Video Game Reviews

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind (PC Version)

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Product Information

Developer: Bethesda Softworks Publisher: Bethesda Softworks Genre: RPG Platform: PC Release Date: 05/07/2002 ESRB: Teen (Blood, Violence)

Cost: $6.00-$20.00 depending on retailer

Minimum System Requirements: Windows ME/98 128 MB Ram, Windows XP/2000 256 MB Ram, 500 MHz Intel Pentium III, Celeron, or AMD Athlon Processor, 8x CD/DVD-Rom Drive, 1 GB Free Hard Drive Space, DirectX 8.1

Now to the fun stuff; the actual review! If you are new to the Elder Scrolls scene, this is the third game of the series, preceded by Arena and Daggerfall. The beginning of the game takes place on a boat carrying prisoners, one being your character, to the province of Morrowind. Once you dock, you learn that you mysteriously have been set free and released from imprisonment under the emperor’s orders. From there is the start of an experience completely open-ended that will have you playing around the clock for months to come. (Note: I used a PC running Windows XP with 2 GB of ram, and a 2.4 GHz AMD Athlon Processor to play this game).

First off, the graphics are gorgeous. One must take into account that this game was released in 2002 to entirely understand how good the graphics are. When it was released, it was one of the best looking games on the market. It is hard not to get sidetracked while doing quests just to go exploring through the beautifully laid-out and lush landscapes. Adding to that, every object in the game was hand-placed by a developer; from a small rock in the wilderness to a hidden sword in a cave. The fact that the camera angle used for your view is first person (you can also change to third person if wanted) only magnifies the beauty that is already there; it is quite easy to feel like you are actually in the game. All of the colors and textures used match perfectly within the environments that they are placed and produce a completely realistic, Middle-Earth like atmosphere. All of this together creates an astounding feel to the game. You feel frightened when you first face the path that traverses Red Mountain, with its infestations of Corprus plagued enemies. Your breath is taken away the moment you stumble upon the intricate plant inspired design of Sadrith Mora. Overall, the graphics and atmosphere do not come much, if any better than this in the year that it was released.

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A beautiful night in the Ascadian Isles Region.

Sound in Morrowind does not quite keep up to the same standards as the graphics, but it doesn’t disappoint either. Here is an example of one of its cons: there is exactly one song that plays on a continuous loop while exploring and exactly one song that plays when an enemy is attacking you. They can get quite old and may force you to turn the background music off in the options menu. Other than that, there really isn’t much to complain about. You can hear the resounding thud when you hit someone with a sword or you get hit yourself with say, a giant warhammer. Water sounds refreshingly nice while swimming or wading through it and it is always nice to hear your enemies groan, scream, and curse you as they fall to the ground dead. Which reminds me, it isn’t rare for people to insult you out loud. Apparently the majority of Morrowind’s inhabitants do not like foreigners, or as they put it, “outlanders.” It’s quite funny when Ordinators (guards that worship the Tribunal and dress in armor that if you yourself wear will get you attacked by them) callously tell you “I’m watching you.” It can definitely send a chill down your spine the first time you hear it. The thunderstorms will make you shiver with the patter of rain and booms of thunder. Also, if you have an internet connection, Bethesda released a patch that adds sounds to the Ascadian Isles Region such as bugs flying around that you can download off of their website for free.

Another great thing about Morrowind is that everything is loaded as you go, which means no loading screens except for one major exception which I will get to in a second. When Morrowind was first released, the loading on-the-go could prove to be a little choppy. It’s never fun when you’re running for your life in an epic chase down by an army of Daedric worshippers and the game freezes for about three seconds to load a new area. Fortunately, much stride has been made in the way of computers since 2002 and those loading screens are basically seamless now on an up-to-date computer. About that one major exception, there is a loading screen every time you enter or exit a door that leads to a new area. Once again, the loading time is near instant on up-to-date computers but it would have been nice to not have a loading screen at all. As noted earlier, you can play the game in either first person or third person as you choose, plus you can easily switch between the two with a simple keystroke.

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A rooftop view of the beautiful city of Balmora.

Some might think that an RPG cannot work on the PC as far as controls go. But let me tell you, they most definitely can and I think that the game is better because of its use of the keyboard. A simple click to swing your weapon or cast your spell, an effortless keystroke to access your inventory. Of course you can map any weapon swap or magic spell to a macro key for easy accessibility. In fact, there are so many different things you can do such as readying a weapon/spell, switching weapons, swinging, casting, etc., I would find it more complex to do all of that on a controller. Obviously, with the versatility and all of the options comes a learning curve but after a short hour or two of play, the controls become second nature.

