Easily one of the most anticipated expansions coming to modern MMOs so far this year, The Elder Scrolls Online: Morrowind has been running its closed beta for the past week or so. I had an opportunity to hop in for a Morrowind closed beta preview, getting some hands-on time with both the new region of Vvardenfell and the brand-new Warden class outside of a PvP environment.
From my impressions so far, Morrowind is looking like a stupendous location for players even if the Warden class starts off a bit underwhelmingly.
Allow me to elaborate on my time with the Warden. It’s the game’s new hybrid class, managing to offer tank, DPS, and healing trees all at once. In other MMOs, it’s been my experience that “hybrid” is code for “homogenized” and the Warden does little to change my mind initially. I got the sense while playing through the game that the Warden was trying its best to be versatile without stepping on the toes of the game’s existing classes. What results is a class that doesn’t really feel purpose-built.
The other side of that argument, of course, is why not make each line of skills specific to a role? It’s that line of thinking that started to let the Warden slowly gel with me. Locking into a single set of traits instead of pulling a bit from all three columns granted the Warden a bit more purpose. If I were to offer anyone trying out the Warden any piece of advice, it’s to decide what sort of playstyle you want and absolutely lock in. As much as I wanted to use both my Frost powers and my Animal powers together, it just didn’t seem to mesh very well.
This leaves the Warden lagging behind a bit in the kind of versatility that I seek from ESO. That said, looking ahead to later unlocks and the slowly building sense of identity gave the impression that the Warden will be a late-blooming class. Once you’ve got a firm idea of what sort of Warden line you’re going to follow, you can start to see things come together. Personally speaking, I would rather have new classes have a keener identity instead of trying to be everything to everyone.
Of course, there’s a lot more to the new Morrowind expansion than just the class, and that other big ticket item is where this expansion could really soar.
While the Warden perhaps didn’t quite live up to expectations, the island of Vvardenfell itself absolutely blew them away. The sense of nostalgia at visiting the variety of old, familiar locations combined with the joy of running around the area with others combined to make Morrowind shine for me. It’s very clear that the developers knew to take care in creating the region in the MMO, and that level of craft showed. From Seyda Neen to Balmora to the still-building Vivec City, everything about the Vvardenfell region felt right.
Perhaps my memory is a bit hazy, but while things look and feel correct, the island itself feels a bit smaller than I remember it being. I don’t recall the trek from Seyda Need to Vivec City being quite so swiftly done. Still, it was impossible to not be swept up by delight as aiming myself in the direction I remembered without looking at a map or compass yielded results.
Something else that struck me while I was traveling the region was the amount of stuff to do. I’m not going to touch on any specific questlines for spoiler reasons, but I will say that both the main story upon arriving in Morrowind and the wealth of sidequests will keep you busy for a long while. After doing a couple of steps in the primary questline at Vivec, things sprang up around me, and the distance to travel from one step to the other brought even more quests while en route. The way activities are discovered by exploring is one of my favorite features of ESO and Vvardenfell has this in spades.
The variety of stuff offered while playing was also impressive. While a lot of what I was experiencing was solo-based, there were at least a couple of things that definitely would be better experienced with other players or in a proper group. Personally speaking, I’m honestly looking forward to seeing Vvardenfell fully populated. There’s one particular quest that I wanted to complete that just wasn’t possible without others.
In short: get comfortable here, because my brief time gave the impression that I’ve barely scratched the surface of what Vvardenfell has to offer.
Final First Impressions
Overall, Morrowind is turning out to be something that will delight old fans of the series and players of the MMO combined. I’m significantly more in love with the Vvardenfell island than I am with the Warden class, and I can’t wait to travel there with my Templar.
If you’ve pre-ordered the expansion for the Warden, I would suggest steeling yourself for a touch of disappointment. It’s a fine enough experiment, but not something that really endeared to me or made the expansion more interesting. It’s trying just a little too hard to cover all the bases, and generally stretches itself thin in doing so.
If you’ve pre-ordered for the Vvardenfell area, prepare for a big smile. If you’re anything like me, you’re going to perhaps make a few squee sounds as you traverse familiar wilds and see comfortably old locations. As a zone, Vvardenfell just felt correct. It felt like a multiplayer version of the classic single-player RPG’s zone, which is precisely what I’m most eager for.
If you’re on the fence, I’d suggest to maybe wait on a possible open beta opportunity. Morrowind isn’t really offering anything drastically new as an expansion, but it is offering more of ESO’s gameplay in a familiar setting. For many players, myself included, that’s more than enough to get excited about Morrowind.Related: Closed Beta, MMORPG, Morrowind, Preview, The Elder Scrolls Online