Is There Anything Like Morrowind?


#1

Personally, I think Morrowind is probably the best RPG ever made and is my favourite game. Ever since I first played it I have been looking for any fiction that hits the same beats that it does but have failed to find any. Now with ESO: Morrowind out I have renewed my search for anything, novel or game, that may be similar.

For those of you that haven’t played Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, I am going to try and explain a bit about it and what parts I like the most in order to, hopefully, help narrow down any recommendations.

Quick Setting Overview: Morrowind is a game about magitech Babylonian objectivists and a theocracy of living deities in a land of ash deserts and fungus forests where people ride giant ticks that sing whale song and farm flying jellyfish. And one of the most important characters is a bi-racial, bi-polar, bi-sexual, mortal god warrior-poet.

So, I’ll break that down a bit.

Non-Western Influences: Some of the main influences on Morrowind are near-east, Semitic and Vedic also with a dash of Japanese. The land is mostly arid ash desert and craggy volcanic rock with some areas being tropical swampland. A lot of the architecture takes inspiration from near-east with small square buildings all the way up to huge ziggurats. The clothing worn is bright coloured robes, multiple piercings, strange headdresses and tribal tattoos. The history of the tribes of Velothi takes a lot of inspiration from Jewish history with an Exodus, Prophet and Holy Land. The gods bear resemblance to Canaanite and Hindu gods and the story of Morrowind to the rise and Fall of the Tower of Babel. Another pretty huge influence on the game is the Dune series.

Subverts Fantasy Tropes: The native inhabitants of Morrowind are called the Dunmer and they are technically elves but other than the pointed ears you probably would never guess it. They have red eyes and dark skin that ranges from a dark charcoal colour to a light ash grey up to a bruised blue. As said before they wear coloured robes with hoods and veils that protect them from the land, they are covered in tribal tattoos with facial piercings. Their gods personify murder, sex and revolution and are considered demons to most of the rest of the world but play a significant role in the formation of Dunmer law and morality which is based on change and stasis rather than good and evil. Slavery is also pretty significant in Dunmer culture and any race that doesn’t follow their philosophical view is considered a lesser race.

It’s Bloody WEIRD: The flora and fauna is very alien compared to your average fantasy setting. Half the land is a desert made from the ash that spews from the gigantic holy volcano that contains the heart of a dead god at the centre of the island and the other is a tropical swampland filled with giant mushroom forests. There are strange volcanic rock formations and weird land coral mazes. There is a strange divine disease that blows from the volcano and sweeps the ashland turning people and animals into immortal monsters with octopus faces and there are three moons. Two in the sky like normal and one that floats just above the city of Vivec that has been hollowed out and used as a prison. The animals are mostly reptilian and insectoid. Giant singing ticks are used for transport, weird sky jellyfish and large two-legged lizards are herded and packs of dog-like insects roam the wastes killing people and eating their souls. The other culture who live on Morrowind is the Dwemer also called Dwarves by some races although they look nothing like Dwarves, instead they look like Dunmer but with a silvery-goldish skin colour and dress in Babylonian style clothes and beards. They are a highly advanced society with sci-fi level tech with a culture based on pure logic, they view reality as flawed and therefore see it as having no right to exist. There is very little metal in Morrowind so the Dwemer create their own with special magic thats bascially quantum mechanics. The Dunmer create their weapons and armour by grinding down bones and using the powder with resin to mould it into the shape of insect armour, they also use the shells of giant insects to build houses and one city is in the hollowed out shell of a gigantic crab.

It Feels Ancient: The culture in most fantasy settings feels just like modern people except that they have swords and armour but in Morrowind, everything feels ancient like the culture has changed very slowly over thousands of years (Dunmer live very long). And when you read differing versions of their religions you can see how the giant game of whispers that is history has shaped this deeply entrenched culture based on lies, manipulation or misremembered history. Normal people become gods, gods are forgotten, innocents become guilty ect but an interesting thing in the Morrowind universe is that belief is power and so if enough people remember someone as a god, the universe will retcon you to be a god and if someone is in the know about the nature of reality like this they can manipulate cultures to their own end.

It’s Full Of Philosophy And Metaphysics: There is a religious book called the 36 Lessons of Vivec and this is an excerpt:

Six are the formulas to heaven by violence, one that you have learned by studying these words. The Father is a machine and the mouth of a machine. His only mystery is an invitation to elaborate further. The Mother is active and clawed like a nix-hound, yet she is the holiest of those that reclaim their days. The Son is myself, Vehk, and I am unto three, six, nine, and the rest that come after, glorious and sympathetic, without borders, utmost in the perfections of this world and the others, sword and symbol, pale like gold.

Doesn’t that sound like something you would read in Vedas or some other ancient holy text? It may read like nonsense right now but the 36 Lessons and Morrowind, in general, is filled with philosophy, occultism and metaphysics about the nature of reality and how belief shapes reality literally and figuratively and how embracing change instead of accepting status quo people can create their own realities.

I could go on but this is a total rambling mess so I’ll stop here. Hopefully, this gives some idea of the things I find interesting about Morrowind and people can base their recommendations on it. So, is there anything like Morrowind?

Also apologies for my grammar, dyslexia is a real ass.


