Let’s Illustrate Morrowind: Final Thoughts

So I finally “finished” Morrowind, which is to say I got near the end but got so frustrated with some of the end-game quests that I decided to sequence break and see if I could beat one of the final bosses early.

At least I think it was a final boss. Having never beaten the game means I can only sort of guess what was going to happen. Honestly in the future I should probably avoid doing Let’s Illustrates of games I havn’t finished at least once before.

Anyways, it’s time for final thoughts:

Thoughts On The Game

I can certainly see why a lot of people say Mororwind was their favorite Elder Scrolls game. The setting is unique, the sense of freedom is great and the story is one of the best written open world plots I’ve ever seen.

What made the plot so great?

Well, first off there was the simple fact that it was properly paced for an open world game. The game knew you probably wanted to do side quests and so the main story had regularly scheduled moments of down time where you were encouraged to go off and side quest for a bit. It’s a simple thing but for some reason most open world games just can’t pull it off. Even Bethesda itself seems to have trouble duplicating it and instead gives us things like Skyrim’s “Dragon’s are attacking and we have to stop them ASAP” or Fallout 4’s “Your baby has been kidnapped please rescue them ASAP”.

Beyond that the story also did a great job of making use of such advanced writing techniques as Foreshadowing and Ambiguouty.

For instance, one of my favorite moments in the game was when you first hear about the seven trials of the Neverine and realize that those are all things your character will have to go though. The trials are too vague to really let you know what you’re in for but you still get this lovely sense of doom. And then when you start accomplishing stuff it’s fun to look back and realize that “Oh! That’s what the third trial was talking about”.

I also like the fact that whether you are a reborn hero or just a spy pretending to be a reborn hero was never really clarified, at least not at any point in the game I played. Sure, you hear a lot about prophecy and fate but for all you know that’s just a few Deadra lords playing games or a few scribes being hopeful.

ON THE OTHER HAND: I think we have to admit that the rough gameplay made the story hard to enjoy. I mean, I was so tired of walking back and forth across the ashlands that I bailed out 80% of the way through the story.

So overall I’m glad I played it and it would be really nice if Elder Scrolls 6 were to have a Morrowind style scenario but with Skyrim style gameplay.

Thoughts On The Gimmick

A no armor, weapons or consumable run of an Elder Scrolls game is less intimidating than you might think given how much magic is readily available and how easy it is to regain HP and MP through rest even without items.

What did surprise me was the fact that Fault somehow turned into a melee focused wizard instead of the fireball chunking sorcerer I originally had in mind. I guess that’s what I get for obsessing about having optimal HP instead of actually thinking about how to be a good spell caster.

On the other hand being a transforming hero certainly gave the playthrough a unique feel and resulted in some funny mental images.

On the other other hand combat in Morrowind is tedious enough without having to cast the same armor and weapon summoning spells at the start of every single fight. So I can’t really recommend the power ranger build to anyone.

Thoughts On My Art

My first Let’s Illustrate was just to get me in the habit of regularly practicing art by basically putting my online reputation at risk if I didn’t. This second Let’s Illustrate was then theoretically supposed to focus on developing actual talent by picking a single artistic style and focusing on getting good at it.

Unfortunatley I instead spent most of this series jumping from one style to another like a kid in a candy store. Let’s try a cartoon style! No, comics! Maybe something more Japanese! And so on and so forth.

That said I did finally decide to commit myself to pixel art, for several reasons:

1) It requires and teaches many of the same skills as traditional art (perspective, proportion, shading) while being more forgiving of small mistakes.

2) You can easily adjust the difficulty of a piece by increasing or decreasing the resolution.

3) There are some good smartphone apps for pixel art, letting me slip in a few minutes of practice here and there instead of having to dedicate a solid hour to sitting at my computer with a drawing tablet.

Some time in the future I’d still like to improve my actual sketching skills but for the forseeable future I’m going to restrict myself to pure pixelated Let’s Illustrates until I reach a level where I can produce the sort of stuff I wouldn’t be embarassed to see in an actual SNES game.

