Sunday, June 1, 2014

Elder Scrolls: Arena #3 - The Piper At The Gates Of Dawn

Bellydancers strut their stuff as the heroic Bob Marley Sting looks for the next piece of the Staff of Chaos. Which would be nothing more than a lit blunt if Bob Marley had created it. In this episode I get the second and third of the eight fragments as the battle for Tamriel dungeon-crawls onward. Stir it up.


The Mage's Guild loves to completely gouge you on prices just to appraise items that you find. Since items sell for the same amount whether they're appraised or not (a Blessed Longsword of Sex Panther will sell for as much as it would if it were just "Longsword" in the inventory), I sorta cheat with this. I save the game, appraise everything, then once I know the stats/enchantments on all of my items I reload and get back all the money I spent on appraisals. I re-appraise the items I want to equip or use, so that their magical effects become usable... and sell the rest unappraised. Only problem is that it's a bit harder to keep track of equipment that way, but... whatever.

At this point I'm now equipped with a Mithril Longsword, a significant upgrade. Haven't changed much since the first dungeon otherwise.

 Mithril+ is pretty much what you want from a weapon AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. It's the third-to-top tier, but it's the first one that is strong enough to actually damage every foe in the game.

In other news, I have a number of items that cast Healing now. Limited charges, but this is quite important for times when I can't rest. Which is a lot of the time; if an enemy is even within 50 feet of you you can't rest. Doesn't matter if they're in another room, or another hallway, or another floor.

Protip: When an item name is in light blue, it has a magical effect. Those are the things you want to get appraised, which turns "Bracers" into usable "Bracers of Healing".

Wonder what that Longsword that I sold for 7500 G at the beginning was. I have yet to sell anything else for even CLOSE to that amount, though the one Ebony item that I've found (an Amulet) is worth 4687. There's a distinct possibility that Longsword was something off-the-charts good, though its damage output was quite low so it couldn't have been Ebony. The value was attributable to whatever magic effect or stat (or both) that it had. Wish I'd gotten it appraised, regardless.

Enough equipment talk, time to go after the second of the eight staff fragments.  This one is in Skyrim, the most recognizable and biggest superstar of all Tamriel's provinces. I haven't played enough of Elder Scrolls V to know how similar the map in that game is to the scaled-down version in this game, but chances are most of the major locations are represented here.

Skyrim is a misty, cold place. The towns are a bit of a pain to deal with due to all the mist. Hell, towns were ALREADY a pain to deal with, given their oversized, cut-and-pastey nature. They're the weakest aspect of the game, in my opinion.

At this point I decided to try going for some Artifacts. There are 16 Artifacts in the game. These are items of super-power that give you a distinct advantage. Stuff like the Skeleton Key, which lets you unlock any door, or the Ebony Blade which is the Blood Sword of this game (drains health from foes with every strike). You can only have one Artifact at a time (unless you exploit bugs), and if they break they're gone forever. Once you accept an Artifact quest (and while you possess that Artifact), you can't start a quest for another one until you use up the one you have. HOWEVER, since one of the Knight attributes is that their equipment never degrades, this also means equipment-based Artifacts can be used infinite times if you're a Knight. Wow.

I decided to go for the Oghma Infinitum, a one-use Artifact that gives you 50 skill points to distribute. Obviously since you use it up, it doesn't prevent you from then immediately going after another Artifact. Question is, what should I go for? Skeleton Key looks super-useful for saving time, but the Ebony Blade would do wonders for my melee powers and I'd never need another weapon.

Long story short... I couldn't start any Artifact quests. You have to talk to random townspeople until one starts you on the quest for the Artifact you want. It's a rare occurrence. I talked to about 40 townspeople and got all of two Artifact quests, and neither was the one I wanted (Oghma Infinitum). I'll try again later. Seems like it'd be quite time-consuming, and the choice between the Skeleton Key and Ebony Blade is a tough one for me. Another good one is Auriel's Bow, the best distance weapon.

