Tribunal Adds Creativity to Creation

Elder Scrolls III: Tribunal
Gameplay
graphics
audio
value
fun
Genre
Reviewed On
PC
Available For
PC
Difficulty
Intermediate
Publisher(s)
Developer(s)
ESRB
ESRB
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I was so happy having just completed about 300 hours of role-playing, easily the largest amount of time I have spent on a single non-online only game in my life. Super bad guy Dagoth Ur fell to my blade, well, actually he fell to an earthquake after I completed the game-winning ritual, but I’ll take the credit for his death.

I sat back to breathe a sigh of relief. Nothing to do now other than travel around the world fighting minor baddies like bandits living in caves or the occasional marauding Kagouti. And my manor home is decked out in cool blue lanterns with an outside courtyard that resembles Las Vegas. Yep, no worries.

Suddenly I am woken one night by the sound of a noise inside my inner sanctum. Not even my pretty slave girls heard it coming. There, in the half light is a guy that looks like a rejected extra from American Ninja. And he is not there for a social call.

He hits me with one of those darn Jink blades that paralyze you. (BTW, I have a small pet peeve here. There is no way you can make certain magic items at the enchanter shops in the game, like these powerful blades that paralyze you for 10 seconds, or even minor constant effect magic items.) Anyway, I am able to dispatch the intruder, but it is a close fight.

It turns out that someone has put a hit on old Kryvic, retiring savior of Morrowind. So begins my adventures in Tribunal, the newly created expansion pack for the PC version of the grand RPG reviewed earlier this year.

Eventually your investigations lead you to Mournhold, the capital city of Morrowind and a place you could not visit, or even really know about, in the original game. The city is like its own world, though you can recall freely back and forth between the main part of Morrowind and the walled city. Your adventure takes place on the streets of Mournhold and in the sewers and dungeons below.

It is worth noting a few things about Tribunal. First, you don’t need to have solved the main game like I did to add the Tribunal expansion pack. But it might be helpful because the creatures in Tribunal are pretty darn tough for my 45th level character, so anyone hovering below 30 or so might want to wait a bit. Eventually the assassins will stop attacking you if you can survive them, and Mournhold will sit patiently waiting your presence. Secondly, if you play Morrowind on the Xbox, you are out of luck here. I don’t know if it is even technically possible to release the sequel using your same character for Xbox, but in any case Bethesda does not seem to have any plans to do so. Tribunal is a PC-only club.

Ok, other than another 60 or so hours of gameplay, which is not bad for a $30 expansion pack, there are some changes and improvements with Tribunal. For one, your journal gets a lot better. You can now sort quests based on which ones you have completed and which ones are not finished. This is a big deal when you consider you can have 20 or so quests going at the same time. You also get new weapons and armor, and a host of cool new creatures to fight or run from.

In general, the quests in Tribunal are a lot better than the ones in Morrowind. The missions are very clever most of the time, like quickly learning the lines of a play and jumping onstage to take the place of a supposedly sick actor. There is a huge level of political intrigue as well as the goddess living in the city temple and the new king over in the palace make moves against one another, often using your character as a pawn in their grand chess game.

The dungeons are also massive, and contain things like levers to pull and cranks that make up a traditional dungeon delving game. Even the people in the game seem more lively, and even recognize you based on your status. I am the arch master of House Redoran and people sometimes call out to me in the street using my proper title. It’s nice to be recognized.

The side quests are some of the most fun in the game, and all fall into the aforementioned creative category. You will be playing cupid for the citizens of the city, following cheating husbands like a private investigator and even helping to start the city’s first robot wars game show. It’s an odd city, so you should probably fit right in.

The one problem I have with Tribunal is that some of the dungeons seem a bit rushed in that I have several times fallen into space, like my character has moved outside the map. Sometimes you can see the entire level sprawled out around you like you are using the editor, while other times you end up swimming through endless darkness, unable to find the hole that got you into the void. The game’s strengths more than outweigh this minor problem, but if it happens to you, don’t panic. A reload is probably going to be in order, though I could sometimes find my way back into the "valid" area of a map.

In all, I am thrilled to be able to keep playing Morrowind, and am delighted at the level of thought that went into both the main and sub-plots in the new city. If you play Morrowind on the PC, there is no question that you deserve to treat yourself to Tribunal. It’s my hope that Bethesda will keep making high-quality sequels and add-ons to the game forever, as this is truly a magical world that I would hate to see come to an end. Like the original, it earns a perfect five GiN gem overall score, as the development team has done the impossible and improved on perfection.

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