Morrowind has become something of a benchmark to the next-gen of games because of the breadth and freedom that it offered. Since it was released, you probably can not pick up a decent RPG and not find a comparison to Morrowind. Even games in other genres are judged by it. Naturally, Bethesda tried to follow up on their success by releasing expansions to Morrowind; first Tribunal and then Bloodmoon. This review deals specifically with those two official expansions together.
Part of the appeal of Morrowind was always the simple fact that there's a whole frickin' lot of stuff to do at your own leisure. The expansions, as expected, change almost nothing in game play, but instead focus on broadening the world of Morrowind even further. Now open to explorers is Bloodmoon's distant island of Solstheim and in Tribunal, the capital city Mournhold. Each new area is different from the mainland of the original Morrowind and from eachother. In the case of Bloodmoon, the feel is very much like Morrowind: big, unexplored, and open. Solstheim feels like you think a Nordic or Anglo-Saxon island would. There are lush forests, a large and icy lake, windswept mountains, and native settlements that look as though they've been ripped straight from Beowulf or LoTR's Rohan. The quests themselves fit well into the atmosphere, sometimes dealing with such things as natural spirits and legendary beasts. Tribunal, meanwhile, is set in a much more confined and busy city and the artwork and level design reflects this idea. It's much more linear due with the abundance of structures and includes a lot more in the way of loot, conspiracy, and all the things you might love or hate in a large urban area. Think the city of Vivec 5X and you get the picture.
Both expansions do an excellent job of enriching the fiction of Morrowind. Each has its own self-contained story that's basically independent of Morrowinds main quest. You can play them in any order and you're always free to start up or drop a quest, as in the original. In Bloodmoon, you arrive at an Imperial fort in the southern most region of the island. Initially, your tasked with helping the commander alleviate various internal strife, but when the base is attacked, your suddenly thrust on a quest to stop a powerful demonic diety from killing everyone on the island. The Bloodmoon story and its associated characters was the more interesting one, IMO. I think I preferred it because 1. I liked Bloodmoon's characters more and 2. I liked the Solstheim more than Mournhold. However, personal preferences aside, Tribunal's primary story and side quests were excellent. Beginning with an assassination attempt on your life, you have to wade through the various political and personal intrigues. When you start off, you know virtually nothing about the city or its most powerful figures, but as time unfolds, you're drawn into the thick of it. While I mentioned that I prefered Solstheim, I have to admit that Tribunal made much better usage of new scripted elements to actually tell its story, while Bloodmoon had little of that sort of innovation.
These expansions really did not do anything to further or change Morrowind's freedom, but it is worth mentioning that Morrowind's amazing freedom of choice is only enhanced by access to the new areas of Mournhold and Solstheim. Getting tired of killing pissed off guards in Mournhold for their armor? Your only about 5 minutes travel from bow hunting rare snow wolves in frozen glaciers. Bored dealing with the Nords? Head down to mainland Morrowind to become a vampire and find some hidden wizard's stronghold.
I mentioned before that these expansions change almost nothing in terms of game play and believe me, I'm not exaggerating. The greatest addition is now that you can become a werewolf, but even that is not a big deal. And game play isn't the only thing left alone. All of the game's old problems, horrible imbalance, lag/system requirements, bad view distances, load times, general glitches and bugs, a combat system that badly needs a revamp; none of that has been touched. Granted, expansions are not designed to do stuff like that, but the GOTY actually has more
glitches and game play imbalances than the original. This really could've been managed better.
If you have tried Morrowind and like it, the GOTY is definitely worth your money. The extra content it offers is just a blast. While it does nothing to address many of the game's problems, the GOTY is a solid expansion on the original world of Morrowind.
***As final note, I want to say: If you have a fairly good comp, get the computer version. With the right computer, your performance will be better than an XBOX, more importantly, you'll have access to the TES editor, which allows you to create new weapons, buildings, your quests, and making even bigger modifications. Not only that, you have access to the thousands of excellent user created plug-ins that are completely free.
The Morrowind Summit:
The best Morrowind related site out there, IMO. Here you can find a huge archive of plug-ins and links.
Bethesda's official site that deals with all of the games in the ElderScrolls line, which includes Morrowind: GOTY. Also a great place to find out about the upcoming Morrowind: Oblivion.