 Harar Haraiksen: He's a thug.

Before you can go to any of the staff fragment dungeons, you have to first clear a (usually smaller) story dungeon. As far as I can tell, you can't do any of this stuff out of order. The next staff fragment is in Labyrinthian, but first I need to clear the Fortress of Ice.

 As you'd expect, this place is made of ice. It's actually quite rad-looking, and if this were 1994 I'm sure I'd be impressed.

 Ice Golems make their first appearance here, and take quite a bit of punishment to bring down even with my overpowered weapons.

There are also these oddly 3D knights that look better than all of the other enemies. The animation is also surprisingly good. In 1994, 3D like this was very new, and 2D console games were capable of looking about fifty times nicer.

This game is full of riddles. I'm not much of a fan of them, but J.R.R. Tolkien would probably love this.

Skyrim is a snowy land, but don't expect to run up and down any of its signature mountains and hills. This game can do various flat planes, but that's about it.

It's worth noting that towns in Skyrim have different music from the towns in the other lands that I've been to. It's a much better track, and perfect for a snowy town. Hopefully more good music pops up as I progress.

With the Fortress of Ice cleared fairly easily, it's time for Labyrinthian. While the FoI is one of the easier dungeons in the game, Labyrinthian is ridiculously difficult. The difficulty level of the dungeons in this game is strangely uneven as you progress, with some of the easiest dungeons being later (the 7th staff fragment dungeon, from what I've heard).

 This place is aptly-named. It consists of two different "halves", each one a labyrinth of its own with a key at the end. Getting both keys lets you unlock the center room that contains the staff fragment.

This place is a very dry labyrinth, as the name implies.

 Hell Hounds attack in groups here, and they're vicious fire-spitting beasts.

The answer to this riddle? "Nothing". Not bad, starting to like these... though I'm awful at figuring them out.

 After a long, boring slog, I find the second staff fragment. All told, Labyrinthian isn't really DIFFICULT so much as it is confusing and lengthy. Still, so far the dungeons in this game aren't the horror show that I was expecting given its age.

 Ria Silmane now directs our hero south to Valenwood to find the third staff fragment. The next couple of dungeons are nature-themed.

I find out the location of an item with Passwall, and take a moment to detour and get it. Passwall is one of the best spells in the game, and can turn certain dungeons into five minute affairs, if you know exactly where to use it. It lets you break down a wall (one map square thick) in a dungeon. This item only has three charges of it, unfortunately, but there may be some way to recharge it.
The center province, the Imperial lands, are completely empty aside from the main city. That's a huge hub town with a lot of good equipment, and the palace at the center is the final dungeon of the game. Weird how the rest of this province is empty space in this game, but at least it gets fleshed-out in Oblivion.

 The Imperial city itself isn't the bastion of evil I was expecting, and looks just like a regular town.

Arriving in Valenwood, the next town in the main quest is a snowy one. The climate in Tamriel is kinda bizarre, considering there's a desert east of here and tropical islands west of here.

The queen here is a copy/paste of the other hot queen.

Before I can go to the Elden Grove for the next fragment, I have to get through Selene's Web. This next dungeon is a bit of a pain.

It's FULL OF SPIDERS. I mean tons of the things, attacking in groups. If I didn't have paralysis resistance I'd be completely screwed here. I think I made the right call being a Knight; their innate paralysis resistance and automatic equipment repair have both been saving me from a LOT of trouble. Moreso than Warrior exp bonus or Ranger damage bonus would have, probably.

On this island is a key needed to progress in the dungeon. Can you see it? It's right in front of me. I can barely see it either. Geez. I would have never known to look for it if not for the guide I'm following, and likely would have been wandering forever in this place. Keys are the bane of my existence in Arena, at least until I can get the Skeleton Key. If I go for it over a weapon, that is.

The next objective in Selene's Web is to find another key, this one hidden inside of a walled area. At this point I finally need to learn how to jump, in order to scale the wall. Turns out that moving the mouse upward (so it becomes an arrow) causes you to jump forward rather than straight up when you press the jump key.

