Monday, September 15, 2014

Second Impressions: The Elder Scrolls: Chapter I: Arena (PC)

The following will be my second impressions of The Elder Scrolls: Chapter I: Arena, seeing as how I already had a first impression, but I felt that that article was written a while ago (January 2013) and since then, I have changed my approach to the game and therefore, my impressions of the game have changed dramatically.

About a month ago, I was rereading the article I wrote about failing at being able to successfully load and play Daggerfall (TES: Chapter II) and was going over the comments that had been left.  I followed the link that one Roger left which took me to a wiki page for setting up Daggerfall, that by default is in French or German (if the page does not have the "_EN" suffix), but thanks to the miracles of modern technology, Chrome does a wonderful job at translating the pages into something readable by my uneducated mind.  For both the Daggerfall and Arena pages, I was able to download versions of the game where all of the previous DOSBox commands came "pre-installed."  This was not a problem for Arena, but the chance at having to play Daggerfall without the risk of having the game tell me the previous problems I had were again present, was much welcome.  So the downloads commenced followed by the playing.

The first mission I received after emerging from the spectral gate in the Imperial prisons (surprise, surprise) was to escort a woman from the town of Vullain Haven to Wasten Brukbrook in the east.  Now, I figured that that meant that Wasten Brukbrook would be the next town over, so I began traveling on foot.  It was not until I had exited the game to look up the control setup that I discovered "Shift+M."  

This brought up a map of Tamriel (the explorable world), which then brought up a map of the province I was in when I clicked on that.  I was told that it would take me 17 days to travel from Vullain Haven to Wasten Brukbrook, on the southeastern part of Valenwood.

First off, I learned that by pressing "Shift+M" I was able to bring up the world map, and by clicking on a particular province, I am able to travel to any of the city states or towns in that province.  Finding this out was the very definition of a "game changer."

This was when I decided that I would greatly alter my approach to how I play Arena.  When out traveling in a world without topography, getting lost is beyond easy.

That mountain is really just a matte painting and does not count as topography.
My approach to the game goes now as follows.  If I am on a time sensitive mission (escort/rescue/kill the beast), I will fast travel from wherever I am.  Often times these missions give enough time to fast travel to the desired location, complete the goal and return if need be.  I have yet to come across a quest that would need me to speedrun through a dungeon.

If I am on my way from one town to another, I will exit the town by normal means (the city gate) and head in the direction of the town looking for dungeons along the way.  I will explore said dungeon, often collecting gear and other items and once I am either carrying at my weight or inventory capacity, I finish going through the dungeon (because having a completed map is OCD important), killing as many enemies as I can in order to gain experience then once I exit the dungeon, I fast travel to the next town to sell my collected booty.  I could just as easily fast travel between cities, but where is the fun in that?  Plus I would not be at level 15 having not collected even one piece of the Staff of Chaos.

Currently in the game, traveling between cities takes an average of three days, at least in Valenwood.  So 72 hours of straight walking towards the destination.  I then figured out that 1 minute in real time translates to roughly 12 minutes of in-game time.  So if I wanted to be "hard-core," I would have to spend six hours in real time in order to reach a city 72 hours away.  I do not think that Bethesda believed that players would not use fast travel.  Keep in mind that the town I had to travel to was 17 days away plus the return trip would total 34 days.  I personally would not want to spend 68 hours of real time completing that one quest.  On the other hand, I would be very interested to find out if travelling from one site to another is actually possible without fast travel, but that might have to wait for another time.

In other aspects of the game, I am able to appreciate what Bethesda was trying to do with Arena back when it was released in 1994.  In the instruction manual, the creators often reference pen-and-paper RPGs (Dungeons & Dragons) and even with the character creation and how the stats are affected such as Strength, Wisdom, Endurance, Personality (Constitution and Charisma respectively in D&D), Intelligence, et cetera are all direct references to D&D.  Even the armor rating is taken from THAC0 where a lower number is preferable to a more intuitive higher number.  Bethesda had also expanded upon the standard classes of Fighter, Mage, Cleric and Thief and developed the following subclasses, each with their own bonuses and drawbacks.  For example Thief, Burglar, Assassin, Rogue, Acrobat and Bard are all subclasses to the Thief header.  I blindly chose a thief because unlocking ALL THE THINGS!! is better than say, being able to wear enchanted armor.

There are a few annoyances though, as is to be expected with playing a game that was created 20 years ago on a semi-modern computing device that was built within the last five years.  Now I do not know how often Arena was buggy or to what extent those bugs occurred, but at least once a day I am graced by a crashed game in one form or another.  While the crashes are not all too frequent, they are very annoying, especially when I am about to be picking up some sweet fwag!

But at least the Male is bigger than the Happy4 turning right to the zero eighth notes.  Amiright!?

Having the game randomly crash has also gotten me to save my game after almost every enemy encounter as I have run into monsters that have killed me in two hits while I have full life.  But my main advice for this game: save often, even after doing inane things like selling swag or before leaving a town.

With this renewed interest in Arena, I feel that I am able to enjoy the game a lot more than my first runthrough, although in the article I did sound quite optimistic despite when I last talked to Dr. Potts, before restarting the game again, I mentioned that my biggest issue was finding my way around the world on a 2D surface.  I will probably put out a post on Friday regarding my choice in character and picking a Bosmer (Wood Elf) female and naming her Silandra, so stay tuned if that happens to be your bag of chips.


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