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Video Game: The Elder Scrolls: Arena

"The best techniques are passed down by the survivors."
Gaiden Shinji

The first video game in The Elder Scrolls series, released for DOS in 1994. Originally, it was going to be an Action Game with RPG Elements, about gladiatorial combat. However, as development went on, the RPG elements grew more and more, until the arenas themselves were cut out altogether (they are still mentioned in some Dummied Out narration, though.)

The player takes on the role of a member of the Imperial Court of Tamriel. In the opening cutscene The Emperor is trapped in another dimension by his most trusted courtier, the battlemage Jagar Tharn. The evil Tharn then uses magic to disguise himself as the emperor and take his place.

However, he is noticed by both the player character and the lesser sorceress Ria Silmane. Silmane threatens to reveal Tharn's new identity, so Tharn kills her and throws the player into the Imperial dungeons.

However, Silmane appears to the player in his/her dreams, and guides him/her to reassemble the Staff of Chaos, a weapon capable of defeating Tharn and rescuing the emperor, but which Tharn has broken into eight pieces and scattered across the Empire.

That's right, there are no arenas in this game. At all. However, as if to make up for that, this game is huge. There really is an entire life-sized continent (12,000,000 square miles - three times larger than Europe!) to wander around in, with hundreds of settlements and thousands of NPCs.

The game has been released as a freeware download by Bethesda as part of their commemoration of the fifteenth anniversary of the inception of The Elder Scrolls. Get it here.

This has also been released in "The Elder Scrolls Anthology" which has all five games, and skips the Dosbox prompt entirely.

This video game provides examples of:

  • Absolute Cleavage: The female enemy mages.
  • Alien Sky
  • All Myths Are True
  • Alternative Calendar: A very elaborate one, complete with holidays and whatnot.
  • Always Chaotic Evil: Many creatures.
  • Artifact Title: The game was originally meant to be about raising a team of gladiators. The basis changed dramatically, but the title was kept, and retconned as a nickname for Tamriel. It's a pretty accurate nickname, though.
    • Specifically, the developers were making a gladiator combat game with side quests into dungeons to get better equipment. However the team quickly fell in love with the side quests that the arena was dropped entirely.
  • Big Bad: Jagar Tharn.
  • Conspiracy Theorist: Randomly-generated NPCs will sometimes describe conspiracy theories they have about their randomly-generated feudal masters, which tend to be rather humorous. For example.
  • Covers Always Lie: The cover was designed for when the game was based around teams fighting in arenas, which is why it doesn't really reflect the open-world RPG gameplay. This is thought to be one of the reasons the game did poorly at launch.
  • Crapsack World: Where to begin? Ruled by a usurper; monsters and bandits/psychopaths roam the wilderness and cities at night; everyone is racist, even towards their own race; failing to pick one lock doesn't take you to prison – it's an official death sentence, as guards will kill you with no second thought; gossip states that every province has been or will be ravaged by a plague, and the above gossip eventually implying that every ruler in Tamriel is a cannibal. note 
  • Dismantled MacGuffin: The Staff of Chaos.
  • Dungeon Bypass: The Passwall spell allows you to destroy dungeon walls.
  • Early-Installment Weirdness: A lot of the series lore hadn't quite gelled yet, leading to an Elder Scrolls game with completely human-looking Khajiit, blue-skinned Tolkien Orcs, no mention of the word "Daedra" whatsoever, and a Cosmic Keystone artifact that has never been seen again.
    • Interestingly, the human-looking Khajiit haven't been retconned out of existence, just out of being common outside their homeland (the Khajiit have a great deal of racial variance based on the phases of the moons).
  • Escort Mission
  • Evil Sorcerer: Jagar Tharn, plus some of his Mooks, plus a few more in the Backstory.
  • Fantastic Racism: Rather egregious. You'll often have ethnic insults hurled at you by members of your own race.
  • Fetch Quest: Loads and loads of them, most of which are thankfully optional.
  • Fictional Document: The titular scrolls.
  • Freeware Games: Since 2004.
  • Heroic Fantasy
  • Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards
  • Magically Inept Fighters: Warriors and Rangers have a high number of Hit Points and a wide range of equipment to choose from but can't cast spells naturally.
  • Mooks
  • Never Trust a Title: This game has no arenas in it, though the continent itself is nicknamed "arena" in an attempt to soften the Artifact Title. Also, the Elder Scrolls themselves are a very minor plot element.
  • Nintendo Hard: Everything is already trying to kill you, you'll be lucky to have any gold for your first few dungeons, all crime is a death sentence (instead of being arrested), poisons and disease are far more lethal than future games in the series, and to top it all off, the occasional Game-Breaking Bug may just finish you off. Good luck, you'll need it.
  • Our Elves Are Different: Really, there isn't much difference between humans and elves at all.
    • Though the High Elves (NP Cs in Summurset Isle) still have their brownish golden skin, and Dark Elves (NP Cs in Morrowind) still have their brownish black skin.
  • Our Goblins Are Different: Our Goblins are Goddamn Bats.
  • Our Orcs Are Different: Our Orcs are dressed like players of American football. Notably, they're a generic enemy and not a playable race as they are in the post-Daggerfall games.
  • Plot Coupon: The pieces of the Staff of Chaos.
  • Randomly Generated Levels
  • Red Eyes, Take Warning: Tharn has red eyes, for no readily-explained reason other than that he's evil!! Later games in the series would explain that he is part Dark Elf.
  • Retcon: Later games state that the dimension Uriel Septim was trapped in was Mehrune Dagon's Oblivion and that Tharn had been making deals with Mehrunes Dagon for power.
  • Ruins for Ruins' Sake
  • Rule of Cool: The title "The Elder Scrolls" itself. One of the developers came up with the name just because he thought it sounded cool—and then it was decided what the actual Elder Scrolls should be. This is, in fact, how they named everything. Or should that be "thinged everyname"?
    • They don't appear, in any form or to any extent, until the fourth game in the franchise. They're not significant to the main plot until the fifth.
      • Well, to be fair, they do play a very ambiguous role in all games, as present lore seems to hint that all player-characters of the series were foretold by the titular scrolls.
    • Actually the Queen of Rihad mentioned using an Elder Scroll to locate where the first major dungeon is. Though it's mentioned so offhandedly that it's easy to miss.
  • Scenery Porn: It looks rather crude by today's standards, but back in 1994, it was clear why the name Tamriel means "Dawn's Beauty" in Elvish.
  • Sequel Hook: What's up with this Underking we keep hearing about?
  • The Emperor: A benevolent one! Of course, he's not around for most of the game. Most of Tamriel's other emperors have played the trope more straight by necessity, due to the Deadly Decadent Court.
  • Treacherous Advisor: Jagar Tharn.
  • What Happened to the Mouse?: Arena sets the Staff of Chaos up to be the Cosmic Keystone of Tamriel... and the sequels never mention it again. According to the UESPWiki, it was kept hidden somewhere in White Gold Tower (that huge tower in the middle of Imperial City in Oblivion).note  Dialog in Arena says the staff is destroyed when the Emperor is freed, though this may have been retconned.
    • Same with General Warhaft, the Emperor's chief military adviser. After this game, the only mention made of him is that he's written two really boring and useless books.
  • Wide Open Sandbox: A wide, wide, wide open sandbox.

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alternative title(s): The Elder Scrolls One Arena; The Elder Scrolls Arena; The Elder Scrolls I Arena; The Elder Scrolls I
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