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     " I haven't read this much text since Zork. "

      Title: Morrowind from Bethesda

      Format: PC RPG

      Reviewing Monkey: Chimpan-A

      The Hype: We were told- It's gonna be big. And that's what they set out to give us. Live another life explore another world. Pick your friends, and your nose with next generation technology. The most detailed game world ever. And that's just the back of the box.

      What This Monkey Thought...

      Graphics: The graphics in this game are superb. The character models are all 3D polygonal, and look great doing it. The visuals in this game are simply breathtaking. Looking out at a sunset over the water in a sprawling megalopolis is just an amazing sight. The plant life is lush and verdant. The darker areas caused by volcanic activity (called the Ashlands) are less interesting to look at, being composed primarily of gray, but that's fairly appropriate, so it's okay. The monsters and npcs all show a great level of detail. The architecture is distinctive enough to make me note architecture in a video game, and that's saying something. Each of the factions has a different way of building things, making each area a different experience. The world is zoned, so you'll hit some loading times when you cross-zones, but otherwise the world is fairly continuous. In theory you could just walk everywhere in the world, although it would likely take you several hours to do so. There are some islands you'd have to swim to, but that's beside the point. All of the environments are appropriate, and you'll find just about every kind of environment somewhere in the world. From swamps to pseudo deserts, you'll find one of 'em somewhere on the island. It's all just plain gorgeous. 4.5 out of 5

      Sound: The music in this game is as good as the graphics, easily. Grand sweeping movements lend to the epic feel this game carries. The combat music is driving, and hard, but is probably one of the least striking songs in the soundtrack. There is little voice acting in the game, usually consisting of one or two lines, but what you get is actually pretty good. The sound effects are well done, if not exactly earth shatteringly good. Some of the spell effects come off rather flat, in the sound department. For the most part though, listening to the game will be a pleasant affair. 4 out of 5

      Playability: So very, very much to do… Usually I like to finish a game and try most of the aspects before I do a review. That proved to be logistically impossible for this game. There are over 100 hours of gameplay here. Let me break it down for you. This is an old school RPG. Basically Bethesda said, "Here's the world. Now go do something." There are people everywhere willing to give you work. There are factions to join, people to help, freelance work to do. It's insane just how much there is to do. There actually is a main plot, but with the wide berth of things to do, the main plot sometimes tends to get a little lost.
          The game plays well enough, with all the basics of RPG life here. Use gold to buy equipment to kill monsters to raise your stats to kill better monsters to get more gold, etc. Skills are raised on a use basis, rather than a point basis. Want to get better with the Axe? That ogre looks like he needs an axe in the face. Want to jump better, and then jump around everywhere. You get levels when your skills improve enough. This opens the door to some cheap leveling and stat raising, but if you want to stand around jumping for two hours, that's your prerogative.
          The game gives you a good selection of character classes to play and also gives you the choice of creating your own character class. It's a wide open door on what you want to play. Want to play a fighter who knows how to pick locks and pick pockets, then do it. The whole game is like that. Various merchants will allow you to create your own spells, so you can take spell effects that the game gives you and make your own spells. You can also create your own magical items, either yourself or through an enchanter, again using the spell effects in the game. The spell effects cover everything from levitation to stat raising to fireballs, so there's no end to the combinations you can make. The combat in this game is rather lackluster. Especially with the overly simplified use of weapons. There are three different attacks you can make, but generally one type of attack is best. Sometimes to a serious enough degree that you'll spend all your time ignoring the other attack types. There's even an option in the menu to "Always use best attack", so you don't even have to bother with the hitting the key combination for the right attack. The instructions cover what you need to know, and explain the various skills and magic effects.
          The game is pretty simple to figure out. Although I can see why they didn't do voice acting for the game, I haven't read this much text since Zork. Probably the hardest thing to figure out in the game is making spells and magical items, and that's a rare enough occurrence that it's not worth worrying over. Be warned this game needs some serious hardware. Our test machine (AMD Athlon 1 gig, 256 megs RAM) chugged a little bit on this one. The box asks for 256 Megs RAM, 500 Megs processor, and 1 gig of hard drive space. If you don't think your machine can take it then I wouldn't recommend trying it. It would be a crime to yourself not to enjoy this game at its peak. 4.5 out of 5

      Multiplayer and Replayability: No multiplayer for this game. Wouldn't this be a fantastic mmorpg though? There are three major houses and about ten other factions to join. That's at least three different ways to go through the game. Add in to that the editor, which ships with the game, and you have a literally unlimited supply of game material. The editor is a little complex, and is not for beginners, but there is a bit of a mod community. There is so much to do in this game, that it may be a while before you're finished with your first run, but there's definitely more than enough incentive to keep coming back. 4 out of 5

      Story/Dramatics: Well, as mentioned the story tends to take a bit of a backseat a lot of the time you're playing the game. With so many things to do, it's easy to forget that there even is a main story. It essentially goes like this- you were ordered to the Island of Morrowind by the Emperor, and released from prison to do so. You get to Morrowind and find out that some wacky cult is stirring up rumors about overthrowing the Empire's rule on the island. It's up to you to deal with the situation. Or you can just say "Nuts to that" and go kill puppies for a living. It's quite literally up to you. I'm impressed though that the developers didn't take the excuse of "There's so much to do, who needs a story?" There actually is a story here, and it's a decent one. It just tends to get drowned out by the overwhelming number of quests and side activities. 4 out of 5

      The Verdict:

       If you want an RPG that really fills out the meaning of the words Role Playing Game, then this is the game for you. If absolutely huge game worlds scare you, then maybe you want to wait for the next linear piece of tripe that comes down the chute. Otherwise, this game is as full as I've seen a game in a very long time, and it's all fun. In the end, it will be the utter hugeness of this game that will deter most people.

      The Good: Absolutely huge, with a nearly endless supply of things to do.

      The Bad: Absolutely huge, with a nearly endless supply of things to do.

      The Overall Ugly: You can get a stronghold, and the people there call you boss. Now that's cool.

      What it's Worth: The going price is fair; you get way more than your money's worth.

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