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*NOTE TO READERS* I’ve copied this article to my other site “Random Battles: my life long level grind” where I find it to be more appropriate. I may delete it from this page entirely in the future. If your interested in RPG’s and my thoughts on various ones as I attempt to complete as many as I can before the Grim Reaper finds me please check it out.

 

Well I said to myself when I started this blog “no game reviews”. Its just way overdone and usually done somewhere by someone else much better then I could do it. You have written reviews, game faqs, wiki articles and video reviews from a slew of people on everything from obscure DOS games (as one may expect here) to great and horrible console games. I simply felt there was nothing I could add. Then I decided….who cares, I need filler sometimes anyways. I’m pretty confident this isn’t going to make up any bulk of content here but I figured I would do a little write up on a game here and there if it happened to tickle my fancy. So without further delay, The Elder Scrolls: Arena

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I Just recently completed this computer RPG and for people who do not know this is the 1994 first entry into the Elder Scrolls series whom most recently (when this was written) released Skyrim. Now I could write several pages on the background and controls and world of this game but that information is already out there. If your interested in details, history and all that feel free to Google the game as there is a lot of information on it. I’m just going to briefly go over my experiences with the game.

This game as I said is a DOS RPG and for the platform of DOS its a pretty demanding game. Your going to want to play it on a faster DOS machine (preferably a Pentium) if you want the smoothest results though it claims to work on a 25mhz 386 with 4MB of RAM. The biggest problem with this game is it requires a lot of conventional memory to run. Over 600k. now conventional memory is the first 640k of memory and usually DOS and all your programs like the mouse controller and stuff gets loaded in there. Generally when I load up a fresh install of DOS I have 550ish of conventional memory available but usualy simply running the memmaker command will free up over 600kb and create enough space to play games like Arena. load as much as you can to HIGHDOS (this may help) and lower your LASTDRIVE letter under the confg.sys file. Anyways without getting to technical its really not that hard to get it running though this game does seem to come up often as a difficult game to get running correctly (and this includes in emulators like DOSBOX). I did fiddle with running this game in an emulator (shame on me) but never got it to run right but I had very little problems installing and running it on the real deal. The most common issue when trying to run this game is “not enough conventional memory” error followed by the “not enough EMS memory” error. The answer to these is to free up more conventional or EMS memory.

The computer specs. I used to play this game were: DOS 6.22, Pentium 200mhz MMX, 128MB RAM, Trio64V2/DX, Sound blaster 16 with a NEC XR385 for general midi. and I played it on a CRT flat screen (not flat panel) computer monitor. The general midi in this game is nothing fantastic. I actually played the game on an AWE32 prior to getting a midi card and it pretty much sounded the same.

I had very little trouble running the game on this machine (besides the regular Arena issues) and game play was pretty smooth throughout. One issue I noticed though was movements of NPC’s in towns were very fast. Kinda like everyone was chugging Red Bulls and Speed. After doing some research I discovered this was more or less normal for the game and did not effect game play except for making townspeople look ridicules at times. I did find a video of a game running slower NPC (None Player Characters) animations but I noticed the sound was a bit staggered and off so I think It was running to slow. The hyper NPC animations effect nothing as I said and did not effect my player or monsters.

Speaking of speed. This game is an experiment in frustration. Every thing, even on a fast PC is slow when it comes to switching screens, loading, saving, and entering exiting buildings and changing dungeon levels. Even looting corpses is painfully delayed and you do all these actions a lot. Basically you need eight staff pieces to create a staff to kill the final boss. acquiring every piece goes like this.

Find specific province then town then person via asking around. Said person gives you quest for item and asks you to retrieve item in exchange for location of dungeon that has staff piece. – Dungeon Crawl – return to town, repair armor/weapon/rest – return item get staff piece location – Dungeon Crawl – go back to town repair armor/weapon, rest. Repeat 8 times then do last dungeon. To its credit the dungeons are a little varied but the process is still monotonous and soul crushing. The dungeons are also sprinkled with riddles you are required to answer to get to key items. Of course these days you can just look up the answers on the internet but I strived very hard to figure them out and it was a sort of fun distraction from “open door, kill monster”.

And then we have sweet character creation.

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My character is a spellsword or a mage/warrior. Being able to only wear lighter armor but having the ability to use magic. In this game having spells like Passwall and Heal is a real life saver. I also try to make my characters look like Rambo if he was in a rock’in 80’s metal hair band whenever I can.

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Sweet. I like to pretend when hes not slogging through dungeons hes playing with his band Cold Slither in some tavern rocking out sweet Bon Jovi power ballads.

So if you do decide to take on this game and see where more recent games like Morrowwind, Oblivion and Skyrim got their beginnings there’s two screens your going to be seeing a lot of.

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First you have this douche. Every time you die he pops up and gives you some speech about how you have failed and he will reanimate your corpse to serve him. Believe me you’ll be seeing him a lot. So much in fact even though you die quite often it took some time to get this image because I was so trained to immediately hit enter when this screen poped up I kept skipping it when I died. If there’s any tip anyone can give its to SAVE OFTEN AND USE SEVERAL SAVE SLOTS. Speaking of the last guy, Jager Thorne or however you spell it. Really your supposed to avoid him and grab the mithral key then open the sealed room and smash his life gem but you can also defeat him in combat and take the key off him. Naturally I wanted to defeat him but no matter how hard I tried and prepared my character I couldn’t seem to hurt  him. Finally though I discovered if I de-equipped my sword he could be fairly easily punched to 0 HP. Go figure.

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And this is the second sight you’ll see pretty often. You cant avoid it, it simply happens. There’s an error with the game that leaks memory and eventually at some point your bound to get this error and a game lock up. Sometimes it takes hours and sometimes not. It didn’t occur so much to be infuriating but it is another reason to SAVE OFTEN. Keep in mind I had 128MB of RAM installed. Well over 600k of conventional memory and plenty of EMS. Having high conventional memory helps lesson this error. Also try to make sure you have the latest version of the game. Ver. 1.07. My CD version that I bough new at Electronics Boutique in the mid/late 90’s was already patched to this version. Besides this error The game was mostly stable for me. I had one random computer restart and maybe two random game freezes through the whole experience.

The monsters are pretty varied for this game and the world is massive but there is one particular monster that not only frustrated the hell out of me but just freaked me the hell out.

MEDUSA!

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These have to be one of the worst monsters in the game. They paralyze you as a ranged attack then move in and quite literally B%#ch slap you to death with odd spastic slaps and that disquieting buck toothed face. I think those are supposed to be vicious fangs but I just cant help imagining these things living in run down trailer parks in the deep south with a piece of straw dangling between thier two last good teeth on their days off from dungeon patrol duty.

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How that face haunts me. And if that’s not enough.

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If being slapped to death by Salley-May Medusa isn’t bad enough you have to be subjected to their green saggy terribly pixelated boobs. Actually they kind of look like man boobs. Like being constantly flashed by the corpse of Jack Nicholson.

So in the end did I have fun with the game? Well, sort of. I defiantly wouldn’t recommend it to most people unless you really love old school repetitive dungeon crawlers. It is pretty unique for its time with a huge world and it can be sort of charming in a way. The riddles add a nice change of pace but ultimately are just an inconvenience if you plan to just use a FAQ to get answers. The sequel, The Elder Scrolls: Daggerfall is next for me. I can only pray the Medusa all stayed home after a hard weekend of off-roading and hard core Pabst Blue Ribbon drinking.

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