Bethesda: Skyrim finds medium between Morrowind, Oblivion

By on March 16, 2011, 3:05 PM
There's a strong divide between hardcore fans of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind and The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. Despite their fundamental similarities, both titles offered an entirely different experience. Morrowind forced you to explore the expansive and peculiar island of Vvardenfell, traveling to ghostly caverns and bandit campsites by foot. You were only afforded fast travel options between a few major cities and it cost in-game currency.

Oblivion abandoned that by implementing a fast-travel system, letting you instantly return to previously visited locations by clicking on map plots. Travel mechanics aside, Oblivion's story and quests mostly took place in cities and encouraged less exploration. In an interview with OXM, Bethesda's Todd Howard acknowledged that Oblivion sacrificed some of Morrowind's allure in the interest of creating a more "refined and welcoming" world.


"With Oblivion, we're dealing with the capital province, and we wanted to get back to the more classic Arena and Daggerfall feel," said Howard. "But in that, we sacrificed some of what made Morrowind special: the wonder of discovery," he admitted. "It should feel alien, kind of 'stranger in a strange' land, with familiar looking elements only rooting you early in the game. The whole tone ends up being one of 'I'm an outsider, I'm uncomfortable'."

Recognizing the pros and cons of both approaches, Bethesda is aiming for a middle ground in its fifth Elder Scrolls entry, Skyrim. "With Skyrim, we're trying to bring some of that back and walk the line between Morrowind and Oblivion. Where it's at first familiar looking, but has its own unique culture and spin on it." Howard describes Skyrim as "epic reality" -- mystical yet grounded. If you've played TES III and IV, which do you prefer and why?




User Comments: 31

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Kibaruk Kibaruk, TechSpot Paladin, said:

I liked both, not for the fast travel or normal travel, in oblivion you explored if you wanted to and were not forced to spend time walking from a point to another which on the long distances as they were would've sucked if you were forced to go back and forth as many times as you had to.

Still you had the option to do so if you wanted to so I dont see the harm in there.

Xclusiveitalian Xclusiveitalian said:

Morrowind was epic, and although Oblivion was really good, with a really good battle system, it was a bad 360 port. I hope the game is almost entirely like Morrowind with graphics and improved magic from oblivion, but for the love of the divines please no stupid list as inventory, keep that on console.

nazartp said:

Liked fast travel in Oblivion. Hated how linear the main story was. Got annoyed and never finished the game. Morrowind had awful battle system, but had a grander "alien" feel and was overall more interesting.

In all honesty the lack of fast travel killed my interest in "Stalker." The game, save for numerous bugs, created one of mere realistic "feels" that I've ever experienced.

Guest said:

Morrowind was brilliant as was Oblivion.

Unfortunatly Oblivion felt a little pointless when it came to running around the countryside as you knew where everything was and the map was extremely small.

Fast travel made exploring the game pretty dull and boring.

Morrowind you had no choice but to run to the next area, or maybe super jump or however you travelled.

To this day after clocking well over 500 brilliant hours into Morrowind, i don't know where everything is. Places i still haven't travelled.

Combine the both = Skyrim? Lets hope.

Tanstar said:

I enjoyed Oblivion but I played Morrowind for longer, because there were so many fascinating side quests and reasons to explore. My Xbox (piece of crap) died before i could beat it, sadly.

Tehori said:

I absolutely loved Morrowind, and I still do. It just felt... right. It had an epic tale. The towns and cities felt unique, and not like copy and paste operations. The dungeons felt unique for the most part, and often had loot in some very clever locations. The numerous factions had many more missions than what we saw in the four optional factions the player could join in Oblivion. The people of Vvardenfell felt much more diverse than what was in oblivion. There was just so much high-quality content in Morrowind.

Oblivion was decent, but nothing overly special. It made a lot of welcome improvements, but at the same time removed many of the charms present in Morrowind. The combat/magic system was a huge improvement over Morrowind's, it was nice to be able to cast a spell or two without putting away your sword. The sneaking and alchemy systems were excellent. And the perk recieved every 25 ranks of a skill was a nice touch. But there was a lot of bad in Oblivion too, the level scaling was terrible (Bandits in Daedric WTF), the barter system was a piece of junk, the new inventory menu was terrible, the one effect limit on player-enchanted items was stupid, all the dungeons of the same type felt the same, the physics was more annoying than it was useful, the number of shops and villages was disappointing, Mark/Recall and Levitation were sorely missed, and the cities each had their own feel, but at the same time didn't have anywhere near the variety seen in Morrowind cities.

