Monday, April 17, 2023

Retro Gaming Attempt - The Elder Scrolls: Arena [1994]

I have yet to play Skyrim! In fact I've never played a game from The Elder Scrolls franchise. It's become something of an embarrassment at this stage but it's something I intend to get to as soon as I can. As I am fairly clueless about The Elder Scrolls franchise as a whole I said I would investigate it from the beginning and install the original game in the franchise in order to organically learn the lore.

Arena sounds like a title that would have been given to some melee free-for-all fighting game and bizarrely that's what it was originally supposed to be. However it did incorporate some RPG style side-quests as you were supposed to be a travelling gladiator and Bethesda decided these side-quests were actually far better than the gladiator part and instead linked them all together with a true epic RPG plot. This was just done far to late in the release schedule and the game was already being marketed as Arena, so they just tacked on the mystical sounding "The Elder Scrolls" well before anyone even thought of what the scrolls actually were.

But before The Elder Scrolls: Arena achieved the level of success that warranted four sequels with another in development, an MMO and various ancillary games - it was just this first-person RPG and sadly however, in my case without the nostalgia of experiencing it as an old beloved game from my past, it almost immediately became obvious that it was just not something that I was going to be able to play. The dodgy gameplay coupled with the woeful graphics had me awestruck. It was not only awful looking in comparison to other games of the year, but it was exceptionally difficult as I died several times without leaving the "training" dungeon - I think I actually got further in Dark Souls in the same amount of time.

Character creation was interesting you could choose a class if you knew what you were doing or do one of those psychological tests that identifies you as a coward, pacifist, thinker or psycho etc, only here it is supposed to determine the class you're most likely to survive as. Stats are rated out of 100 with 50 being the 'norm' for Strength, Intelligence, Willpower, Agility, Speed, Endurance, Personality and Luck. Appearance was limited to just a few different sprites.

Combat was awkward with an idiotic system of moving your mouse in a sort of arc that was supposed to mimic a swing of your weapon. My hand was getting tired after a while as it's a very unnatural movement that would have seen thousands of repetitions over the course of the game and I wasn't going to do that.

It's one thing to play a 25 year old game for 5 or 6 hours and finish it, but one of the staple design goals of Bethesda and The Elder Scrolls series is length. While Arena itself is by far the shortest game in the series, it would still likely have taken me more than 30 hours to complete. I don't think I could have gone on in such a dated game for that long, but kudos to anyone who can.

Final Verdict: A product of yesteryear. Cannot be enjoyed without previous experience or nostalgia to make up for it's almost 30 year old shortcomings.

Available permanently FREE on GOG who have delivered a curated package which will easily launch the game without issue on modern systems.

The Elder Scrolls Series (mainline only:

  • The Elder Scrolls: Arena [1994]
  • The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall [1996]
  • The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind [2002]
  • The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion [2006]
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim [2011]
  • The Elder Scrolls Online [2014]
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Special Edition [2016]
  • The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Anniversary Edition [2021]
  • The Elder Scrolls VI [202?]

No comments: