One of the first things you have to decide when you play The Elder Scrolls: Arena, is how much time you want to devote to it. Arena is a vast world to explore with literally hundreds of side quests available at every turn. Whether your main interest lies in dungeon crawling or character building, this game provides multiple avenues on which to pursue your gaming needs. From the initial character generation options to the in-game decisions regarding your character development, demeanor and pursuits, you'll be immersed in a world rife with thousands of non-player characters (from tavern owners to royalty), fantastic demons and beasts, ghosts and goblins, murderous creatures and denizens of every shape and size. You create your character by either answering a series of background questions which are cleverly designed to establish personality traits or choose from among 3 possible types (mage, warrior, thief) with six possible classes for each, and eight different races, each representing a major province in the world. As you make your way through the opening dungeon, your experience begins to build and you get an insight into the well done graphic work that pervades the game. Although a bit on the blocky side at times, the outside environments, characters and monster art make Arena visually appealing.
Movement is accomplished through a point and click interface or by using the keyboard. As in most role-playing games, Arena comes with the standard spate of action icons that you can use to steal, camp, attack, cast spells and manipulate items. A good auto-mapping feature is available that allows you to enter your own notes and means are provided to check your status and current mission. Physical battle in Arena is realtime (there's lots of it) and involves using your mouse to slash back and forth or up and down. Movement for the most part is smooth and only occasionally does your character get hung up by an immovable object or a dead end position. Since the game was released, patches fixing these minor problems have been issued. The design of Arena is a marvel. Combining indoor adventuring with a vast outdoor environment, you'll probably never see the whole game. With a huge array of weapons, armor and spells to use, the adventure rarely gets dull. In fact, learning to use the arsenal of spells can seem daunting at first since there is seemingly unlimited spell creation based on more than 80 effects that can be used in conjunction with each other. Music and sound effects are mood enhancing and are on the whole unobtrusive.
If you don't like "open-ended" adventures, then Arena may not be your cup of tea, although you can focus on the game's main quest (ultimate defeat of the mad wizard, Jagar Tharn). You'll need lots of time to finish this one and a spirit of adventure and exploration of dark, dank places. Arena is a fantasy world of epic proportions and is more of an experience than a game.
Graphics: For a 1993 production, graphics in Arena were up there with the best. Full 360 degree mobility, full screen, first person VGA graphic environment and scenery is well done with an impressive light sourcing aspect.
Sound: Nothing groundbreaking here but adequate.
Enjoyment: Arena is just plain fun to play. Dungeon crawling, exploring, character building, magic use, completing quests -- it's all here. But focus is required if you're going to solve the main quest.
Replay Value: With incredible number of character type, class and race combinations available and the vast world to explore, if you ever finish it once you'll have plenty to do a second or third time around.
The Elder Scrolls: Arena is a first-person action role-playing game, in which you must rescue the Emperor Uriel Septim VII from his dimensional prison by recovering the eight pieces of the Staff of Chaos. The emperor's position has been usurped by impersonator Jagar Tharn whose slain apprentice rallies the player in his dreams to find the eight pieces of the staff and return the status quo.
It is the first chapter in the Elder Scrolls series and the first game that is set in the fictional world of Tamriel. Unlike later games in the series the player can travel through almost all of Tamriel, instead of being restricted to certain provinces. There are over 400 cities, towns and villages to explore, tons of magical items and heaps of spells to create. The player can walk endlessly in any direction as more and more land will be procedurally generated. Walking manually however never allows the player to reach other cities; the fast travel feature must be used for this. The player is free to go where he or she wants. The story itself is resolved in a linear fashion, although the locations of items is randomly determined at the start of the game.
Melee combat is performed through mouse gestures and spells are cast using a menu interface. The player controls only a single character, which happens in real-time. In the wild and in dungeons the player can expect opposition from enemies which need to be defeated and who drop loot. In the cities NPCs can be found, some will barter or provide other services to the player.
The CD-ROM release features speech in cutscenes and additional rendered sequences that the floppy version does not include.
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