. A giant, massive world, full of places to explore and plunder. The game started off setting the foundation for a great main story, and there was so many different things going on behind the scenes that the side plots alone could keep you occupied for weeks on end. Morrowind also featured one of the better character creation systems, allowing the player to be virtually any race or class they could dream up. Without a doubt, the game had a lot going for it.

The downside, for myself as well as a lot of other players, was that, for everything Morrowind seemed to do right, there was a minor annoyance to go along with it. As inspiring as the graphics were, they required a hefty computer to experience them, and the engine offered very little in the way of tweaking. I recall thinking at the time that I knew of no computer then that could run the game full boar, at least nothing that would fit through the door of my apartment. Although Morrowind was far more stable than Daggerfall, the second in the series, many experienced bugs, while others had no problems at all. A big issue with many was the combat, with its simple, hack and slash approach, devoid of any feedback or indication as to how you’re doing against your foes. You simply kept swinging away until someone died. The journal the game used to log the various story lines, sub plots, and quests had no viewing options, so with the 300 odd things that could happen within the game, this journal would turn into a mess of names, places, and information, much of which would mean nothing, forcing you to recall what you had already done. With the games aforementioned size, that was almost impossible. Lastly, while the game was huge, and there was a lot going on in terms of story lines and politics, the various NPC’s and characters in the game were somewhat generic, seemingly lacking no other purpose other than to interact with the player.

Although nothing was changed with the core aspects of the game, several patches issued soon after the Morrowind’s release fixed most of the technical issues and bugs, and the games first expansion pack, Tribunal, made sweeping corrections and enhancements to the journal system, allowing players to view it in any manner of different ways, making it the useful tool it has to be. Additionally, Tribunal added a whole new island for the player to explore, complete with more plots, quests, and monsters.

With all of that said about the original game and its first expansion pack, the truth with Morrowind is the same as with any other game, you either like it or you don’t.

Provided you do, the second expansion pack, Bloodmoon, will make you even giddier than you already are. Bloodmoon offers a brand new island complete with many new and interesting things to do. For starters, the new island, Solstheim, is situated in Morrowind’s artic climate, and is complete with snow tiles, blizzards, and other phenomenon associated with that type of environment. This new world is every bit as beautiful and mesmerizing as the rest of the game, in fact, even more so. The new monsters, of which there are several, are all well modeled and animated, creating truly imposing creatures for your upper level avatar to deal with. In yet another bow to Bethesda’s history of devotion to the Elder Scrolls universe, and giving its players what they want, your character can now become a Werewolf, and even play as one, the only drawback being that, should anyone see you transform into this feared creature, they will blackball you, and attack you on site. Other opportunities include overseeing the development of a new mining colony for the games new mercantile, as well as several other quests.

All of the new content included with Bloodmoon integrates nicely into the rest of the game. It doesn’t impact things in quite the same manner that Tribunal does, but the effect is still the same. I started the game from the beginning in order to get a good feel for this review, and I wasn’t even out of Seyda Neen when I first started hearing about the Solstheim and some of its problems. As my journey continued forward, I heard more and more about the place, its people, and its politics. This may sound trivial to some, but it’s an important aspect of an RPG expansion pack. Expansion packs for many other games in this genre rarely offer anything more than a tacked on area, a simple main quest, and a few sub plots here and there, and even worse, many times deny access to some of the areas in the original game. Like Tribunal, Bloodmoon adds a large area to the mix, fleshes it out, and brings it full circle with the rest of the game, without limiting it in any way. The expansion also includes the changes Tribunal made to the games journal, along with the map annotation features, so if you decided against Tribunal, you’ll still get these two tweaks with Bloodmoon.

There are a few minor downsides. One issue is that, where the new areas look even better than those in either the original game or the first expansion, you can expect the appropriate hits to your hardware and frame rates. If the game ran slow on your machine before, it’s going to run even slower with Bloodmoon. Even worse, many of the new foes you fight against attack you in packs, slowing things down even more. The more characters on screen, the more of a strain on your hardware. It might just be me, but it also seemed like there was a lot more outside fighting in the new areas as well, which will stress slower machines even more. Even on what would be considered an upper tier machine, you might find yourself lowering the sight distance and dynamic shadow sliders accordingly.

Another small gripe, albeit slightly personal, is that, like Tribunal, Bloodmoon does not expand on Morrowind’s main story in any significant or meaningful way. There are some small bits here and there, but nothing major. Although the new material is quite good, it would have been nice to see what direction the established plot would have gone in, particularly due to the many hours required to play through the game and experience the story in the first place.

The purpose of an expansion pack is to build upon the established lines of an already popular game, not make major changes to that game to suit those that either didn’t like the original, or couldn’t live with its methods. That’s the job of any potential sequel, not an expansion pack. With that said, I feel that Bloodmoon is one of the better expansion packs to come along for any game, in any genre, in quite some time. It brings a lot of new content to the table, along with a few necessary tweaks and additions. Truth be told, Bethesda needs to be commended, not only for Bloodmoon, but for Morrowind, and Tribunal as well. The obvious dedication the original title and both expansions demonstrate should definitely be seen as an example to this industry.

The bottom line then, is that if you liked Morrowind, you’ll enjoy adding this expansion to your game. If you liked Morrowind, but felt Tribunal was a little sparse, I still feel you will want Bloodmoon. Lastly, if, for whatever reason you couldn’t get into Morrowind, then neither this expansion pack, nor Tribunal for that matter, will change your mind. The game hasn’t changed, but the world has gotten a fair size bigger.


Score : 8.8/10

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