I, Breton sorcerer Vidal von Astral, watch over my partner – an Argonian assassin going by ‘Lizzy’ – as she sneaks downstairs into the wine cellar of a bustling tavern. I say ‘sneak,’ but really the archaic-yet-endearing Morrowind animation system and digitigrade structure of her lizardy legs means that she’s slowly bounding like a Saturday morning cartoon character who’s trying to telegraph to the viewer that they’re up to something devious. The guards seem confused, watching her go down and around the corner and yet not committing to following her – perhaps there’s more deceit to this comical Argonian stealth than meets the non-NPC eye.
Then, one of the guards makes a move, and starts to stride in that unmistakably Morrowind way down the stairs; I give my partner the signal to wrap up her raid on the Cyrodillic Wine and get out of there. She escapes but – kleptomaniac that she is – can’t resist nosing in a sack on her way out, which the guard duly walks in on. We’re forced to flee, immediately becoming fugitives in the crossroads town of Pelagiad. It’s the first twist in our freewheeling co-op adventure in Morrowind, and it feels great to do these traditional Bethesda RPG shenanigans together.
The classic 2002 RPG Morrowind was, like every mainline Elder Scrolls entry, never designed for multiplayer, but thanks to the wonders of OpenMW – an open-source recreation of the Morrowind engine – and TES3MP, a project that adds servers and networking features to OpenMW, you can now enjoy it as a near-seamless co-op game. Rudimentary though it is in places, it still showcases how fully integrated co-op could be a star feature in The Elder Scrolls 6 (whenever that may come), and one of the most important evolutions in the series’ history.