Put me down on the list that says Elder Scrolls: Morrowind is among the best RPG’s released for the Xbox, or PC for that matter, to date. It had a seemingly endless amount of areas to plod through and allowed for one to take whatever direction desired at a pace the player dictated. Color it as an RPG that could consume the player with all of its idiosyncrasies and depth.
Enter the pint-sized addition to the series, Shadowkey, for Nokia’s N-Gage. This is the beginning of the proverbial “second wave” of software for the much beleaguered portable and once must hope that the other efforts for the platform fare better than this.
Typical RPG fare begins with the creation of your character. Class, race, sex and you’re all set to go. From the onset, however, you’ll find that something just doesn’t feel quite right despite the fact that the music is distinctively from the Elder Scrolls library. The first thing you’ll notice in the very first town is that the doors that you’re opening always seem to be in the way and that it’s a chore to open/close them and enter rooms. Thus, the frustration begins, and it only gets worse as you progress further into this debacle.
You first battle(s) begin with the extermination of giant rats that have infested a town (seemingly inhabitant by less than a dozen people) and the local townsfolk beseech your help. You walk forward, in your FPS type perspective, and see the beastie in the distance. Closer and closer you inch forward as you begin to stalk your prey. Closer still and you begin to hit the “5” key to swing your Dagger and attempt to smite your foe. And then it happens. The entire screen freezes and the frame rate drops to an abysmal 0/FPS and begins to chug back to normal. Your foe glares red as you strike and upon the second strike, after hitting the “5” key 25+ times due to the horrible frame rate, your foe is vanquished and for your reward, you get to do this over again nearly a dozen times before your first quest is successful. Likely, it will be your last as the shoddy programming should never have allowed for this and we all know that the N-Gage is certainly capable of much, much more.
It’s a damned shame, however, that this is the game that’s been deemed, or is that doomed, to be as poor as this. Elder Scrolls have a dedicated following and a half decent effort here might have drawn interest to the N-Gage and certainly have bolstered its library with something that would be instantly recognizable and easily marketable. As it stands, it’s a grand missed opportunity that the system can ill afford. This title would’ve greatly benefited from more time in the oven and it seems very apparent that it was shoved out the door for the holidays. Opportunity lost.