Sadly, every review must mention the bad things about a game. Luckily, there isn’t much that is bad in Morrowind. I have already mentioned the single soundtracks for exploring and combat, and the loading issues. When the game first came out, there was no way to tell how much health an enemy had, but in a patch soon after release, they added a health bar. Another deterrent is that there is a lot of text to read. There is some recorded dialogue but it is very minimal and most of it is short comments like “Make it quick, outlander.” or “You n’wah!” Also, the game really isn’t challenging enough. Once you hit around level forty, nothing poses the slightest challenge; you can easily take out a whole town without losing much health. Furthermore, since the game is completely open-ended, you can easily go and steal the best armor from people if you know where it is. Lastly, the journal system used to track quests is quite hard to understand and use. That’s about it as far as cons go.

Whew, enough bad talking. I saved the best part of the review for last; a brief description of the world and story. When I said this game was open-ended, I meant as open-ended as it gets. You can be anything you want; a barbarian, a ninja, an acrobat, a bard, a mage, a sorceress, an archer, a thief. The list goes on and on, you can even create your own class. There are hundreds of weapons and hundreds of pieces of armor. Spells come in the unlimited since you can create your own. There are a multitude of potions and once again, you can create them yourself. A wide variety of monsters are at your disposal to kill and even more non-hostile NPCs that can be fought if you so please. There’s the main storyline, the Thieves Guild, the Mage’s Guild, the Fighter’s Guild, the Morag Tong, the three main houses, all with their own storylines/quests, plus a bunch of miscellaneous quests to do. The people all have their own religions, their own beliefs, their own cultures, and their own histories. All of these are documented in the giant amount of books that the developers hand wrote that are viewable in-game. On top of all this, there is still a huge modding community that is constantly making mods for the game. You can also mod yourself, since Morrowind comes with the TES Construction Set which allows you to build, you guessed it, mods. This translates into literally untold hours of playtime due to continually fresh content; all of it for free!

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This mod adds Lightsabers to the game!

If you are an RPG fan like I am, this game is like finding your main character’s ultimate weapon. Even if you aren’t an RPG fan, you should give this game a try. Its truckloads of interesting and compelling lore are more than enough to hook any gamer. Obviously you won’t be blowing things up or going up against armies or anything, but just the sheer amount of things you can do, the huge number of areas you can explore (bandit’s hideouts, caverns, mines, beached pirate ships) is more than enough to warrant a pick up of this game. Six to twenty dollars is easily worth it to add this classic to your library of video games. It’s not really like any other game in that it’s so open-ended and does it so well. If it weren’t for its few and little flaws, this game would be an easy 100/100 but since load times and repetitive music gets on everyone’s nerves and being too powerful really saps the fun, I am giving The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind a 92/100.

Based on a flash game created Jenova Chen, Nick Clark, and Austin Wintory.  This new make of the game was designed and created by “thatgamecompany.”  In this version of the puzzle game the standard PS3 sixaxis is used to move your organism around level after filled with smaller organisms and occasionally a few bigger more evolved ones.

Starting up the game the player is greeted with soft ambient music, soft colors, and the simple controls.  After hitting the start button you are immediatly immersed into the beautifully colored primordial soup.  Your first organism is bigger than the other organisms that inhabit this first level.  To move your organism around you tilt the controller.  This form of control can take some time to get the hang of but once you get do the movement becomes natural.  A black mark on the score for control comes in after a few “evolutions” when you become a fish like creature with a small mouth which you have to use to hit the “food” just right.

The gameplay is pretty straight forward.  You are an organism that is trying to do what every organism does eat and grow.  Each organism has its own ability such as boost, spinning, and disappearing.  Further into each evolution you come across creatures that are the same size or bigger than you that fight back eating your life orbs.  However, these creatures don’t provide that much of a challenge in terms of AI.  This game, in terms of gameplay, is unlike any other game I have ever played or seen played personally.

The soft ambient music, the noncompetetive gameplay, and the soft colors combine in this game to create a unique and soothing gaming experience.  I would recommend this game to anyone looking for a game to relax with and a way to kill time with.  Overall I give the game an 85 on a scale of 100.



Developer: Incognito/SCE Studios Santa Monica

Publisher: SCEA/Incognito

Genre: Multiplayer Shooter

Platform: Playstation 3

Rarely does one find a game that completely forgoes any sort of single player mode and becomes a multiplayer only game.  Within this genre of games is the even rarer multiplayer-only console game.  Warhawk for the Playstation 3 is just that, a third person team based shooter that is 100% multiplayer only.  Developed by Incognito (formerly Single Trac), the game is loosely based on a PSone launch title of the same name.

The game consists of 2 teams, the Eucadian team (blue) and the Chernovan team (red) with 16 players on each team.  In it the two teams compete to earn points or attain various goals depending on the gametype.  Like most games, Warhawk supports a wide variety of game modes to pick from.  There’s the usual deathmatch, team deathmatch, and capture the flag, as well as some more unusual modes like zones where the two teams compete to expand their territory or Hero mode where each team is assigned a hero who has five times the health of a normal soldier and deals out double damage.  All of these modes create a varied amount of gameplay and extend the life of the game significantly.

Warhawk is reminiscent of other multiplayer shooters such as Battlefield 2 in that while walking around the level you will find vehicles that you can freely hop in and out of, albeit with a large emphasis on the flying aspect more than the land based vehicles.  The three vehicles which come with the shipped game are the Jeep which is fast and lightly armored, the Tank which is slow but usually only requires one or two hits to kill anything, and the warhawk, or plane (subsequent expansion packs have added a gunship, an APC, and jetpacks for infantry).  The tank and jeep are pretty strait forward while the warhawk element is a bit more robust. The warhawk itself uses any one of 9 different weapons outside of its main machine guns which it can receive via pickups around the map.  The plane can hover, as well as fly regularly and is easily the most plentiful vehicle in the game (usually about 3 planes to every jeep and tank).  This compliments the game’s more arcade-like style and differs quite a bit from similar games like Battlefield which rely on a much more realistic style.

While this take on vehicles may seem too simplistic, it helps that each vehicle is highly specialized and balanced.  It’s kind of like playing a game of rock paper scissors, except sometimes scissors outruns rock and other times paper drops a cluster bomb on scissors.  When it comes to vehicles, the only real loser is someone who isn’t in one.  Unless you’ve got a flamethrower or rocket launcher, if an enemy vehicle rolls up you can pretty much only hope that they don’t see you.  However the game is incredibly balanced and even a lone infantry man can stand up against a tank so long as he’s got a flamethrower and some guts.

Warhawk tends to be very over-the-top with some levels that take place on islands that are no more than 100 feet across yet stick strait out of the water nearly 600 feet.  Other levels take place on floating cities or on top of huge glaciers and even crashed spaceships.  The levels themselves dwarf nearly every other games, with some levels over a mile across.  The downside to maps this large is that if a player finds himself without a vehicle it can be a long trek until they can get to where the action is.

Technically speaking Warhawk is something to behold.  It’s draw distance is essentially infinite, which is great considering how huge some of the levels are, and its graphics are decidedly next-gen.  Even if you’ll never get close enough to see the individual hairs on your enemies face, they are there.  It’s impressive  that a game that takes place in third person and on a scale that is in the thousands of feet has little details like destroyable chairs outside a vacated shop or the way your character ejects a spent magazine sideways out of his gun when he reloads it.

The game’s sound design is also well done.  Simple things like the faint whistling noise of a TOW missile or the high pitched buzzing sound of a laser designator let you know that in a few seconds you’ll be destroyed.  Every single weapon has its own unique sounds, in particular the sniper rifle which sounds more like a cannon than a gun.  Other things like the plinking of machine gun bullets as they bounce off a tanks armor or the warning sound of a missile that’s locked onto your plane all help to immerse you into the game.

Warhawk is not without its flaws however.  The game is a bit shallow and can suffer from Counter Strike syndrome where although the game is fun, after a few hours you soon realize you’ve been doing the same thing over and over again. Fortunately there are numerous gameplay modes which can change up the pace and a rank system that allows the player to unlock new skins for his player model and aircraft.  The game also has a steep learning curve and can (In my case) take up to 2 hours before a player gets his first kill.  The game utilizes fantastic sixaxis control, probably the best of any game I’ve played thus far, but it can take some getting used to and the result usually ends up being shot down an awful lot before you can start some real dogfighting.

Overall the game is a well balanced shooter with some interesting and addictive elements. It’s a lot of fun and its arcade style of gameplay is a welcome change from the standard realism most shooters tend to follow.  If you can get past the shallow repetitiveness you can find some pretty deep and balanced gameplay that can keep you entertained for many hours. At a mere $30 it’s worth picking up if you’re looking for some fun online.

Developers: Aardappel and Eihrul

Genre: First person shooter

Platform: PC (Windows, Mac, Linux)

Cost: Free, open-source

Minimum System Requirements:

Pentium 3 733 MHz
32MB GeForce 2 MX
56K Dial-up for online play



The deathmatch FPS seems like a distant memory in today’s market of cinematic, “realistic” shooters, and it seems to have been nearly forgotten by modern audiences. Some would argue that this style of game is outdated or irrelevant, that we have evolved past it. However, there are those of us that admire the simplicity of deathmatch games and the raw skill that it takes to be good at, let alone master, them. Considering this, I’d like to take a look at a unique open source FPS that combines deathmatch gameplay with an in-game map creation system: Sauerbraten.

Graphics/Look and Feel

Sauerbraten is technically good looking. The graphical capability of the engine is greater than that of Unreal Tournament 2004; with the light bloom, soft shadows, reflections, and dynamic lights, Sauerbraten certainly has all the eye-candy necessary to provide a fun fragging experience. However, good graphical capability means nothing without good art direction and presentation, and this is one area where the game suffers.

Because Sauerbraten is open source, the art assets come from a variety of artists. Maps are created by different authors, and there is no overriding style or game universe for them to adhere to. The gun and player models are also created by various artists. The result is a game that is artistically disjointed; there is very little style or visual direction. This is not to say that the existing art is bad, far from it; it’s just not consistent.

Also, the game’s presentation is rough at best. Upon starting the game, you are plunked directly into a map with only the menu screen open. There is no main menu or splash screen, nothing to welcome the player to the game. Finding a game online can be mildly frustrating, too, since the map editing servers are listed among the gameplay servers. Another annoying thing: the default player model is difficult to see in dark maps and makes it hard to discern friend from foe. It is simple things like this that make the game feel incomplete and inaccessible. Although most of these issues are easily fixable or customizable, first impressions are powerful, and all this can leave a player thinking, “What’s the point?”


The point of Sauerbraten is not the art. It doesn’t need a backstory, it’s a deathmatch game. The point is the gameplay, and this is where Sauerbraten shines. It’s apparent from the moment you fire up the game and move around: the Cube 2 engine is solid. In multiplayer, the netcode is superb. Weapon shots do not lag or freeze, they fire instantaneously, making the combat satisfying and reliable. On a good server, the amount of delay between players is so miniscule that it feels like a LAN.


The gameplay itself is fast and brutal, with powerful weapons and very quick movement. As it is with other games in this genre, the key to staying alive is constant movement and hoarding items. The weapons of Sauerbraten all serve their purposes in different situations, and power-ups such as armor and quad damage give players areas of the map to focus on controlling.

Sauerbraten comes with a variety of single player maps and multiplayer modes. The options for multiplayer include free-for-all, instagib, arena, capture the flag, capture the base, and efficiency, with team variations to most of these. Of course, the big draw of Sauerbraten is its unique in-game cooperative map editing, in which players can join a server and build a map together, switching out of edit mode at will to test their creations. Edit mode is fast and powerful, making it relatively simple to transform ideas into game arenas in a short time span.


Sauerbraten uses the default WASD key setup with the numbers corresponding to weapons. By default, edit mode is bound to the “E” key, placed within easy reach to quickly switch between modes. Keyboard and mouse settings are all configurable, with the ability to any bind key to any action desired. Mouse movement is very crisp and responsive, with no noticeable input delay. In comparison to Quake 3, Sauerbraten’s movement is less “floaty”; you feel more grounded and in control of your character.


Sound is one area where Sauerbraten falters. The groans of pain are downright annoying and the announcements are slurred. In addition, the sound effect for the crossbow is a rifle shot, and jumppads make a comical spring sound that just doesn’t seem to fit. The soundtrack is great, but might not be to everyone’s taste. Other sounds, such as reloads, weapon pickups, and the quad damage hum, are good. Overall, sound in Sauerbraten is a mixed bag.



Sauerbraten sets itself apart from other freeware shooters with its amazing, built-in map editor and custom engine. It’s a great game as well, and one that I’d recommend to any shooter fan; it’s free to play, so what do you have to lose?

Despite all the good aspects of Sauerbraten, it’s easy to imagine how new players could come into it and be completely underwhelmed. The problems it has with presentation and art, however, are easily fixable, and the game is constantly being improved upon. If you can get past the hodgepodge of art and the rough edges, you’ll find a superb engine and fun game underneath. It’s not the type of game that appeals to everyone, but those who love Quake-style games should not pass it up. The gameplay is simple to learn, hard to master, satisfying, and addictive; it’s the kind of game that keeps you saying “one more match” until four in the morning.