I look forward to Skyrim, and can only hope that they've taken some of the criticism Oblivion received over the years to heart.

KG363 KG363 said:

If they can blend Morrowind's gameplay style and Oblivion's well, I don't think I'll ever play another game

demonlord721 said:

Pros and cons of each

I honestly loved morrowind to death. I played it many more hours than oblivion because it was much more alluring. I hated the quick travel in oblivion. Morrowinds biggest fault was its combat system which was improved drastically in oblivion. The fact that you could swing over and over and over again at the same enemy, with your blade passing through the enemy with no contact drove me nuts. Some people disliked the inventory sorting in oblivion I didn't hate it but one thing I will mention is that with any rpg on pc please please please map the pages of the inventory to keys (I for inventory, J for journal etc none of this f keys or tab crap, we have 126+ keys, make use of them) I just worry about the inventory system turning purely into a console only system where you see one item at a time and pan across over and over like in some games. If its anything like fable 3 I'm not buying it I still haven't beaten oblivion even though I modded it heavily and did most of the side missions because overall it was WAY too repetitive from the procedurally created caves to the procedurally created oblivion gates. Over the entire series the environmental designs have been fabulous but when it came to character animations and especially the character skinning/ armor was horrible. We are getting ready to move into a next generation of graphics soon and I don't want to see bethesda fall behind. Skyrim looks like its headed in the right direction and hopefully more of the things we loved in morrowind come back to with a new viking inspired environment

Thanks for suffering through my opinionated rant.

James Adler

Omnislip said:

It didn't matter that the system was changed for Oblivion - you could either just not use it yourself or use something neat like OOO. Hope that Oscuro et al. will be up for the mods on this one!

Lokalaskurar Lokalaskurar said:

I definitely had a heart for Oblivion. Ever since I first saw the intro, the landscape, story of it all, it lured me into its grasp of entertainment. The fast-travel system was tempting at first, but it eventually turned the game plain-out boring. Also, I never completed my first career, as it simply went dull with intimidating character and level/feature system.

But, as I learned the structure of the game (3 careers later #cough#) it was a great fun. And definitely good money well spent.

Guest said:

I loved both Morrowind and Oblivion, but I felt the lack of a fast travel system was a definite drawback in Morrowind. Once I discover a location I want the option of footing it back there or just clicking on the marker in the map and not wasting my time walking or flying across the country.

One thing I'd love returned, though was the ability to levitate and fly from one place to another. It would be especially awesome if this was accomplished on the backs of dragons.

Guest said:

All the other ES games had level scaling and fast travel. The fans that say these games shouldn't have this are illegitimate.

Guest said:

I've loved ES games from the get go, and my only hope for this game is that Bethesda don't sell out and only listen to "Morrowind" band jumpers, that think they know how to make a good CRPG but don't know sh-t, going all the time "WAH Morrowind wasn't like this!"

demonlord721 said:

Morrowind band jumper

I just wanted to say the things I liked in each. I'm sure bethesda will awe us once again with skyrim

Guest said:

i loved both games.

cant pick between the two,

i don't know why people are so against oblivions fast travel system, before you could fast travel somewhere, you had to walk there on foot anyway. and you didn't have to fast travel if you didn't want to.

miska_man said:

Eh, played Morrowind for 2 hours. Didn't like it. Oblivion on the other hand...OH BOY. Should be interesting to see what Skyrim is like.

Guest said:

Oblivion and Morrowind had there ups and downs (if you know what i meen ;D) but overall morrowind was better because it forced you to explore but fast travel was need due to its massive content but oblivion on the other hand had horses so fast travel wasnt really needed but they put it in any way which was stupid, but since they relised no one was exploring oblivions boring map they might relise they should stick to morrowinds fast travel system from city to city becasue there are horses which are much faster. So fast travel from anywhere you want would be stupid becasue the vast variety of enviroments in SKYRIM would ruin the RPG expolration feel of the game.

Guest said:

Morrowind and Oblivion were definately different in thier resepective ways. Morrowind was a vast, alluring world with new and interesting locations galore, which were only (with the exception of large cities) accessable via foot. Oblivion on the other hand added fast travel to every mapped location, which (due to the fact that you only needed to visit most places once) became less of a handy "get around" tool so much as a way to bypass cyrodill's boring and repetetive landscape. In my personal opinion Morrowind takes the win for just being what a great RPG is expected to be. Skyrim is without doubt exciting to look at though, even though it does resemble Oblivion in many ways. Odds are it should be worth the wait.

What strikes me as odd though is that for some reason PS3 was included in the late release of oblivion even after they spent almost a year refining the graphics so it would stop crashing that pathetic excuse of a system. Seriously, that's just too late. They should have put morrowind onto the PS2. Now Skyrim is coming out and the only way to get the plot is to either use an Xbox or research it.

Can't wait :P

Guest said:

I've poured more than 1200 hours into Morrowind and Oblivion combined. The games both had their ups and downs. Morrowind had it right when it comes the open world with no invisible walls, the game world let you go up any mountain and across any ocean. It had a great sense of wonder and exploration that got me hooked on non-linear games. That was its downfall as well. With such an immense game world and no easy way to travel, it wasn't always appealing to go dungeon crawling.

Oblivion had it right when it came to the system tweaks such has how shops did deals, (They never ran out of money) combat was greatly improved (armor rating, hitting your enemy, damage and having more than just slash or shoot) as was the sneaking system.On top of that the journal took a turn for the greatest when it came to organizing your quests. However the way they balanced the spell and item creation wasn't thrilling, but made sense.The Level scaling was there but wasn't tested all the way through. An Ogre on hardest difficultly would break your sword before you could kill it even at level 49 and using poisons/enchantments.

What they could both use some improvements is enemy AI. Bandits would die with 12 healing potions and couldn't figure out how to jump. An attack combination would be nice instead of swinging your sword wildly. They could both use more repeating quests, like a fur trader needing wolf pelts. Skill point rewards for completing quests since the games don't use experience points. One thing that didn't make sense is that in such dangerous worlds, you travel alone. Throw in optional companions like the Fallout games.

Guest said:

I liked both, I'm a huge fan of the WHOLE serie. To sum it up, I liked how Morrowind seemed to be more colorful then Oblivion, I also like how you could really "Break" the game with crazy jump spells and make a combination of enchanted items that made you super powerful.

Oblivion was just beautiful and brought the physics to such an amazing level. The combat was simply truly epic. I didn't like how you had to be part of the mages guild to have access to spell creation and item enchanting.

Finally, a middle ground between the both will be amazing, I can't wait.

I also really liked how you could wear robes over your armor in Morrowind.

But fundamentally I think that Morrowind and Oblivion modding tools have shown that if you give players the ability to create things that can be used in game, the re-playability will be huge, so if you can take thoses capabilities and as much as possible bring them within the actual game itself, the game will be completely amazing.

Guest said:

Oblivion made a great jump in terms of combat and cleaning up the journal, but the scaled difficulty ultimately sunk the experience for me in many ways. The whole thrill of Morrowind was exploration, and the thrill you got from finally tracking down a rare weapon after hours of exploration. In Oblivion such thrills were hard to come by, as the player always knew that, once his character gained about five levels, every bad guy in the game would miraculously begin carrying better equipment, even if that mean common robbers had glass swords.

The scaled difficulty also hindered the feeling that your character was progressing: an essential quality of any RPG. In Morrowind, an early level character might enter a cave only to be killed in one hit by an npc character. Five levels later, you could return and bring him down. Now that's satisfaction. In Oblivion, you never really get to feel that mastery over previously-overpowering opponents, because they are always kept in a medium range of beat-ability.

Oblivion was a good game, but Morrowind (despite its glitches) was a great one.

Guest said:

Morrowind is one of my favorite games of all time and was groundbreaking in a number of areas. Whether I was standing at the bottom of a pitch black cave watching my last torch burn out or pushing through a dust storm not knowing where I was headed, or wandering around any of the numerous towns in the game, I was always completely immersed in it. Then Oblivion came, and, while the physics engine added welcomed new gameplay features, the game took steps backwards in almost all other categories. It was a dumbed down, more restrictive, smaller, and graphically less diverse and interesting world. It also didn't help that you could walk right out of the starting area into the nearest dungeon and load up on a stack of glass armor and weapons. In Morrowind, I felt like I could do anything and everything I wanted. In Oblivion, I wasn't even allowed to try.

Scott8090 said:

Omnislip said:

It didn't matter that the system was changed for Oblivion - you could either just not use it yourself or use something neat like OOO. Hope that Oscuro et al. will be up for the mods on this one!

