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Default RPGWatch Feature - Elder Scrolls: Arena Retrospective

March 15th, 2007, 05:32
It was 1994 that a young Bethsoft released The Elder Scrolls: Arena, creating one of the longest running franchises in PC gaming history and arguably going from strength to strength. Corwin takes a look back in this Retrospective:
The first thing I noticed, was how much the game reminded me of Ultima Underworld - it looks and plays very much like that classic. Itís first person, 3D and you have to swing your mouse to swing your sword. In many ways, despite the vast improvements in the quality of the graphics, the combat mechanics havenít changed very much over the years. The spell effects are quite mundane by todayís standards, but they do the job. The game does contain one spell which sadly never resurfaced- Passwall. Itís marvellous being able to make any dungeon wall simply disappear.
Read it here.
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March 15th, 2007, 05:32
Nice retrospective, I found one small mistake though.

" Unlike the later editions, Arena allows you to visit the entire world, not just one small area."


IIRC couldn't you go anywhere in Daggerfall as well?
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March 15th, 2007, 06:15
No, you could visit a larger area than say Morrowind, but you certainly can't visit all of Tamriel; I'm currently re-playing it with Dosbox .7!!

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March 15th, 2007, 06:45
My mistake, it's been about 10 years since I played either one. I thought I remember being able to go to different provinces in Daggerfall as well.
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March 15th, 2007, 07:34
You can visit different provinces in Daggerfall: the Iliac Bay (= game territory) spans parts of Hammerfell and High Rock. But you're never alerted to the fact as there are no state borders on the travel map (unlike Arena).
You can play characters from all over Tamriel (except Imperials and Orcs), however, so the character generation map of Daggerfall might be what you were thinking of, JDR13.

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March 15th, 2007, 09:12
While you can walk outside in Arena, you can't walk from town to town - it's just endless random landscape in arena. Thought that was a bit misleading. Sorry, I didn't like the retrospective all that much, Corwin. It descibes the game nicely, but it doesn't touch much on what you like or dislike about the game and it's concepts, nor do you talk much about it's place in the grand scheme of RPG development, where it inoovated, etc. Both should be part of a good retrospective, I think.
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March 15th, 2007, 12:13
I get the impression the you haven't played the game, when it was released. The retrospective is quite negative and written as if you would compare the game to modern RPGs.
I remember when I bought Arena in 1994. When I escaped from th first dungeon the vast landscape really impressed me, I never saw such a huge world in any RPG before. You could walk for hours and finde some small villages or caves etc. It was really great.
The cities were big and made me feel like visiting a real city and not just a small town as in other RPGs.
Maybe the people all looked the same, but this was 1994 and it was VGA!
I have very fond memories of this game…

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March 15th, 2007, 14:41
Darkmoon, I not only played the game and finished it when it first came out, I replayed it for my retrospective!! Ghan, we differ on what we include in retro's. To be honest, I can't remember what was truly innovative in the game. From memory, much was derivative ie my reference to Ultima Underworld which WAS innovative. I suppose it's personal preference and readers tastes. If people want other things in a retro, then let them say so in the forums and we'll try to oblige. This is the first one I've written!!

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March 15th, 2007, 14:46
I still haven't played the game, and forgot that they released it for free download … now I'll have to give it a try

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March 15th, 2007, 16:32
Originally Posted by txa1265 View Post
I still haven't played the game, and forgot that they released it for free download … now I'll have to give it a try
well if you havent played it then you have missed on a true cultural experience
I think that even after all those years you will like the game
I have it installed on my computer and seldom playing it
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March 15th, 2007, 16:43
Ghan is right - you can't walk from town to town in Arena, it just randomly generates area to walk through and you don't actually get anywhere. You have to fast travel to go to specific places.

Daggerfall is set in the bay, rather than the whole of Tamriel, so you get a couple of provinces. The difference is you *can* walk between places properly in Daggerfall, however it takes an absolute age so you might as well fast travel.
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March 15th, 2007, 17:48
Couldn't stomach Daggerfall when I tried it a year ago for several hours, so I know that I couldn't make it thru this one!

Gimme Morrowind or nothing!
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March 15th, 2007, 18:44
Originally Posted by Corwin View Post
Darkmoon, I not only played the game and finished it when it first came out, I replayed it for my retrospective!! Ghan, we differ on what we include in retro's. To be honest, I can't remember what was truly innovative in the game. From memory, much was derivative ie my reference to Ultima Underworld which WAS innovative. I suppose it's personal preference and readers tastes. If people want other things in a retro, then let them say so in the forums and we'll try to oblige. This is the first one I've written!!
Heh Corwin,

I thought you summed things up nicely and it did capture a bit of that retro feel that is giving me the (rather slight) hankering to re-install and replay Arena from the beginning… and then Daggerfall… and then Morrowind… and then "Shivering Isles."

I agree with the poster, though, that it might help in future retrospectives to highlight Arena's place within the overall history of computer RPGs. I agree that it pulled liberally from "Ultima Underworld," but it can still be named one of the progenitors for the modern stream of first-person Action/RPGs, like Deus Ex 1/2, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, Hellgate London, and the ever-popular Oblivion. In fact, with the success, if Oblivion I think we're about to see a lot more "copy-cat" games in the next few years… which is both good and bad (depending on how much you like that style).

I suspect true isometric will only appear in indie games from now on, which is a shame….

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March 15th, 2007, 23:04
Thanks for the comments, GhanBuriGhan. I can't add much to this discussion because I didn't like either Arena or Daggerfall (and therefore didn't play much of them) but I appreciate your comments on retrospectives in general.

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March 16th, 2007, 00:23
sad to report that i'm actually currently selling my original copies of daggerfall and arena deluxe on ebay right now two games way ahead of their time, perhaps even still ahead of anything available today.
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March 16th, 2007, 00:34
Originally Posted by araczynski View Post
sad to report that i'm actually currently selling my original copies of daggerfall and arena deluxe on ebay right now two games way ahead of their time, perhaps even still ahead of anything available today.
Ummm… OK. Just stay calm and please take these pills, Sir. Professional help will be arriving any moment now .

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March 16th, 2007, 02:52
" first you could answer a series of questions (similar to the Ultima games) and be told which class to select based on your answers, (there’s a similar system used in Oblivion, so its heritage runs true)"

I remember this was in Morrowind as well, at the census office.
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March 16th, 2007, 04:22
I played through arena year ago with boosted version dosbox. It was fun especially the handmade main quest dungeons which were easily better than the ones in daggerfall. I had an elemental warrior which worked quite well.
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March 16th, 2007, 08:21
Originally Posted by kalniel View Post
Daggerfall is set in the bay, rather than the whole of Tamriel, so you get a couple of provinces. The difference is you *can* walk between places properly in Daggerfall, however it takes an absolute age so you might as well fast travel.
…and avoid the wilderness encounters.

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March 16th, 2007, 09:44
Originally Posted by Corwin View Post
Darkmoon, I not only played the game and finished it when it first came out, I replayed it for my retrospective!! Ghan, we differ on what we include in retro's. To be honest, I can't remember what was truly innovative in the game. From memory, much was derivative ie my reference to Ultima Underworld which WAS innovative. I suppose it's personal preference and readers tastes. If people want other things in a retro, then let them say so in the forums and we'll try to oblige. This is the first one I've written!!

Don't take it to heart, I appreciate any effort to bring the old games back into the spotlight. It's just my feedback as to what I would have expected, a slightly more historical perspective, so to speak. Since I gathered your gaming experience goes way back, (probably making you slightly older than your avatar ), I hope you will write more retrospectives in the future.
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