Having the Skeleton Key would make these dungeons fly by. If one wanted to beat this game as fast as possible, I'd advise making a Spellblade with Passwall, going for Auriel's Bow, and using the artifact bug to also get the Skeleton Key. Between Passwall and the Skeleton Key, you could probably get through the game in like ten hours, tops, since a lot of the dungeons would be over in a few minutes. And with Auriel's Bow you could take down most enemies without needing to level grind, eliminating more time spent.

But yeah, given that most of the dungeon objectives are "go through this maze to find this key to open this door that's next to the entrance", the Skeleton Key would be quite overpowered to have. I almost don't want it now because I think it might break the experience of this game for me.

The final objective of Selene's Web. Now to get the hell out of here.

Elden Grove is next up. It's basically a forest maze, and looks different from the other dungeons up to this point. Same music, unfortunately.

This is a refreshing change of pace from cave after cave. Alas, this is the shortest and easiest dungeon yet...at least for the first 90% of it. You can get through the entire above-ground maze in about two minutes by simply following the wall on the right from the time you "zone in".

New enemies appear here. Not sure if these are Barrow-Wights or Ringwraiths or what, but they're definitely Lord of the Rings inspired. Glad to see some new foes.

The final part of the dungeon is an underground reservoir. You ride a boat to a small island where the staff piece is. It might as well be a boat to hell, though, because as you get close, you get sniped at by really powerful spell-casting liches on nearby islands. The actual room with the staff piece has two of them in it, and if you attack one the other one will blast you from the other side of the room. It's brutal, and I died about 10 times trying to get through this one part. Good thing you can save anywhere and reloading takes mere seconds.

Since fighting them was getting me nowhere, I try ignoring the liches and somehow weathering their assault via heals. I finally manage to grab the staff piece... with basically NO HEALTH LEFT. I was hammering my healing items as I ran for the boat as fast as I possibly could. That was actually the most exciting moment of the game so far, as frustrating as all my failed attempts were.

Jagar Tharn is now well aware of my presence, and with 25% of the staff fragments liberated from their vaults, he demands that I cut it out. Apparently, the more of the staff I have, the easier it is for Tharn to detect where I am. Lord of the Rings!

He teleports a mage in to fight me, but she isn't any worse than the liches. Also, boobies.

Getting out of here requires the answering of yet another riddle. I believe this one is "Time".

Next province: Elsweyr, specifically the capitol city of Corinth. Elsweyr and Valenwood are both fairly small provinces that border each other, and it wouldn't surprise me to see them combined to form the game world for a future Elder Scrolls.

Stats as of now. I've read that level 20 is pretty much the minimum for beating the game comfortably, so I'm moving along surprisingly quickly. Only have about 8 hours in the game and I'm at least a third of the way through it. It's more standard 90's RPG length than Elder Scrolls length.

Read more Elder Scrolls posts HERE! 

4 comments:

  1. The Ebony Blade isn't a Blood Sword and it doesn't drain health from attacks. It has a clicky spell that drains health, but the charges are finite and if you use all of them it'll break the weapon (yes, even if you're a knight). It isn't that great of a weapon. There are stronger ones out there DPS-wise and the click effect really isn't that good since it's so finite. The Skeleton Key is by far the best artifact in the game and you want that one. If you can get the stat book before that, go for it, but I could never get it to appear when I played this.

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  2. Man, what's Harar Hararaiksen's problem? Aside from his name.

    Back in 1995 my family got Lord of the Rings for our one PC (laptop, really). It was awful. Wonder what things would have been like if we got this instead. ...assuming the laptop could even run it.

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  3. So happy that there's a ton of snow in this game. Also am a fan of the diverse dungeons and the atmosphere. Feels like a faithful creation of D&D.

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    1. The post title made me listen to the album for the first time. The title had always intrigued me. The album is not peak Pink.

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