Elder Scrolls Replay: Arena (part 1)

For a moment, something breaks me out of what I’m doing, and I realize that I’m leaning forward, chewing on my upper lip. My right hand is glued to my mouse and my left on the ever-popular WASD keys, which I spent half an hour mapping. On the screen is a horribly pixellated dungeon.  My BattleMage, Zhenette is there, on the first level of Fang Lair.  She’s there to retrieve the first part of the Staff of Chaos, but is resting for a moment, after defeating her first wight.

I’d been following the “right-hand rule”, after the first two extremely large dungeons of Arena, I’d given up on searching the whole thing. Right-hand rule would get me to most of it, and I’d be leaving laden down with treasure, leaving behind quite a lot — and hopefully by now I knew what things to leave behind.

The wight had little treasure, but the two battlemages who showed up while I was resting had armor I could wear.  I hadn’t so much forgotten to buy armor in the last town as run out of money on spells.  I nearly died in the last dungeon because I’d been diseased by some ghouls. Then I accidentally saved over my “safe” savegame, and was just screwed.  I hadn’t found the part of the interface which told me I was diseased, so I thought I was fine, until I tried to travel back, my quest done.

And on the way back I died, and then I died again, when I tried for somewhere closer.  I drank all my potions, not sure what they were, and the last one — of course — was a cure disease potion.  I took the scroll the Queen wanted to her, and she showed me the way to Fang Lair.

I waited a bit, I was getting better at fighting, both leveling and the actual physical skill of fighting — the Elder Scrolls games, particularly the early ones — make this a more visceral, first person experience.  Arena doesn’t have skills like the later games, so it’s your stats, and your mousing that decide how well you hit.

So, I bought some spells, both cure disease, and some fire resistance since I’d heard Fang Lair had lava pits, and that tapped me out.  But finally I was ready.

I was mastering the dugeon pretty well, and it looked like there was this small section that I hadn’t explored.  It was to the left, but things were good.  So I delved into a mineshaft, and headed north.  I popped out in the small room, and something was pelting me with a spell I’d never seen.  And I was suddenly out of spell points and there was a wight in my way.

Heart pumping I swung my sword, heartened that it even worked — I wasn’t sure it would.  Eventually it died or went away (no body I could see), and I was nearly dead.  There were enough spell points for a healing spell, so I cast it, saved my game and rested to recover.  The two battlemages I mentioned showed up, and I killed them quickly.  Looting their body, I finally got some leather armor that I could wear. I healed again, and rested again. That rest was interrupted by ghouls, who promptly diseased me.

At least I had  my spell.  I tried to cast the spell, and it didn’t work — I’d neglected to see how many spell points it cost to cast; I was low on spell points, so if I rested again I might have enough.  I had a save, sure, but that was before I got the armor.  I rested again, and that’s when I realized I was leaning forward, anxious, wondering if this was going to work.

I so rarely have this experience in new games. I think it’s because I trust them.  They’re going to make sure I make it to the end.  There’s probably three ways to solve any problem, just in case, and you can’t ever really screw yourself.  TES: Arena makes no such promises (and neither did Daggerfall or Morrowind; once I got bitten by a rat in Vvardenfell, and I couldn’t move, nor would I ever be able to again.  Load a save, and carry better spells/potions next time were my only options).

Later, after defeating the wights and returning to my right-hand path, I was leaning back, my feet propped up on an old speaker.  I’m confident again, and doing well: the spell had worked, and I wasn’t diseased, and I’d rested fully so I was full health.  Nothing was beating me.  I climbed out of the mineshaft, and four minotaurs surrounded me.  My feet found the floor and I leaned forward.

This might be a hard battle.

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