Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Elder Scrolls: Arena #2 - Indulging and Drowning Valley

Arena continues, as I actually go past the first dungeon! Who saw that coming? Also, hilarious how covered up the dudes are compared to the lady. ...also, daaaamn, as the kids say.

We left off with Sting (who I should have named Bob Marley) roaming around the sandy town of Rihad.

I stumble into the Mage's Guild and find the mighty Generic Old Mage. All this time I didn't bother going into one of these places because I thought they were spell shops (which, being a Knight, I'd get no use out of). Turns out these are shops where you can buy magical items. I'll need to keep an eye on this.

Potions are particularly noteworthy. For the most part, resting after every fight has been enough healing, but not for much longer. Potions of Healing and Heal True are going to be extremely important from here on out. Particularly Heal True, which restores about 3x as much on average and renders Potions of Healing a bit obsolete out of the gate.

Free Action is a super-important potion if you're not a High Elf or a Knight. It cures paralysis. Cure Disease is another important potion to keep a couple of on hand, and Resist Fire is something I'll be needing for Fang Lair.

The Queen of Rihad is smokin'. She could tell me where Fang Lair is, but first I have to do something for her. Unfortunately, it isn't sexual favors; it's another dungeon called Stonekeep. 

Stonekeep is marked on the fast travel map. She also says something about how I need to slay a Goblin Lord who resides there, but... there's no Goblin Lord, nor do I need to slay it. Just need to find a parchment and bring it back here.

 At this point, I simulate the Real Life experience by trudging through snow towards Stonekeep. Fast travel? Psssh!

 Soon night turns to day, and I continue trudging. Then I remind myself that the miles of randomly-generated terrain are completely unnecessary to trudge through at all in this game, and fast travel to Stonekeep in three seconds.

They can hype up the size of the game world, but when most of it is randomness that isn't necessary for the game at all, it doesn't really count. For the most part, this game consists only of the towns/castles/dungeons on the map, and the area between them is essentially empty. Fast travel rules the day. Even though Arena covers the entire land as opposed to a province, it looks to me like it's the smallest of the main five Elder Scrolls games.

Stonekeep is... a keep. It's full of goblins that pose almost no threat at this point. Disappointingly, this place has the same music as the intro dungeon. As far as I can tell, it's the only dungeon theme in the game. Looking forward to moving on to Daggerfall, the point when these games started to have good soundtracks.

The biggest challenge that I've faced so far in this game is picking up keys. ...Seriously. It's WAY TOO DIFFICULT. Due to the inexplicable design choice of having the cursor turn into a movement arrow when it gets anywhere near the edges of the screen, you can't pick up anything in the foreground. It's inexplicable because unlike later games, you can't actually look up or down. And keys, unlike most things you'd be clicking on, are tiny. You have to back up until you can click on the key with a regular cursor, but you can't back up too much or it'll be out of range. So you end up bumbling around a lot; very frustrating and needlessly so.

Stonekeep is large and complex, but if you have a map and directions it really isn't bad at all. I use the unwieldy jump feature for the first time to climb through this "window" and take a shortcut, and I reach the end of the dungeon pretty quickly.

This place introduces some new undead enemies, like skeletons that attack en-masse. I'm a big fan of skeleton enemies in RPGs.

The part of the dungeon with the parchment is home to another new enemy: Ghouls. These things are quite nasty, and actually pose a threat to Sting.

 There it is. Now the game should bounce me back to the overworld, yeah?


...............nope? And I don't have any kind of Exit/Warp/Outside type spell. Not sure if such a spell even exists for casting classes. So it looks like I'll be hoofing it out of every dungeon. Ouch. That basically means I have to traverse every dungeon twice. At least the way back is easier since I'll have the map filled in by then.


Spiders in this game are horrible, status effect inflicting, skittering monsters.

I return to the Queen and get the location of Fang Lair, yada yada. I wonder if this "peculiar behavior" means anything to the story... nope, doesn't look like it. Arena doesn't have much of a story besides "find the staff pieces and defeat Jagar Tharn". Rather than the abundance of sidequests featured in the later games that have actual stories, this one only has randomly-generated sidequests that are all basically the same fetch errands.

When you buy/sell items from shops, you can haggle over how much money you spend or receive. Be warned though, the shopkeepers will often balk at your requests and respond by insulting your items. Generally, if you aren't too greedy, it's quick and easy to talk merchants up or down by 40-60 G or so. It adds up.