As for when I’ll be kicking off the next series, I’ve already started playing and illustrating but want a bigger buffer of saved up posts before anything goes live. Might take a month or two. I know that’s Ages in Internet time but I hope your interest doesn’t Fade while you wait.

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 46: It’s Over When I Say It’s Over

So Azura is willing to back Fault’s claim of Neverine status but the prophecy won’t be fulfilled until the majority of the dark elves have also been convinced. This requires becoming the leader of all four ashlander tribes as well as receiving top honors from three of the great houses in the city of Vivec.

In more practical terms this requires doing dozens of side quests that require trecking across Morrowind’s quick-travel-less wasteland again and again and again. And while some of the quests can be rather clever I honestly only get about halfway through before rebelling. There has to be a better way to save the world than yet another volcano hiking trip!

Let’s see here…

If I remember the plot correctly a lot of Morrowind’s problems stem from the fact that their trio of god kings are slowly going insane. So theoretically if we can just deal with them the day will be saved, right?

The easiest immortal troublemaker to find is Vivec, who lives in the city named after him and hides out in a giant temple secured by a max difficulty lock. Fortunately Fault has just enough mana to cast a max level unlocking spell letting her into the godling’s main chamber with ease.

Once inside she’s immediately blown up by a max level fireball. But if you manage to dodge enough of them Vivec will eventually run out of mana and resort to trying to punch to you death instead. And as Fault well knows punching things to death is next to impossible meaning that it becomes relatively easy to whittle down Vivec’s health bit by bit, running away to regain stamina whenever you’ve been punched so hard it looks like you’re close to passing out.

Finally the mad god falls, but Fault’s victory is interrupted by a popup informing her that the threads of fate have been broken and that the world is likely doomed. Or in other words, we just broke the plot and can no longer win the game.

That has to have been worth a ton of XP

Now you could argue that this is a bad thing and that the game should prevent you from breaking it, which is why Oblivion and Skyrim actually make certain characters unkillable until after their part in the game’s plot is over or make certain doors impossible to open without the story’s permission.

But I like that Morrowind trusts me as a player enough to let me go off the rails and end the game the way I want to. Vivec is hard to kill but not impossible and he is protected by a door that is hard to open but not actually impassable. And while the game warns you that you might want to consider reloading an earlier save so you can still finish the plot there’s nothing actually preventing you from just continuing playing in your now messed up world as long as you want.

So while neither the plot or this Let’s Illustrate have anywhere else they can go from here I like to imagine that Fault, having defeated Vivec, goes on to have an epic battle against the other two kings of Morrowind. With them dead the ghost wall will undoubtedly fall, leaving nothing but Fault between Morrowind and the plagues of Dagoth Ur.

But you know what? I think the odds are in Fault’s favor.

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 45: This Week In The Polls…

Through the power of wiki Fault finally opens the doors to Azura’s shrine.

Inside the shrine Azura herself rewards us the sign of the star and moon, which turns out to be a magic ring we will never actually put on. She also commands us to go forth and fulfill the fourth and fifth trials by uniting all the ashland tribes and becoming champion of at least four of the great houses. After that we have to cast down some false gods and confront the plague demon at which point we presumably win the game.

As a final bit of neatness Azura summons up the ghosts of some of the most famous past failed candidates for the Nevarine. They give us some simple advice, tell their stories and then give Fault a bunch of nifty artifacts which she obviously will never use. Still, it’s the thought that counts, right?

Fault then trecks all the way back to the Ashland camp to get advice on how to unite the four tribes. Apparently if we can both convince them we’re the Neverine and that Dagoth Ur represents an immediate threat they will gladly name us joint warchief.

At first I’m a little afraid our favorite ashlander chief is going to stonewall us with yet another “prove our worth” quest but he seems to have finally warmed up to Fault and recognizes her as the Neverine (but only after politely warning her that naming herself the head of a heritacle cult will probably mess up any temple or political related sidequests she’s on so she should think carefully before saying yes). He also gives us a list of the other three tribes we need to convince and even marks them on our map. All of them live along the grassy east cost which should be a nice break from all this volcanic cliff racer righting.

