According to leaked documents, Microsoft are/were remastering Oblivion and Fallout 3. This is boring. The past decade of innumerable remasters has been boring enough, but remastering these two games is particularly boring. When even bother when all Bethesda have made since Oblivion is Oblivion remakes with added spacesuits or yelling? Boring. But while I think the torrent of remasters is a miserable sign of big publishers just giving up, if they’re going to do it anyway: why not Morrowind?
2002’s Elder Scrolls game is an overambitious, odd, scrappy, and spiky beast. It is a game happy to leave you lost, confused, misunderstanding, weirded-out, frustrated, and stuck. Find locations and items by paying attention, not following markers! Say hello to the last Dwarf, a rotting guy with mechanical spider legs! Without fast travel, hasten journeys by riding a network of giant bugs! Befriend a weird god! Visit many places that are intentionally unremarkable! Possibly be a giant fraud of a prophecised saviour! Destroy a nascent divine meatbot! Use crafting to get game-breakingly powerful! While Bethesda’s open-world RPGs just aren’t for me, I can respect Morrowind.
To be clear: I know why they’re not doing Morrowind. It’s because 2002’s Elder Scrolls game is overambitious, odd, scrappy, and spiky. It’s because it is happy to leave you lost, confused, misunderstanding, weirded-out, frustrated, and stuck. Bethesda have spent 21 years trying their hardest not to make Morrowind again, 21 years sanding down knobbly bits and filling crags, 21 years mastering the art of creating giant games which offer dozens of hours of inoffensive nothing-in-particular. I understand why people might dislike Morrowind but I think that if a game doesn’t have enough personality to reasonably be hated by some, it can’t truly be loved by others.
I would be so curious to see what modern Bethesda might make of Morrowind with a remaster. They could force a lot of it into the regulation shape of Oblivion/Fallout 3/Skyrim/Fallout 4/Starfield. Add fast travel. Stick quest markers on everything. Add flair to dungeons and mines, expanding their world-establishing mundanity into outright boring mini ‘adventures’. But unless they were willing to outright redo the game, I reckon a lot of Morrowind would resist Bethesdafication. I don’t think modern Bethesda could make Morrowind, and I don’t think they could make Morrowind modern. It has an enthusiastic weirdness they couldn’t kill.
I don’t want Bethesda to remaster Morrowind, mind. I’d rather see the effort go into making anything new. I do understand the business reasons that drive risk-averse publishers to endlessly remaster games which sold well but aside from a few rare highlights (like Quake 2’s remaster adding a whole new campaign) these releases are so uninteresting. It’s miserable in a medium that was already cursed by business urges to grind anything successful into dust with sequels and prequels and spin-offs and reboots and mobile gacha games. At least a sequel is something new. I do also slightly resent that loads of publishers spewing remasters creates the illusion of a boring canon of boring ‘classics’ which absolutely must be released on every system under the sun. So many exciting things are still happening in video games but now more than ever, it feels like many of the largest companies have given up.
Anyway, you can still buy Morrowind and can make it perfectly playable on modern PCs using the fan-made replacement engine OpenMW. It’s Morrowind but slightly fancier, and it even adds multiplayer. And hey, the modders working to remake Oblivion inside Skyrim now aim to launch Skyblivion by 2025. I can at least respect that as a curious act of devotion. Hell, some fans are still working on their remake of Morrowind inside Oblivion.