I find a weapon shop with some equipment that I haven't seen before. Nothing is an upgrade over my Dwarven Longsword, though. I really lucked out finding that one.

 Valenwood doesn't look that much different from the grasslands in Hammerfell. At first I was pretty excited to see the provinces that don't have games attributable to them, but it very quickly became clear that most of the areas in this game are fairly nondescript from one another.

Wonder what province we'll get for Elder Scrolls VI.

Speaking of provinces that don't have games yet, here's Black Marsh. Land of the lizardmen and general dark, boggy swamp. I imagine this place won't be that fun as the setting of an entire game.

 West of that is Elsweyr, land of the cat people. In the north it's mostly grasslands, while the south gives way to some desert. I think. Not too familiar with this place.

 West of that is Valenwood, home of the wood elves. As the name implies it's mostly forests. This has my vote for the next game. Sounds like it'd be quite nice to look at in HD. A tree city would be awesome.

West of that is Summerset Isle, another place that would look amazing in HD. Home of the high elves, who need to stop toking doobies all the time.

So basically, the options for VI are a marsh, a desert, a forest, and an island. Of course, these places are so big that they can have a variety of environments, but those are likely the prevailing themes.

For now, I'm still toiling in Hammerfell. Haven't actually left this place in the story. Most of eastern Hammerfell is actually unaccounted for in the series; the western side is combined with High Rock to be the setting for the second game. Doubt we're going to get a Hammerfell-only game, but it's a possibility.

Time for the third dungeon and the first "major" one. It gets its own portrait screen and everything.

Fang Lair is an old dwarven mine that fell into disrepair and got taken over by orcs. So basically, it's the Mines of Moria.

There are two levels, and the exit from one to the next is in the southwest corner of the map. It requires going through a bunch of claustrophobic mining tunnels. Gotta say, dungeon-crawling can be a lot of fun when done right, and this game does it right. You're never in any particular danger of getting stuck or losing progress.

At the end of the first floor is a riddle. That riddle?

 ...this. It's a weird one, but it isn't actually very difficult. Follow the three statements to their dead end and there's the answer. Protip: Go backwards.

Now to actually pick up the gold key. IT'S...SO...DIFFICULT


The second level is full of lava, which is why you bring Resist Fire potions.

A lava-filled side tunnel leads to a room FULL of treasure. Like five randomly-generated piles of it. This is super-easy to miss, glad I had a map.

I find a bunch of magic items in there, one of which has a massive Luck bonus. And I mean massive. Going from 55ish to 75ish in a game where the cap is 100 is a big deal. As for what Luck does, it apparently affects your combat abilities in general, giving bonuses to critical hits, hit rate, and dodge rate. I may be wrong; it's the most mysterious of the stats. It does have an effect, though, and a bigger one than you'd expect.

Now to get out of here and appraise all of these items to find out what spells they have on them. If I'm lucky, there will be something useful. Either way I'll make bank by selling the ones I'm not equipping.

I also get a magic Longsword that is a slight upgrade to my Dwarven Longsword and has an as-yet undetermined magic effect. Nice.

This one had me stumped until I googled it. I'm not much for riddles. Gollum would have killed and eaten me.

After opening the last door, you face off with a pair of Hell Hounds. This is the closest thing to a boss thusfar, but they aren't that much worse than the enemies I've been fighting. That is, once I close the distance on them. From a distance, they shoot fireballs that do a lot of damage.

Here's the first of the eight staff pieces. It was a tough fight to get here, but now the game is off and running. It isn't nearly as difficult as the internet led me to believe. Maybe it's because of my class choice. Knight isn't only resistant to stuns, they also auto-repair their items. That or their items don't degrade in the first place. Hard to say. Means that I can use any weapon I get as much as I want without worrying about it breaking or needing to go back to town for repairs. This is insanely convenient. The class is also quite good at fighting.

Jagar Tharn appears in a vision, and he's pissed. He manages to teleport some of his minions to my location to stop me from leaving, but said minions were just regular spiders. I was really hoping for a Balrog or something. Oh well. Onward to Skyrim, the next part of the game.

Read more Elder Scrolls posts HERE! 


  1. Heh, without fast travel the game becomes more like Desert Bus.

    The shop sells Daikatana? NOOOOOOOOOOO

  2. Ohh, I like this riddle. It's a logic problem that I could've done in college. Just took a moment to do it.

    So funny you have problems picking up the key of all things. Is there a shortcut to make your bottom screen disappear and get closer to the key?