So… one tribe down. Three to go.

Looks like it’s time to find a new campaign manager…

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 44: What’s The Dark Elvish Word For Friend?

Fault finally found the mysterious shrine that will help her prove her legendary status but it turns out the door won’t open unless you have some sort of Azura related star.

The bane of adventurer's everywhere: The plot door.

The bane of adventurer’s everywhere: The plot door.

Looks like it’s back to the ashlanders for more advice about the other half of the riddle: The pearl teeth thing.

OK, it turn’s out the pearl hint just leads us back to the same door who still won’t open until we have the star, which I assume is some sort of rare daedric artifact. I thus spend a painfully long time Justice Leaping and levitating around the nearby mountains looking for any sort of star or dungeon or cave before finally breaking down and checking the wiki.

It turns out the “star” the door is referring to is an actual star, one that only comes out at dawn and dusk. You know, just like the magic shrine door of the secret cult Fault was hanging out with a few updates ago. That really should have tipped me off on what was going on.

But here’s the thing: In most (all?) Elder Scroll games there is an actual artifact called Asura’s Star so my first instinct was that the door wouldn’t open until I had found it. And I got so caught up in that idea it never occured to me it might be a time based astrology door even though the game had already thrown one of those at me. Whoops.

Oh well, at least the door is open now.

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 43: A Quest Marker, A Quest Marker, My Kingdom For A Quest Marker

Now that Fault is done selling all the loot she can and squirreling the rest away for later it’s time to head back to the ashlands and hand over the various proofs of heroism we collected from the haunted ruins. This successfullly impresses the chieftain who finally teaches Fault the riddle of the third trial: Something about finding a cave of a deadric lord by finding an eye and some pearl teeth and I probably should have written this down. But a local tribesman mentions that there is a famous rock formation shaped near the cave and I figure as long as i can get there I can probably figure the rest of the riddle out on the spot.

The landmark we’ve been told to look for is two giant rock spires marking the entry to a valley and if you talk to the right villagers you will find out that the valley lets out into the ocean which make it pretty easy to walk along the north shore of Morrowind until you find the two spires. Then you just have to follow the valley all the way to your goal.

If you somehow neglect to talk to the right villagers and instead just find someone mentioning that the cave is south of a certain ruin you could instead spend almost an hour wandering around a volcanic wasteland.

Guess which happened to Fault?

Taking the road less traveled might be a great metaphor for life but it's pretty bad advice when it comes to actual roads

Taking the road less traveled might be a great metaphor for life but it’s pretty bad advice when it comes to actual roads

It was at least some interesting wandering. As we got close to the center of the volcanic island we came across a massive magical wall that I can only assume is the Ghost Wall some of the NPCs mentioned. Apparently it exists to help slow down the rate at which blight disease and various monsters escape from the cursed mountain.

And it really is a wall, going twenty or so feet straight up and then stopping. This is a pretty poor design choice considering that cliff racers can both fly and carry disease but to Fault’s advantage it means she can use Justice Leap Mk 2 to access the interior of Morrowind.

That’s right, Mk 2, now with added slow fall effect! Sadly not quite enough slow fall effect buy what kind of hero of justice would Fault be if she couldn’t survive the occasional terminal velocity face plant?

Anyways, there’s a lot of diseased zombies inside the wall and a lot of ruins that will probably be important to the plot later but not really anything else so Fault Justice Leaps her way back over the ghost wall and eventually stumbles onto the valley she was looking for all along.

Only to find that the ancient ruin she was looking for won’t open for anyone who doesn’t have the “star”.

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 42: Supply And Demand

So Fault is, once again, fighting her way through a creepy monster filled ruin in order to prove her “worth” to the ashlander chieftain. This is a little frustrating, but on the other hand the corpses and chests in the area gave Fault over a hundred thousand gold worth of rare weapons and magical doodads. She’ll never be wanting for money again… except for one tiny problem: No one in Morrowind seems to have enough cash to buy Fault’s loot.

