Morrowwind: Dagoth-Ur

By Shamus
on Dec 1, 2006
Filed under:
Game Reviews

AngiePen left a comment on this post talking about games with lots of replay value. The comment reminded me of one of the reasons I loved Morrowwind so much: The villian was great.

When I think of Dagoth-Ur, I think of Boromir. That’s a bit like what he was like. Imagine if Aragorn had the ring of power, and he left it with Boromir while he ran off to talk with Elrond and Gandalf about what they should do with the ring. At the end Dagoth-Ur was certainly evil, but he was still lucid and had some interesting goals. He even regrets that he must face you (the player / chosen one) at the end of the game, because he respects you. The final conversation is long and interesting. You can ask him all sorts of questions if you like, and none of his answers are, “BECAUSE YOU WILL ALL PAY, HAHAHAHA!” Instead, you get a glimpse of a once-great man who was given more power than he could handle and who was then betrayed by his friends. He has some great questions to ask the player (how many games have the wit to do that?) which make him seem even more real.

This is tricky to pull off: To get the player to connect with the villian, yet still see the need to defeat him. I can’t think of another game to do this.

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20121 comments. Blackjack!

From the Archives:

  1. Deoxy says:

    Darn it, I might actually have to go get that game now. I’ve been intentionally avoiding it, worrying that I might drop too much time on it.

  2. Will says:

    It’s been so long since I finished Morrowind. Now I’m wishing I could remember the details of that conversation. Dagoth Ur certainly was more of the fallen hero type than the “I’m crazy and out to wreck things for no damn good reason” villain. If memory serves, Vivec had quite a bit more to say after you defeat Dagoth Ur.

    Did you ever play the two expansions Tribunal and Bloodmoon? They were a lot of fun. There’s also a fan mod out there called Wizard’s Island that is near retail quality and very big.

    Deoxy, if you get through the first half-hour without giving up in fear at the scale of the game, you’ll be hooked and have a couple hundred hours of play ahead of you.

  3. Shamus says:

    I did play both expansions and I liked them both, but I didn’t obsess over them quite as bad as I did in the core game. This is a good thing, sanity-wise.

    The conversation with Vivic is nearly as good as the one with Dagoth-Ur. He’s a “good” guy, but he’s done his share of bad things, and a lot of his good deeds are based on power he acquired through very questionable methods. I like that there is no final version of what happened between him and Nerevar. There are many conflicting accounts of what happened, and the designers leave it up to the player to decide what to think of it all. Masterfully done.

  4. Shamus says:

    Also: If I was a demi-god like Vivic, my first job would be getting some pants. Seriously. My whole conversation with him was a bit warped by his pantslessness. Hey man, I know you’re nigh invulnerable and all, but aren’t you cold?

    • slayer says:

      dagoth ur talks as soon u go in the room even if ur invisable whats with that and does any one know where sunder and wraithgaurd are?

    • Lame Brain says:

      I have to disagree with you here Shamus. Staying in the rational and logic of the game, Vivec is a god, or at least a demi-god. You’re lucky he’s wearing anything at all. There is no particular reason for him to care what people wo come before him think, and so there is no particular reason for him to be embarrassed.

      On the other hand, I wish he was wearing pants too. I suppose an argument could be made that even a demi-god should find pockets handy?

  5. Will says:

    Speaking of pants.

    Thankfully, I finished the main plot before ever discovering the Better Bodies mod, so the impact of His Holy Pantslessness was dulled somewhat by the horrid factory-installed character models.

    I kind of spoiled that portion of the plot for myself early on. I had an enchanted ring with a 100 lvl Open and a maxed out Sneak skill pretty early. So just to see what all the fuss was about, I broke into Vivec’s temple and read all the little documents he had spread out behind him. This was long before the whole Nerevar plot thread began to form, so I was a little confused to say the least.