OOO and the others that did the leveling changing were so poor...Infecting the world with vastly large groups of units was hardly balancing in my mind : (.

Scott8090 said:

Guest said:

All the other ES games had level scaling and fast travel. The fans that say these games shouldn't have this are illegitimate.

Illegitimate? Really? Wasn't morrowind the first one that really put it on the map o.o? Kind of rude to take a fan boy status on the matter of level scaling and fast travel huh? A feature may be in other titles of a series but it doesn't make the feature "good".

Scott8090 said:

Morrowind was epic, and although Oblivion was really good, with a really good battle system, it was a bad 360 port. I hope the game is almost entirely like Morrowind with graphics and improved magic from oblivion, but for the love of the divines please no stupid list as inventory, keep that on console.

You know what, If they take the best of both Oblivion and Morrowind it could turn out to be a amazing game. Tweak the combat system from oblivion slightly, Tweak the inventory system slightly and have a PC and Console versions, Take a page from Morrowind and have more diverse Environment while also retaining Oblivion's fast travel system. Probably tweaking it slightly to balance out things. Morrowind had a large amount of city based quests. Heck it had just about the same amount really as the damn Oblivion cities had. Thats just my opinion. It depends on your view of it all. Frankly, If they combined various aspects of Oblivion and Morrowind while not forcing exploration but making exploration worth a dang then yea will be a good game. Personally I disliked the radar map...Not because it wasn't some what useful but because It felt like some sort of cheat.

Scott8090 said:

I honestly loved morrowind to death. I played it many more hours than oblivion because it was much more alluring. I hated the quick travel in oblivion. Morrowinds biggest fault was its combat system which was improved drastically in oblivion. The fact that you could swing over and over and over again at the same enemy, with your blade passing through the enemy with no contact drove me nuts. Some people disliked the inventory sorting in oblivion I didn't hate it but one thing I will mention is that with any rpg on pc please please please map the pages of the inventory to keys (I for inventory, J for journal etc none of this f keys or tab crap, we have 126+ keys, make use of them) I just worry about the inventory system turning purely into a console only system where you see one item at a time and pan across over and over like in some games. If its anything like fable 3 I'm not buying it I still haven't beaten oblivion even though I modded it heavily and did most of the side missions because overall it was WAY too repetitive from the procedurally created caves to the procedurally created oblivion gates. Over the entire series the environmental designs have been fabulous but when it came to character animations and especially the character skinning/ armor was horrible. We are getting ready to move into a next generation of graphics soon and I don't want to see bethesda fall behind. Skyrim looks like its headed in the right direction and hopefully more of the things we loved in morrowind come back to with a new viking inspired environment

Thanks for suffering through my opinionated rant.

James Adler

No junk right, The day a company bothers to make a game that caters to PC Gamers again then I might say Companies finally pulled their heads out of their butts and made a good pc game lol.

Scott8090 said:

I've loved ES games from the get go, and my only hope for this game is that Bethesda don't sell out and only listen to "Morrowind" band jumpers, that think they know how to make a good CRPG but don't know sh-t, going all the time "WAH Morrowind wasn't like this!"

Morrowind band jumpers? dude...the vast amount of "complaining" fan boys are the Oblivion Crowd. Morrowind is old school. It wasn't vastly popular on the xbox or even as well known on the PC. Yea people played both but coincidentally the "360" crowd are more likely and obviously are..more rude and disrespect over all. Hell, read the comments the People who "liked" aspects of morrowind and played the game are not ditching crap..gezz complaining kids...

Scott8090 said:

i loved both games.

cant pick between the two,

i don't know why people are so against oblivions fast travel system, before you could fast travel somewhere, you had to walk there on foot anyway. and you didn't have to fast travel if you didn't want to.

You know In some ways I hated traveling too lol but for some reason how the made fast travel in "oblivion" made it just less exploration friendly. Hell, I liked the fast travel but I found that exploring was just plain worthless really..It didn't yield anything that made me say mmm maybe I should go in that ruin I just passed. Morrowind I was always like YEA!! cave heck yea!. Oblivion I just ran though and did quests..caves ruins all were kind of blah to me. Good exploration options+fast travel+good city options= YEA!!!

Scott8090 said:

Not sure if anyone felt the same way but I thought archery was rather weak. The ability to hit your target was fixed with the new combat system but The default damage of Archery made it rather pointless for my self. Didn't take long at all Till using a sword in closer to median corners was a "requirement".