#2

Morrowind is also one of my favorite games. I enjoyed and played a lot of both Oblivion and Skyrim, and of course many other games, but none really captured the sense of mystery and exploration of an unknown and strange world that Morrowind was for me. Part of that was certainly that it was the first time I had played a game like that, but I still think that it was inherently more mysterious and more compelling than latter games in the series. I remember stumbling upon the ghostfence, I remember the difference architecture of each of the areas, especially the Tel’Vani (or however that was spelled).

The fact that the game only had limited (and diagetic only) fast travel also helped. There were 3 kinds, the stilt striders, the mark and recall spells, and the propylon chambers, which were only usable if you found the requisite propylon indices, and felt very old, much older than the rest of the world. That limited fast travel also made the world feel more real and made the scale of the world an actual consideration of play, something you felt. I’ve though about writing a whole thing about how the nondiagetic fast travel implemented in later games made the games worse, but I’m lazy and not a writer.


#3

Morrowind takes a lot of influence, like a LOT, from a very old (first writing on it was put to paper in the late 60s,) pen-and-paper fantasy setting called Glorantha. I tried to type up something for the setting just now but honestly nothing I do is adequate. I really love it and Michael Kirkbride and Ken Rolston, two of the most important people behind Morrowind’s world, are huge fans of it and Ken Rolston has in fact written supplements for it in the past. If you want to learn about it just go to the Basic Roleplaying Forums’ Glorantha subforum and start asking questions, it’s a setting with a lot of depth and it’s hard to know which part will really grab people. It’s usually summarized as “Mythic Bronze Age Roleplaying” but that’s ultimately a marketing pitch and doesn’t do the setting justice, it’s a lot less clear cut than that and societies aren’t just straight expies of real-world ones, they have their own well defined histories and mythologies, migrations, religious movements, linguistic and economic shifts that are all fundamentally rooted in the history of Glorantha before and after the law of causality came into the picture.


#4

I have a similar relation to Morrowind. I didn’t know about Glorantha so I’ll definitely look into that. Also, while I have not tried them for myself, I remember hearing a lot of people really liking the early Gothic games.


#5

Morrowind is also my favorite game, and you made me want to play it again. Part of my love for it is definitely due to it being the first open-world RPG in this style I played, but the lore and worldbuilding of that game do a lot to add to the air of exploring the mysterious. Everything felt historic, and that it had a political or cultural significance or a reason to be there. And any game that lets you get involved in political infighting is a great one imo

I haven’t found anything quite like it, so maybe I’ll just mod that bad boy up and ride some bugs around again.


#6

There are so many specific moments I remember from my Morrowind playthrough, which isn’t something I can say for very many games.

Getting a relatively simple fetch quest that involved wandering around in some sand-stormy foothills, except of course, there are no objective markers and no auto map! I had to listen to the dunmer’s directions and recreate them as best as I could (left here; right here; go until you see the tall hill. Something like that). It took me a half hour. It was great.

-Reading those long in-game volumes about this character named Barenziah and then, weeks later, actually meeting Barenziah in Mournhold! I suppose I expected the books to be nothing except flavour text, so it was jarring to bump into her while wandering the city.

-Fighting a protracted duel against this Daedra guy in the sewers beneath Vivec. I was SUPER under-leveled for the fight, but I discovered that he couldn’t cross through the door leading out from the chamber he was in, so I kited him over the course of about 20 minutes. For whatever reason, that is exactly my idea of a good time.

-Not arriving in Balmora (i.e. the first city you’re supposed to hit) until after I’d gone through Vivec, accidentally done the entirety of the expansion (I didn’t even know it was the expansion part!), gotten a full suit of Mournhold guard armour, and generally wrecked the level curve for the remainder of the main plot. This, to me, is the essence of an Elder Scrolls game.


#7

I was around 17-18 when Morrowind came out. It did not resonate with me like how you’re talking about, I was extremely into Bioware CRPGs, Baldur’s Gate 2 in particular, following up to that was when I got into MMORPGs, Ultima Online and then World of WarCraft, Elder Scrolls didn’t hit me until Oblivion when I started to get back into console gaming.

Having said all that, I did go back to Morrowind as recently as this year to play through it and have an appreciation for it that I did not have before, it was the launching pad for many into the Elder Scrolls world, for Bethesda it was the first marginal success (Oblivion completely launched them into the stratosphere). Morrowind has a charm, a unique style and a most interesting world unlike anything else I could think of.

As for recommendations, really have a look at Torment: Tides of Numeria, specifically for the strange as heck environments and overall setting.


#8

For me there are also a few things about Morrowind that make it stand out, even compared to other ES games:

  • Grinding grand souls in order to enchant an entire set of chameleon armour, then walking around talking to enemies that can’t see you
  • Experimenting with the spellcrafting system and accidentally creating something either entirely gamebreaking or next to useless
  • Grinding acrobatics skill by spamming jump while going up stairs
  • Stealing things from merchants, then accidentally trying to sell back to them
  • Ajira
  • The ‘Back Path’

Morrowind is weird, unique, and broken, in all of the right ways. I never played the expansions and I’d really like to go back and at least play Tribunal at some point.


#9

I forgot there wasn’t a modern open-world style map, I remember using the paper map that came with the game a ton though, like finding landmarks in the game and then using the paper map to figure out which direction to walk