    And one little pet peeve I’ve had since playing Oblivion is that the histories of the various regions don’t seem to be woven together. I can’t be 100% sure of the chronology, but I assume Oblivion starts not long after the events of Morrowind. The Nerevar reborn just saved the entire world from colossal nastiness, and you hear little to nothing about it in Cyrodil. Maybe someone mentioned it and I just wasn’t paying attention at the right time. Were Dagoth house members popping up in other parts of the Empire? What was the reaction in ancient Cyrodil when the Dwarves just vanished? Did everybody flip out?

    That’s not to say I hated the lack, but I always got a kick when they would make little passing references to Morrowind. Like Umbra for example. Maybe I’m just handicapped having not played any of the earlier Elder Scrolls installments. I just think the game world would benefit from making the actions and revelations from previous installments seem a bit more relevant to past and current events.

  6. Dave says:

    Will, if I remember correctly (and it’s been awhile), there are a few conversations you can hear NPCs having that mention Morrowind and the Nerevarine. Certainly it’s not a major topic, but I think they have heard something of events there.

  7. Will says:

    I remember a few such conversations, but I just thought an event of such supposed world shattering significance would warrant a bit more than idle chit-chat.

    For example, had it been my call, I might have placed a glut of soldiers in the forest east of Cheydinhal early in the game. Then you have a couple NPC’s mention how the local governor is working to root out a few Dagoth aligned forces that had wandered into the area after Ur’s defeat. Fill a couple of caves with bedraggled Dreamers hiding out. And if memory serves, Caius Cosades, the Blades guy in Balmora, said he was returning to Cyrodil once you were on really on your own two feet. I would have had him in Oblivion somewhere. Just a few things to make it feel like your sandbox walls are permeable to more than just news or rumors.

  8. AngiePen says:

    I agree with Will. [nod] There were a few references to Morrowind in Oblivion (see the Official Game Guide for a summary of what they all are) but they’re all pretty minor things, sub-sub-plots at best. I don’t think it would’ve been too terribly difficult for the designers to have put in some more significant references to the whole Nerevarine/Dagoth Ur thing. If they were worried about people who hadn’t played Morrowind picking up Oblivion, it would’ve been easy enough to have a book or two and a few NPC conversations about it. And maybe some local garrison commander could’ve been worried for a while that the Gates were actually a surprise come-back of Dagoth Ur or his followers — it would’ve been a perfectly reasonable assumption to make, at least at first, that the current world-shattering crisis might’ve been linked to the previous one. Something to check out at least. And it could’ve been done without bollixing up the Oblivion plotline and without frustrating the Oblivion-only players.

    I’m another one who likes seeing cross-references to different plots and characters and storylines when appropriate. If you’re creating a single world with multiple stories in it, then cross-refs make it actually feel like a single world, rather than a series of duplicates which don’t ever impact each other. It’s not difficult to do, either; it just takes a bit of planning.

    Angie, who used to work in the game industry and has done exactly that with a minimum of hassle

  9. Jeremiah says:

    i don’t know about PC games, but some of the Suikoden games for Playstation 1/2 have villains you can connect with. I know in Suikoden 3, I could really see why Luc was doing the things he was doing, however misguided they ended up being.

  10. Morrinn says:

    Yeah, I agree that there aint many games with a villain you regret facing, allthough at the top of my head is having to battle Gunther Herman in Deus Ex.

    That was a character I always kinda liked. A has been agent, rendered obsolete with the advances of nano-implants…

  11. Retlor says:

    I realise how late this is, but I just wanted to share my thoughts on the game as well. I loved it. The villain was, as you say, compelling and original (compare him to Oblivion ‘I am evil! ROAR!). The game was epic in scale, even if the story line was maybe 5% of it. There was always so much to do (I loved the guilds, getting up the ladder in them was so fun. The scenery was varied, the world felt real.

    I think that when it comes to pure immersion, Morrowind has most games beaten hands down, and that may be why it affected so many people so profoundly.

