Performance Test: The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

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The 3rd installment to the Elder Scrolls franchise is proving to be very successful. Since it’s premiere over 1 year ago, there have been two expansion packs (Tribunal and Bloodmoon), countless modifications, and even inspired some pretty humorous plugins and comics. Since it doesn’t seem like this game is going to vanish any time soon, it’s important to continually evaluate modern videocards against this expansive game.

The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind

Once again, I am using Balmora as the “benchmark” town because of its large number of NPCs and buildings (great for back-face culling testing), and a large pixel-shaded river running through it.


  • 50% view distance (default)
  • Pixel-shading ON
  • Real-time shadows OFF

Morrowind 1024x768 benchmark results.
* FX5600 set to 6XS anti-aliasing. **Playable FPS: ~20 FPS or higher.

Morrowind 1600x1200 benchmark results.
* FX5600 set to 6XS anti-aliasing. **Playable FPS: ~20 FPS or higher.

General Remarks
As with Freelancer, we’re seeing NVIDIA cards being significantly beaten by the ATI cards. Though it is a bit unfair to compare the Radeon 9700 to the rest, the other Radeon (9500) does better than both the FX5600 and Ti4800SE which are all in the same class.

Radeon 9700
The results of this test are pretty amazing for this card. It managed a solid 30 FPS in every test it ran, even with the highest details on the highest resolution! For those of you who have played this game, you know that it’s meant to be played at a high resolution with all the details.

Again I have to emphasize this… the Radeon 9700 is able to play Morrowind at 1600×1200 with 6xAA and 16xAF without a problem! For those fans of Morrowind out there, this is a huge bonus! Mud crabs never looked better. 🙂

Radeon 9500
Here we see behaviour similar to what is seen in Freelancer. The Radeon 9500 performs remarkably close to the Radeon 9700 until it hits 1600×1200 with anti-aliasing turned on. Once you cross the 2×0 threshold, performance drops drastically – menus are harder to navigate and you feel like you’re walking the streets like a drunkard. I suggest staying with 1024×768 and turning on all the details or try 1600×1200 with 0x8 and adjust the settings.

The FX5600 is pretty good up to and including 4×0 at 1024×768. But at 4×8 and higher, I started to notice some slow-downs when facing towards the center of the city and got progressively worse. At 1600×1200, 0x0 AAxAF is the only playable option (but you can try 8AF and adjust the view distance a little).

The FX5200 can only play this game at 1024×768 with 0x0 to 0x8. Though these results may not look very impressive for the seasoned gamer, it’s not bad for those general users who want to pick up this game from time to time. I suggest playing at lower resolutions or adjust your view-distance settings if you want to play at 1024×768.

Once again we see the Ti4800SE trading blows with the FX5600. Due to the method used to collect the avaerage frame rates, it’s impossible to declare if the Ti4800SE is the winner in Morrowind. At best we can say that the Ti4800SE is equally matched to the FX5600 at 1024×768 and at 1600×1200.

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