Monday, May 22, 2006


I haven't been hooked on a computer game in a very long time. It usually takes me ages to pick up games - I buy them very rarely. Mostly my brother buys any good game that gets published and tells me to play it. I then don't do it until some months/years later.
A couple of years ago I was looking over my brother's shoulder to see him play some 3D game. I believe his character was walking around in a city. He told me the game was Morrowind and that I should play it because I would love it. I started playing it last Friday - because my first thought was "Ugh, 3D" and my second "It can't be as good as Baldur's Gate".

And now, I'm hooked. I've played the whole weekend, day and night, every minute that was available to me.

I'm still a little put off by the graphics. I don't mind the 3D so much anymore, but - having played only 3 days now - there are recurring structures and elements in the buildings that are blatantly obvious and that lessen the whole discover-new-places feeling. I don't mind recurring graphics if they fit and if it's not so obvious (as in Baldur's Gate, where similar cities have similar architecture concerning style). In Morrowind, however, you have e.g. one of the big cities made out of seven times the same building (with very similar interior structure), and then you have a minor city made of the same building. The cities aren't culturally connected (in fact, they seem to be very different), so it makes no sense to have them look similar. That's about the only thing that puts me off.
Everything else is awesome.
I've actually come to like the 3D first-person-perspective. You feel like you are the character, not that you're just looking at your character. You can switch to an observing perspective, but I don't like it so much.

What really got me hooked are all the small roleplaying-details. As my brother put it, Baldur's Gate is all about your character (improving your stats), while Morrowind is all about roleplaying. When I talk to NPCs with a sword in my hand they like me less. When I talk to them while having a disease they tell me the way to the next temple where I can get rid of the disease (if they like me) or tell me to not come any closer to them until I'm healthy again (if they don't like me so much). When my character swings his sword around in the middle of the city the guards first look at me warily and then come to me and tell me to go and do my business. The same when I sneak around near a guard like a thief. When I run towards a guard instead of walking (because walking is insanely slow) they put their hand to their sword because I might be dangerous.
Even worse .... when I try to sleep in a bed I get fined for trying to sleep in somebody else's bed. I've also been told the same happens if you try to sleep in a beggar's bed. Allegedly you also get fined if you take something away from a beggar. And stealing is easier if you actually don't try it when standing right in front of the person you want to steal from.
The sheer amount of things that are thought of in this game that aren't even considered in any other game is mindboggling. I've changed from running into every house, as I did in Baldur's Gate, to actually consider which house I might not want to walk into because its inhabitant might not like it. And also: "Do I really want to go into the bedroom of this shopkeeper with the guard beside me?" Within a few hours playing my focus on roleplaying has increased a lot.

Another awesome feature is the atmosphere created by weather (and the music). I'm so immersed in looking from the character's perspective that part of me feels with whatever's happening to the character. Concerning weather, I've seriously jumped a few times when hearing the cracking of thunder and I really, really wished to be out of that storm. When I was repairing my sword at the blacksmith's my dad came in to see what I was up to he heard strange *clong* *clong* noises. I've also sometimes made an apologetic face when an NPC looked at me while I was doing something that I wasn't supposed to do (like checking the stats of some armour lying in a shop and wondering why nobody tries to steal it and if I should). I've also jumped a couple of times when being attacked and looking wildly around to find my attacker - first person perspective ... you need to look up and down and around you, because your attacker might be a rat or a bird. It's very cool.
Anyway, back to atmosphere. While buildings are recurring, the areas that I've been to so far looked different to each other and all had a unique "personality". Green shores to the south, darker, dead lands in the center, red sandstorms around the Ghostwall. I love those sandstorms. The first times I set my eyes on the Ghostwall I was speechless by the raw beauty of it. This huge, blue "wall", like a force-shield, right in the middle of nowhere. I had heard stories about it, about the dangers looming beyond it in the Red Mountain. I knew that a strong enemy was sleeping there. And this impressive wall keeps the danger away - I was overwhelmed by the implied power that the wall must posess. And you cannot observe the wall in a quiet and peaceful atmosphere. There's the red sandstorm and the howling of the storm going on and one, in stark contrast with the calm atmosphere of the southern regions. I stood there for some minutes, just looking at this monument. Then the sandstorm got too much for me and I walked on, ran towards where the passage beyond the wall must be, curious for how the land beyond might look like. When I arrived at the passage I turned around to see where my companion remained - a young, slightly annoying and impolite woman who I was to accompany to the passage. My only reason to come here. She's not coming. I keep waiting, then go back a bit. In the distance I see two shapes. "Oh, please no" I think and run towards the shapes. There she lies, next to the body of the last enemy we fought. She must have died in the battle and I didn't notice it because I was too eager to keep going. And all the while, the sandstorm howls.

Good game.

No comments: