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Morrowind on Android is a dream come true, and Elder Scrolls: Blades should be taking notes

You still have to watch out for cliff racers, though
Product: Open MW | Format: Android
Out of all the Elder Scrolls games, Morrowind has a special place in my heart. It's the first ES game I ever played, but besides that, it's one of the first games I encountered where I felt truly invested in the storyline and the characters. Becoming the Nerevarine and finding my way to the Red Mountain to challenge Dagoth Ur felt truly epic.

While it may seem like Elder Scrolls: Blades will be our first chance to encounter that kind of world on mobile, there is in fact a dedicated group of creators working to bring the full Morrowind experience to Android – and so far, they've been doing pretty well.

It's all thanks to a project known as OpenMW. Essentially an emulator for just one game, it was originally created to help bring Morrowind to platforms unavailable at the time (like Mac or Linux), and the project has since expanded to Android.

But what is it about Morrowind that makes people decide to devote hours and hours of their free time to getting it to run on Android, or any other platform?

Part of it may be nostalgia. While it wasn't the first Elder Scrolls game (Daggerfall and Arena came first), its release in 2002 means it was one of the first Elder Scrolls games for a lot of people, like myself.

But there's also the fact that Morrowind requires a level of investment from players that later Elder Scrolls games haven't quite replicated.

For one, there's very little direction for quests – you'll have to talk to characters, learn about the culture and politics, read the texts scattered throughout, and puzzle out how to achieve your goals rather than running to a quest arrow.

There's also no fast-travel, so you'll be spending a lot of time getting to know every inch of Vvardenfell.

If all that sounds awful to you, well, not everyone loves Morrowind. But that deep immersiveness is also what has made so many people feel deeply connected to the storyline, the characters, and the overall world.

When you spend that kind of time truly delving into a game, it's hard not to feel personally invested, and to feel a real sense of achievement as you complete your goals.

OpenMW is the work of many hands, fans teaming up to see a game they love brought to a new platform. Even a quick glance at the forums shows pages upon pages of discussion, as people work together to sort out bugs, improve the coding, and generally submit feedback.

So how does it actually play? To be fair, it's nowhere near as smooth and polished as a game that's actually been built for a mobile platform.

You're essentially seeing the PC version of the game shrunk down, so on anything smaller than a tablet, any text is incredibly tiny - and that's not to mention the ugly UI you can see in the screenshots.

Movement and interaction are actually fairly smooth, though it takes some getting used to, and there's no tutorial – you'll have to check out fan-made videos to understand how the controls work.

That said, I was happily overlooking all of this the moment the main theme started playing and I woke up in the belly of a ship arriving at Seyda Neen with a dark elf asking my name.

The fact that Morrowind was even running on my phone, and I could have it to take and play wherever I wanted, felt like a triumph in and of itself. Whether you'll feel the same way probably depends a lot on how much you love Morrowind, and how interested in you are in having it in a portable format.

If you do want to get it working for yourself, this forum page  will provide you with the apk for OpenMW, outline what else you need, and will walk you through the basic process - but you will need your own legal copy of Morrowind.

There's also a YouTube tutorial that will walk you through the process in more detail. It's a fair number of steps, and there's no guarantee it'll work on every device. But I'd argue that it's well worth the fuss to have a full Elder Scrolls game in your pocket.

If nothing else, it's something to tide you over until Elder Scrolls: Blades comes out later this year. And in truth, there's plenty ES: Blades could learn from Morrowind.

Certainly, Blades will have a better, smoother interface. But the heart of the Elder Scrolls games has always been story and interaction, something that is especially true with Morrowind.

For all its combat, Morrowind succeeds on its characters and its lore, despite its fairly limited interface – which is certainly a challenge mobile games face.

We already know Blades will have an endless dungeon and a PVP mode, neither of which, admittedly, seem to lend themselves particularly well to a deep story – unless you're discovering texts in the dungeon as you go.

But we've also been promised a growing town where we meet NPCs and receive quests, and hopefully, it's here that Blades will flesh out its story, and give us a place where we start to care about the characters we're doing all this dungeon exploring for. It's a tall order, and one that I'm cautiously hopeful Blades can deliver.

Note: Pocket Gamer does not condone piracy or using illegally-obtained copies of games for emulation. All screenshots captured were made with a legal copy of Morrowind running on OpenMW.

Reviewer photo
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