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The Elder Scrolls: Arena (DOS)

The Elder Scrolls Chapter One: Arena Deluxe Edition
Genre: Role-Playing (RPG), Special edition
Perspective: 1st-person
Gameplay: Action RPG, Sandbox / open world
Interface: Direct control
Setting: Fantasy
Special Edition: Physical extras
Published by: Bethesda Softworks LLC
Developed by: Bethesda Softworks LLC
Released: 1994
Platform: DOS

The Elder Scrolls ... Almost certainly you are at least indirectly familiar with this series - regardless of whether you love it or hate it fiercely. Almost every modern gamer, even a little interested in the role-playing industry, is familiar with TES IV - Oblivion. But hardly any of the novice "role-players" who have passed through the wastelands of Oblivion, at least for a minute, wondered why their favorite game has the number 4 in the title and how this series began in general ...
The Elder Scrolls: Arena DOS title screen

In the now distant '94, Arena was born. The game, which was conceived as an Action about gladiatorial combat, at some point grew into the largest fantasy RPG of the time. From the original concept, only the name and a couple of references to information from early design docs ("Go Blades!", For example) remained in subsequent games. But now all this is not important - what matters is what we got "at the exit", after all the twists and turns of development.

And we got more than just an ambiguous game. On the one hand, we saw a huge world, one look at the map of which evoked respect for it, more than four hundred different cities and villages, countless NPCs, an incredible variety of objects, a somewhat unusual, but interesting and elaborate role-playing system ... On the other hand , on closer inspection, almost all of this turned out to be stamping. The world was made up of pieces that seemed to come off the assembly line, and after several hours of playing it became boring to the extreme, the cities turned out to be monotonous, and their inhabitants seemed to be cloned, and the whole variety of objects was achieved by variations on the theme of enchantment and the material from which the item was made. What then could be attractive in this game? .. This is where it is worth paying special attention to the role-playing system.

She is gorgeous. Don't be stoned by D&D fans - this is a different flight system. Of course, the 18 classes available to the player, by and large, are also only variations of the three archetypes - warrior, thief and magician - with a difference in the initial values ​​of characteristics and skills. But it doesn't matter - whichever class you choose, the character will be exactly the way you want it. And perhaps this is due to the system of improving skills, in my opinion, the most relevant to reality - "what you use, it shakes." The simplest example: to improve your sword fighting skill, you have to .... That's right, sword fighting. It makes sense, isn't it? But in addition to skills, there are also characteristics - strength, endurance, speed, agility, intelligence, willpower (wisdom), luck, and they are all closely intertwined with skills. Having received such a system in your hands, you actually gradually "sculpt" your character from the plasticine of experience, giving him the desired shape. Is a magician waving a two-handed ax your dream? Welcome.

Classes, skills, characteristics ... The picture is supplemented by the list of races - you can become a green-skinned Argonian or an arrogant Dunmer (dark elf). And then there are Bretons, Redguards, Nords, Bosmer (wood elves), Altmer (high elves) and even cat-like Khajiit. In almost ten years this list will be supplemented by orcs - but here they are only monsters, and nothing else.

By the way, about the monsters. Each of the species presented in the game's rather extensive bestiary has its own unique characteristics. Someone is immune to magic, someone can be hacked to pieces only with silver or ebony weapons ... Often, knowing the strengths and weaknesses of the enemy allows you to end the battle without really allowing it to begin. And you have to fight a lot in the Arena - aggressive-minded creatures will be found both in huge dungeons scattered around the world, and on the surface of the earth and even in water. Here we cannot fail to mention another drawback of the game - all dungeons in the game, except for the story ones, are randomly generated. It would seem that this can eliminate some degree of uniformity of everything that happens, but ... The effect is achieved absolutely the opposite.

And while we're on the subject of story-driven dungeons, it's time to move on to what makes them so. The plot, cast over a superficial glance, may seem unpretentious and simple, however ...
In the 389 year of the third era, Jagar Tharn, adviser to Emperor Uriel Septim VII, a battle mage and a distant descendant of the first ruling dynasty of the Chimer, betrays his master and sends him to another dimension (together with the leader of the imperial guard, Talin), using the power of the great artifact - the Staff of Chaos ... The only witness to the betrayal - Ria Silman, a student of Tarn - was killed on the spot. The prudent Tharn also stripped the staff of its power and shattered the artifact into eight pieces, hiding them throughout Tamriel. Taking the form of an emperor with the help of magic, he rules Tamriel for ten years, gradually nullifying all the achievements of the true ruler. Riots, minor uprisings and even civil wars break out throughout the Empire. Few people pay attention to the changes in the behavior and policies of the emperor, because much more pressing problems occupy the minds of the inhabitants of Tamriel. It would seem that nothing could save the Empire from anarchy ... If not for magic, Riya, before her death, managed to cast a spell that allowed her to return to the world of the living in the form of an incorporeal spirit. She appears in a dream to Talin's son, who was thrown into a dungeon deep under the Imperial City, and tells him about the essence of everything that is happening ... By opening the cell door and releasing the prisoner to freedom, Riya gives the Empire a chance ... And you - the opportunity to realize this chance in fully. Collecting the Staff of Chaos and returning the throne to its rightful owner is not so easy - many trials await you on the way to victory, and their plot background will surely not leave you indifferent. Something, but the literary component of the series was at its best from the very beginning: dialogues, notes, books, plot inserts - all this is just pleasant and interesting to read, and I, for example, am ready to give a lot for this.

So what's the bottom line? I did not describe so many features of the game that make it much more interesting (an amazing number of factions that you can join, alchemy, and so on ... up to the ability to swim in some dungeons on a boat ...), and I did it deliberately. Those who have already decided to try their luck in the Arena will see and explore everything for themselves. As for the doubters ... If you are not deterred by the scary graphics and some monotony of the gameplay by today's standards, it is still worth downloading and trying. At least - to get acquainted with the "roots" of modern free-play RPGs.