Guest said:

It seems that, for the most part, the Oblivion fans are the ones that played it first, and the Morrowind fans are the ones that played it first. This is kind of true for me, and kind of not. I was young when I first played Morrowind. Even though Morrowind has a T rating and Oblivion has an M rating, I always get the feeling that Morrowind is more mature and was aimed at an older audience. My reasoning for this is that at first, Morrowind seemed okay, and then Oblivion seemed vastly better in comparison. Then, as I matured, Morrowind began to grow more and more on me. I eventually liked it better, about as much better as I initially liked Oblivion. This is because Morrowind treated you more like an adult. You had to go out and learn the world. You had to learn the customs of the people, you had to make important decisions for your character, particular blunders could get you killed, espsecially if you just ran around swinging your weapon. In Oblivion, I felt more like it held your hand and walked you through stuff. Although you could try to, there was no need to think. The biggest puzzle in the game, from Tar Meena, was solved for you by waiting a day longer. The biggest puzzle in the Mages Guild was solved fro you by telling a guy what stone tablets said--you didn't even have to translate them yourself. The levelling system in Oblivion I didn't mind as much as some, but it still became dull. There are serious flaws with Morrowind too, though. The major ones I can list are the physics and combat. I liked the magic a ton, almost more than in Oblivion, but the combat I hated in comparison. I hated the hit chance related to skill, especially with ranged weapons. After missing with a bow 50 times because your skill was "too low", you couldn't even pick the arrows back up. Now, I like the games almost equally for different reasons. The most important thing is that I will always love ES more than any FPS, unless it gives a real good reason to like it (because FPS's are BORING).

Guest said:

Granting that Oblivion had some very neat things going for it, and that Morrowind's graphics were more primitive (though that can be improved by modding)...

Of the two, I liked Morrowind better. The feeling of vastness was unbeatable.

Now Skyrim enters into the competition and of the three...

Skyrim wins.

All three are great games, but Skyrim looks the best, was more stable at release (not perfect, but better than either of the other two games), it has better voice acting overall (and more voice actors), it has a vast quantity of things to do, and the worldspace outside of the cities is interesting enough to convince me not to fast travel at all.

Morrowind gave us a larger land mass, though, and more content than Oblivion or Skyrim. It's still high on my list of all-time favorite games. But Skyrim is a high water mark in game design, in my mind. BethSoft done good. (I say this as a PC player; if I were using a Playstation, I might have a different perspective.)

Now if I could convince BethSoft to put their heads together with Google and figure out a way to put NPC AI in the cloud, kind of like Apple's Siri, I'd be in heaven. A world as gorgeous and immersive as Skyrim deserves NPCs as bright and flexible as Siri, don't you think? I want to be able to speak to NPCs via a mic or keyboard in natural language, and I want them to have thousands of conversational topics colored by tweaks applied to each NPC to cover motivation and personalization. Make me dig to find out what an NPC knows about stuff - and don't let them all know everything.

And there ought to be some wooing before you can marry someone. Just sayin'. And some romantic conversations afterward, y'know? Dinner? A walk in a meadow? Go hunting together? Hand over some gold to your spouse to help her/him get her/his business started?

BethSoft still hasn't figured out what to do with the player after he's taken over a guild. Semi-random quests to be personally executed? Uh... what about directing the guild?

And there's the fact that in none of the games does anything happen outside of a ten meter bubble around the player. That also could be solved with cloud-based AI. A world needs to be *influenced* by the player, but it shouldn't be static when the player does nothing or ignores a problem.

And I'd like for the races to mean something besides stats tweaks. I've played several races, and it doesn't matter: the story of the Dragonborn is exactly the same, the characters don't react at all to your race. Thalmor are just as arrogant and unfriendly to a High Elf dragonborn as they are to a Nord dragonborn. Hmm. You'd think simple self-interest would have them recruiting a High Elf dragonborn to their side if they could, and the Nords ought to be put out at a High Elf roaming the countryside as they please.

And really, how *do* those guards know I'm skilled at sneaking, when they haven't seen me sneak?

There aren't enough money sinks. Give us more stuff we can spend gold on. Like... build a town and castle, recruit guards, merchants and citizens... mods that do that stuff are insanely popular. Why not put it in the game from the start?

Eh. Skyrim is a high water mark, but there's plenty of space left above the mark.

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