Some economists believe the loot based economy may not be viable in the long term

Some economists believe the loot based economy may not be viable in the long term

For instance, Fault found an ebony sword worth 10,000 gold. With decent bartering she can sell it for maybe half of that. But the richest merchant she knows never has more than 2,000 or so gold on hand at a time. So Fault either has to sell at a huge loss or play a complex bartering game where she sells an expensive item for all of a merchant’s gold PLUS most of his inventory in trade. She can then sell the cheaper items back bit by bit as the merchant’s gold recovers. Whether or not the slight boost in profit is worth that much tedium is up for debate.

Anyways, all of Balmora runs out of gold before Fault cleans out even a tenth of her loot. So for now she just goes back to Caius’s house and shoves a king’s ransom worth of legendary weapons under the bed. She’ll hopefully be able to sell them bit by bit every time she returns to town. On the other hand, if she keeps finding new treasure faster than she can liquidate old treasure Caius might wind up coming home to the Fort Knox of ebony.

As you might imagine since this is a no-equipment run and we already have our handful of magic jewelry exceptions all of that wealth will be going into training. Getting perfect levels from here on out should be a breeze. Fault may even just outright buy half a dozen or so levels.

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 41: Triple Dog Dare

Now that Fault has a more or less complete copy of the lost Neverine prophecies in hand it’s another trudge back to the ashlands and tell our favorite wise woman what we learned. Morrowind then once again shows off it’s excellent sense of open world pacing by having her suggest it might take her a while to figure out what all these new prophecies mean and that now would be a great time to go off and side quest.

Alternatively you can tell her to just make her best guess now and get the plot moving again.

Surviving Corpus disease and becoming immune to all illness in the process means Fault has now passed the second of the seven prophecies trials. For the third trial we’re going to have to talk to the chief.

Except he’s not so keen on talking. He’s not exactly questioning the wise woman’s opinion that Fault might be the Neverine but he sure would feel better about telling us the secrets of the third trial if we first proved ourselves a warrior by exploring the abandoned ruins of a sixth house fortress and bringing back: 1) Slime from a corpus monster to prove you’re really immune 2) A marked cup to prove you went to the right ruins 3) An ancient magical shield because a two item scavenger hunt is no fun.

I'm beginning to expect the clan chief isn't taking us seriously...

I’m beginning to expect the clan chief isn’t taking us seriously…

The ruins themselves are probably one of the creepiest areas I’ve visited in a non-horror game. They’re dark and filled with bizarre plague monsters and misshapen tentacled wizards. Of course Fault is immune to plague and has more than enough JUSTICE to cleave through an army of mildly eldritch horrors but the whole atmosphere of the area gave me the creeps.

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 40: Learn History, Repeat History

Fault is finally ready to meet up with her recently rescued contact, who is now safe and secure in the secret monastery of some dissident priests. Their hideout can only be reached by giving a secret password to a specific boat-woman who takes you to a hidden island where you have to wait until either dawn or dusk for a magic door to open. Very thematic.

Once inside we chat with the priests and finally hear the rest of the plot. All our various puzzle pieces like the Neverine and Dagoth Ur finally start fitting together.

Apparently a long time ago the dwarves uncovered the crystal heart of a god and built three powerful magical artifacts to extract and control its power. This went horribly wrong and is the reason there aren’t many dwarves left alive today.

This is, coincidentally, also how 90% of Dwarf Fortress sessions end

This is, coincidentally, also how 90% of Dwarf Fortress sessions end

Some time later a bunch of dark elves including a guy named Nevar and his buddy Dagoth uncovered the same god heart and artifacts. Nevar was smart enough to recognize it for big trouble and asked Dagoth to guard it while he went off to get advice from his three most trusted counselors.

Sadly Dagoth wound up corrupted by the heart and Nevar and his counselors were forced to subdue him. This lead to peace and happiness for all of five minutes before the three counselors decided that they could use the heart to become the new god kings of Morrowind.

The rest is history. Nevar passed away, Dagoth faded into legend as a monster and the Triumvate ruled with a mostly benevolent iron fist.

But the heart is a dangerous thing and the Triumvate seems to be slowly losing their minds and their power while rumors stir that Dagoth never truly died and has awoken again.

