The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind
While Oblivion will always be my favourite Elder Scrolls game because of its sentimental value, I can never overlook the fact that Morrowind was turning point of the series. Morrowind, the name of the 3rd main game and the name of the home province of the Dark Elves, will forever be remembered in video game history as the pioneer of open-world RPGs. The idea of getting to play a character any way you like it, take the game at any pace, do the quests in almost any order, etc., that was created by Morrowind. Many still consider Morrowind the best game in the series, because Oblivion and Skyrim had heavily stream-lined (or ‘dumbed down’) a lot of the mechanics that made Morrowind the outstanding game that it is.
Nerevar Rising/Call of Magic
In all my years that I’ve spent gaming, this is the OST that defines video games for me. Of course, it helps that ‘Nerevar Rising’ is the main theme of Morrowind, and continues to be the most recognisable OST of the Elder Scrolls series. Thanks to the Dragonborn DLC in Skyrim (2011), which brought players back to Solstheim, an area in Morrowind, this historic piece of video game music wonder was revived and remade, brought to the ears of new players.
The main themes of Oblivion and Skyrim were both amazing as well, but neither was able to embody the spirit of adventure and mystery, as well as the potential of heroic and wondrous endeavours that define an Elder Scrolls game.
The first portion of the OST, namely the first 30 seconds, begins with the accompaniment of a xylophone-piano sounding instrument along with strings. The former, light and sharp, serves to conjure this image of a new beginning. The strings, subtle at first, hint at the heroic pursuits that your player character would potentially embark on. It is dominated still by the brighter and sharper sounding instrument, reminding you that in the Elder Scrolls, you might be destined for a world-changing purpose (as written in the Elder Scrolls), but this is a fresh start. You aren’t playing the Witcher, where the character has a defined past. Your character is whoever you make it to be, starting a new adventure. Listen to it – does it not sound like the feeling of waking up in a new world in an unfamiliar body as the first rays of sunshine from this strange land hits you?
What is unique about this OST, is that unlike other Elder Scrolls soundtracks, it repeats itself. The only difference is that everytime it repeats the same tune, it crescendos and a new instrument joins in. As the percussion instruments come in, the sense of grandeur increases, rather like how your player character in Morrowind slowly, through rigorous questing and adventuring, discovers his/her destiny. Here, the game mechanics play a huge role. Unlike its successors, Morrowind does not have map markers. Instead, you rely on conversation with NPCs and your journal for directions. Even getting to the point of unraveling the full prophecy that was written in the Elder Scrolls, finding out your characters destiny (main quest), involves stumbling around a lot. This, however, is what makes the game beautiful and relevant, even if its graphics are outdated.
While getting to the main quest, you’d get lost. There is no fast travel. Instead, you rely on modes of transport that connect the province like multiple railway lines. You might find yourself stumbling upon other quests, factions and it is with difficulty that you even uncover and understand your true destiny. This sense of progress and achievement is reflected in the repeating tune. The increasing pitch reflects the narrowing distance between where you are and where your character will be. The additional instruments is rather like the experience that builds up as you stumble across these other quests, that end up adding to your character.
You might end up walking straight into the Ashlands and the Red Mountain.
Or you might end up in one of the House Telvanni strongholds, complete with their bizarre giant mushroom structures.
Or you might end up becoming a high-ranking member of one of the great Houses of Morrowind.
The possibilities are limitless. You may end up finishing one whole questline before you get to the main quest, or you may even complete every single one of them. You’d find out about the deep politics involved in the Morrowind province, between the various factions and your place among them. There is a level of world-building involved in Morrowind that is simply lacking in any other video game, even its successors.
All of this is reflected in its main theme. You may feel like you’re doing the same thing, and really you are – the repeating tune reflects that. Yet, you are building to your understanding of the world, the essence of your character, forging bonds with characters whose disposition towards you changes as you progress. ‘Nerevar Rising’ is an accurate name, because unlike in Skyrim, where you know you are Dragonborn just 10 minutes into the game, you slowly rise to fill in the place destiny has defined for your character in Morrowind.
‘Call of Magic’ brings another aspect to the music. Morrowind, unlike Oblivion or Skyrim, is unique in its landscape. That is understandable. Oblivion is set in Cyrodiil, the home of the human race of the Imperials. It is inspired by the Romans, in how the characters dress and how the buildings are shaped. Skyrim, on the other hand, home of the Nords, is very Scandinavian and Nordic. Morrowind, as home to the Dark Elves, is not inspired by any real-life groups, but is free to explore a truly alien setting.
From the way the guards dress,
To every one of its creatures,
Morrowind is enchanting in a way that no other province that we have seen in the Elder Scrolls is. This is perhaps why so many fans want the new game to be set in Elseweyr (home of the Khajiits, cat-people) or Black Marsh (home of the Argonian, lizard-people), etc. The soundtrack repeats a tune that highlights the alien nature of this land. From the very fact that it resembles the waking up in a new land, to how it builds this sense of wonder, Nerevar Rising/Call of Magic is truly a masterpiece of video game soundtrack.