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Welcome back, fellow xenoarchaeologists! Last time, we were taking a look at the marvelous alien worlds of yesteryear, but this week we are rapidly approaching the present. A terrifying time, to be sure. The 21st century presented us with some fantastic tech, which allowed us to explore more believable worlds; worlds which acted much like our own. These spaces were not as limited as the ones that came before and invisible walls were far fewer. However, nonlinear, open worlds are not the only avenue for exploratory adventures. In the case of our first game, it certainly helped, though.
Back in 2002 I was given an extraordinary gift, a copy of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. I was aware of the series, but I’d never played Arena or Daggerfall. I was sick of generic fantasy races or locations and Vvardenfell offered something that felt entirely new. Keep your horses, I only want to ride a Silt Strider. Despite being a diverse place, it was consistently bleak and enigmatic.
The towering grey mountains — covered in ash — hid ferocious Cliff Racers, without a doubt the most unassuming and evil of all the province’s creatures and mysterious, haunted Dwemer ruins. Expansive wastelands and deserts could make a traveler lost and disorientated as sand and ash storms cloud their vision. The most verdant areas were marshes and swamps, where any number of bizarre beasties could attack at a moments notice. Morrowind could teach a lot of modern developers how to make an interesting, yet dour world without simply painting everything brown and calling it a day.