All we need now is for Nevar to be reborn and we’ll have the whole gang back together, which is why this whole reborn hero Nevarine thing is so important.

This also means that if Fault keeps following the path of the prophecy it’s only a matter of time before she comes face to face with three gods and a demon lord.

So all things considered buying all those expensive enchantments was probably a good investment.

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 39: The Importance Of Accesorizing

So Fault’s had to spend a week in jail, but that’s fine since it should give her recently rescued contact plenty of time to reach her hiding place and prepare the information we need for our quest to continue impersonating the Neverine reborn. But first, something has been bothering me.

Sure, Fault’s ability to go from civilian to Daedra armored hero with the casting of a single spell is cool… but real transforming heroes don’s use spells, do they?

That’s right, real heroes have gizmos to help them transform! Magic belts, high tech armbands, enchanted jewelry and all sorts of other shiny trinkets they can dramatically thrust into the air while shouting out their catch phrase. What, don’t look at me like that. I’m sure you watched plenty of power rangers when you were a little kid too.

Anyways, that means it’s time to dip our toes into the mad world of Morrowind enchanting. Way back in the first post I did mention that my no armor, no weapon, no potion run would still allow me a few pieces of enchanted jewelry just to experiment with the system. Well it’s time to experiment.

In Morrowind enchanting is basically the same as creating a new spell that can then be cast by using the enchanted item (or by hitting things with an enchanted weapon). The major advantage is that enchanted items have their own constantly regenerating magic pool so even if your character is all tapped out on MP they can still use enchanted items to heal or teleport or shoot fireballs or whatever.

The major downside is cost. Spells that cost a few hundred gold to research cost several thousand gold when inserted into an artifact. You can theoretically skip this cost by enchanting your gear yourself but unless you have crazy high stats the odds of failure are so great it’s probably faster to just grind for gold and pay an expert to do it for you.

Which is exactly what Fault does, having finally grown strong enough to laugh in the face of cliff racers and safely explore and loot the many caves and ruins dotting south western Morrowind.

That gives Fault enough gold to commision Justice Enforcer, a ring that lets her summon magic spears at will, and Justice Idealize, an amulet that summons her armor.

Sure, it's a pretty rock but how many pluses does it give you?

Sure, it’s a pretty rock but how many pluses does it give you?

Let’s Illustrate Morrowind Part 38: Sub-par Secret Identity

Fault’s new magic jumping skills give her access to the floating prison where her informant is being held. Inside the structure is swarming with guards and seems to have been designed mostly to make stealth focused characters feel good about their life choices. I experiment with using invisibility and chameleon effects to make up for the fact that Fault is roughly as subtle as getting drop kicked by a 200 pound viking but we just don’t have enough mana to keep the charade up.

Backup plan is to just run like crazy, grab the keys off a guard, find our friend, give her her teleport scroll and then use a recently purchased “recall” spell to teleport ourselves back to the safety of wherever we last used the checkpoint “mark” spell. The only problem is that every time I try the guards mercilessly cut Fault down. It doesn’t seem quite fair. I don’t think I’m under-leveled for this quest…

I then remember that the game was designed around the assumption that normal players wear armor instead of running around in casual clothes. I also remember that I have half a dozen different ways to cover Fault in nigh-invulnerable Daedra armor. She is then able to shrug off her attackers just long enough to get her friend to safety. She then casts recall and…

We’re in the ashlands in the middle of a sandstorm? I thought I had dropped my checkpoint back in the town of Balmora! Well, that’s fine. Let’s see if we can find a strider to take us back to civilization.

Also, word travels fast in Morrowind. Fault literally just teleported across the entire map but all the ashland NPCs are already giving her the evil eye for being a wanted criminal. Fortunately Fault didn’t kill anyone so she gets off with six days of hard labor for the apparently minor crime of running around a secure prison while dressed as a masked vigilante.

Vigilante tip: Costumes that magically evaporate after sixty seconds make concealing your true identity difficult

Vigilante tip: Costumes that magically evaporate after sixty seconds make concealing your true identity difficult