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Elder Scrolls, The: Arena

Review 1:

Arena is the first game in the Elder scrolls series (TES). If that doesn't ring a bell… read on.

Arena takes place on a planet called Nirn (sound cheesy, doesn't it?) in the empire of Tamriel. Uriel Septim, emperor of Tamriel, allies himself with the battle mage Jagar Tharn in order to unify the whole of Nirn under the imperial flag.

Of course the battle mage is intent on stealing the emperor's power (ALL battle mages, advisors and viziers have the same plan, its tradition)

He does this by imprisoning the emperor in another dimension using an artifact called 'The Staff of Chaos'. After zapping the emperor away he kills a close ally of the emperor, Ria Silmane, and locks you up inside a dungeon under the imperial city. After which he transforms himself into the emperor, and summons a legion of demons which he transforms into imperial guards.

With the help of Ria Silmane's ghost you escape the dungeon.

Another bad guy tradition in early RPG games is to cut the artifact into several pieces and scatter the pieces around the empire in dungeons. Jagar Tharn does this and it is up to you to reassemble the artifact, kill Jagger Tharn and free the emperor.

The plot won't win any prizes (the plot of Arena becomes a lot thicker in TES 2 and TES 3 where you can read up on Jagar Tharn, the staff of chaos and Uriel Septim's conquests) but that's where the beauty of the TES games lies… the plot can easily be forgotten. It can be picked up at any moment the player wishes to. The player is basically free to explore the entire world, raid huge dungeons, accept quests from townsfolk in the cities or accept high-level quests from the provincial rulers.

Arena was initially intended as an arena-game, a game in which you would set up a team of warriors and mages and fight other teams in different arenas in Tamriel.

But soon the developers wanted to add cities in which you could buy equipment, and dungeons to raid for equipment and to train the skills of your teammates.

Eventually Arena became a single player RPG game (thus no teammates) in which the player could be anybody, go anywhere and basically kill anyone.

Sadly the player was only able to join guilds in the second installment in the TES series (TES 2: Daggerfall), however in Arena the player is still able to accept quests from people in taverns and inns and provincial rulers as mentioned earlier.

The landscape is generated each time the player begins a new game, so it is impossible to walk from one city to the other (for this the player must use fast travel) however it is possible to venture outside the city walls and enter any tomb or dark temple the player stumbles upon. The player will also find some randomly generated villages outside the city walls, or perhaps some farmland. These remote generated villages are useful for players who want to become a successful thief (because there aren't many guards in these villages)

The graphics in the game are okay. The buildings aren't very impressive (basically just blocks with textures applied to them) but there certainly is atmosphere.

Seamless day-night transitions, widows lighting up, illuminating the dark and dangerous streets of a city at night, all add up to the atmosphere.

Some cities will have oriental architecture while others have a more imperial or Nordic style applied to them. There are different types of weather including snow and rain, so during winters the streets and landscapes will be covered in snow.

There are some nice graphical effects, like during and after a storm you will find puddles of water reflecting the surroundings.

Lastly the player may also decide in which province he wishes to start the game after escaping the minimum-security underground dungeon Jagar Tharn 'locks' you up in.

You choose your province of birth before you start the game (during class-creation)

This also affects what your character looks like.

For example: if you choose to play as someone born in the province of Morrowind, you will be a dark-elf and the face-selection will thus be limited to dark-elf heads.

If you have reached this sentence you are probably interested. In which case I suggest you give the game a try. A note of warning though: while a lot of people love this classic game, there is an equal amount that loathe it for its thin plotline and lack of boundaries.

Review 2:

The elder scrolls is a longrunning series of RPG's that started ten years ago and now the fourth installment has been released prompting the developers to release the first game as freeware, yeeeah! The story is about the land of Tamriel where many factions battled for supremacy until one man Tiber Septim crushed his opponents and proclaimed himself emperor. The people suffered so much hardship that they called the land the Arena in which death is around every corner. Now centuries later the descendant of Tiber Septim still rules the land but forces are moving against him and the imperial battlemage Jagar Thorn betrays him and takes the throne for himself. With the elder counsil caught unaware of his treachery they are imprisoned and all hope has faded. It is written in the elder scrolls that one day a hero will come and bring Tamriel to it's former glory once more and this is where your adventure starts.

The elder scrolls: arena casts you as the game's hero but your journey is off to a bad start as you begin in a dungeon where you were left to die. In your dreams Ria Silmane, former apprentice of Jagar Thorn, visits you from the afterlife and tells you that you are the only one left who is able to defeat the evil battlemage. You must first find a way out of the dungeons which are now infested with vile rats and goblins eager to get a piece of you. There is plenty of treasure hidden inside the dungeons but too much greed may lead to your downfall as Ria warns you. If you are able to make it out of the dungeon you are transported away from the capital where you can begin your quest to bring out your untapped skills and fullfill the prophecy.

Technically the game was quite impressive for it's time with a first person view and 3D surroundings, not the full 3D environments that today's game deliver but most of the large objects are 3D and smaller items and monsters/characters are flat sprites. The world consists of over 400 towns which allows for plenty of free roaming because the game does not enforce you to play the main storyline. The character creation is also good with an option to select a class or by answering several questions you can get a class that suits you the most.

The elder scrolls: Arena is very nice RPG and it shows because the fourth installment, oblivion, was just released recently. Altough the later games improved much of the game the basic idea is still there with the free-roaming and character creation. In some places it is a bit crude but overall it's a great game that you will be playing for a long time.

Download full game now:

Source 1 - Download (8970kB)
Source 1 - Manual
Source 1 - Reference Card

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