    Lastly, gotta agree with Morrinn, I took very little pleasure in killing Gunther Herman. Unlike Navarre, I thought that Herman might have been a good person if he hadn’t been twisted by his service at UNATCO.

  12. Kizer says:

    If you’re looking for an RPG with a good storyline and an interesting villain, I recommend Skies of Arcadia: Legends for the Gamecube. This was the first RPG that I actually felt like replaying (six times!) just because the story is so immersive. And the villain seems truly realistic, more of a “my entire perception of the world has been shattered, so why shouldn’t I remake the world in my image” rather than a “I’m uber powerful, and now I’ll destroy everything.” Unfortunately, no game comes without its downside, and for this game that is the combat system. It’s flat, boring, somewhat arbitrary, and extremely pervasive. Though the Gamecube version lowers the random encounter rate from the original Dreamcast version, you still end up fighting random battles every few seconds. If you’re willing to put up with a crappy battle system, the story and characters more than make up for the extra time spent.

  13. Octal says:

    I don’t know if you’ll see this after all this time, but I thought Star Control 2 did a pretty good job with that. Your goal is to defeat these aliens, the Ur-Quan, who have enslaved/quarantined Earth and a few others. If you want to, you can go and talk to them and they’ll rebuke you for being where you aren’t supposed to be, and try to kill you. But at a few points in the game, you have the opportunity to learn exactly why they’re doing this. You can hear about it from the Melnorme… or, if you dig around a little, you can discover something that you can say to the Ur-Quan that will get them to tell you their motivations and answer your questions (they won’t attack you until you’ve exhausted all the dialog options (of which there are maybe three or four, I think, but their answers are long) and/or left the conversation). It’s a terrible, moving, and enlightening story, and there are three (true, or at least apparently true) versions of it. And it does what you describe: it gives you a reason to feel empathy for the villains, to see why they’re doing what they are, and yet it feels no less necessary to defeat them.

    It’s really a game where Talk To Everyone is rewarding. (I highly recommend buying all the information you can from the Melnorme, as well.)

    You can get it for free (it’s open-source now) for several operating systems here.

  14. Steve says:

    I’ve never played this game but my favorite villian is GlaDOS from Portal. Hilarious quotes. Dagoth-Ur sounds interesting.

  15. slayer says:

    dagoth ur is un beatable because i killed vivic,that u talk t 2 at the start,trebones the mages guild arch mage and heaps mores others (NOT TELVANI !)

  16. slayer says:

    i still dont get why vivic/no pants won’t talk to me. on a unrelated has any one noticed are still talking when they die.

  17. Sydney says:

    This is tricky to pull off: To get the player to connect with the villian, yet still see the need to defeat him. I can’t think of another game to do this.

    Yes, I’m archive-binging; yes, I’m resurrecting comment threads.

    But, years later, Mass Effect seems to have pulled this off again with Saren.

    [spoilers begin here and run through the end of the comment]

    I found myself feeling sorry for Saren. He was doing things he’d recognize as destructive and bad, except that he’s slowly having his mind taken from him. And he knows it’s happening. I didn’t want to kill him, but he had to be stopped because as an indoctrinated tool of Sovereign, he was doing his job too well.

  18. Aldowyn says:

    For the record, Oblivion is canonically 6 years after Morrowind, enough time that it wouldn’t be a current event any more (certainly a big deal depending on what you do, though, considering I’m pretty sure you can end the Tribunal’s godhood.)

    In any case, Dagoth Ur is pretty interesting, but I’m currently facing a bug where the last conversation isn’t triggering when I enter the chamber. I actually found this post on the first page of a google search of “can’t talk to dagoth-ur’ :D

    • Aldowyn says:

      *half an hour later*

      Or not a bug. I actually killed him accidentally thinking he was another miniboss, then went into the next room (where he’s immortal and you’re supposed to be doing something else) expecting that to be the main confrontation.

      Oops. Anyway, done now :P

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