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Video Game / Arena.Xlsm

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Arena.XIsm is a freeware RPG, made by Cary Walkin in 2013 in Microsoft Excel.

In it, the player character rebelled against the all-powerful Emperor of his land, and was thrown into the titular Arena as a gladiator. He also left a wife, Kylem, and a son named Jake behind, and receives notes from Kylem at the end of every level, which fill you in on the situation at home, alongside providing hints about the enemies you'll face in the next level.

On the whole, it contains 2000 enemies, while the storyline features multiple endings. The game is available on PC versions of Excel 2007, 2010 and 2013, and can be downloaded here.

Arena.XIsm provides examples of the following tropes:

  • Action Bomb: Kamikaze Zombie and later, the Suicide Minion enemy.
  • Airborne Mook: Bees, Wasps, Hornets, Bats, Vultures, Gargoyles and more. They’re all united by being Immune to Ranged Attacks, apparently due to being able to dodge them mid-flight. This is a considerable problem, since it forces you to wait for them to come to you, even as some of them may still be able to shoot you at the same time as moving towards you. Thankfully, their immunity goes away if you manage to get them exhausted. (Though Hard Mode lets them keep their immunity).
  • The Armies of Heaven: "Summon Angelic Horde" spell lets you deploy one in order to instantly kill your enemy. Sounds cool, except that it takes 30 blood to unlock and 10 blood to use (why angels don't mind blood magic being used on their behalf is another question), which is a truly immense amount, and will require you to make do without many of the lesser spells that would have likely proved lifesaving otherwise. Moreover, the target might just be Immune to Spells anyway.
  • Arrows on Fire: FIRE ARROWS is one of the two potential rewards given for defeating the Dragon boss at level 10. It is also by far the more useful one - not only because it's ranged, but also because its shots set fire to whichever square they land in. Thus, even if your enemy is currently out of range, you can still create a flame trap right ahead of them.
    • This property is devastatingly effective when combined with the stamina drain spell, since you can just get your enemy too tired to move, and stuck in the burning square until they expire.
  • Attack Reflector: There are enemies who can reflect spells back at you.
  • Back from the Dead: The "Reincarnation" spell, which can only be unlocked after getting Minor Heal and Full Heal. You literally cannot die for the 10 turns it lasts. (Whereas "Immunity" lasts for 6, though it is arguably more useful, since Reincarnation has to be deployed while near death to get the full effect from it.)
  • Badass Boast: The Emperor gets one at the start of level 16, immediately after a Big "NO!" when you defeated his previous best bet at stopping you:
    The Emperor: Ha ha ha! You see, your efforts at survival are futile. I have made a deal with a being even more powerful than I. My power will turn your bones to ashes!
    • Another one occurs five levels later:
    The Ultimate Evil: Ha ha ha! Thank you, <player_name> for killing The Emperor! You've released me from my prison and unleashed me upon the world. Lay down your weapons and I will grant you the mercy of a quick death! My power is so immense that the very Earth quakes and the skies rain fire!
  • Beast of Battle: For the first 10 levels, most of the creatures attacking you are real-world animals. From rats, chipmunks and hares at the start, to Rhinos and Elephants a bit later on.
  • Big Bad: The Emperor, who imprisoned you in the Arena, because you rebelled against his rule, while your family suffers the effects of his despotism.
  • Blood Magic: All of the spells are cast with the blood gathered from the fallen enemies.
  • Bottomless Pits: These appear after either you or an enemy passes over cracked ground. Moving into these is an One-Hit Kill for either you or the non-flying enemies, though the latter will avoid it. Still, it is possible to trap an enemy on the cracked square for a turn, at which point it'll collapse and kill them.
  • Climax Boss: The Emperor, who is the entire reason you were imprisoned in this arena, and the ultimate reason for your, and your family's, suffering. However, he's not the final boss, as his death frees The Ultimate Evil he kept contained.
  • The Corruption: Literal Evil, encountered after The Emperor dies and this frees The Ultimate Evil. Most of the enemies encountered after this are the much stronger "Evil" versions of the earlier enemies.
  • Critical Hit: Present, and their frequency is dependent on the luck attribute.
  • Damage Over Time: Inflicted by both fire (mainly on your side) and poison (on the enemies' side).
  • Deal with the Devil: The Emperor does the deal with The Ultimate Evil to obtain The Demonic Arts and begin summoning demons to stop you, after his earlier efforts to stop you with necromancy had failed. It doesn't work too well.
  • Death of a Child: Jake, the player's 8 year old son back home, is executed by being set on fire.
  • Dem Bones: Skeleton Warrior. Just a boring level 10-12 melee-only enemy, although it does deal doubled melee damage. The Skeleton Archer is far more powerful with 345 health, range 5 and the vulnerability to melee attacks. The Skeleton Mages are not only tougher still, but are also Immune to Ranged Attacks and Immune to Magic, essentially forcing you to close in for melee range, while it still gets to shoot you for a few turns.
  • Driven to Suicide: This happens to Kylem in one of the endings, as she is driven to despair with grief for Jake and disgust with herself for avenging him in kind.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Getting the best ending for Kylem, where she doesn't die either from The Emperor or by her own hand, requires you to avoid spending any stat points by level 19. Getting a good epilogue where you do not remain trapped in the arena, requires getting The Map drop from Swiper boss, and then using it to find a Secret Arena, which becomes your means to escape after defeating The Ultimate Evil.
  • Easter Egg: Literally; defeating a Bunny (which only show up in the first few levels) has a rare chance to drop Striped Easter Egg, which deals 20 damage and so is quite powerful for the early game. It also has the really useful Exhaust + 1 effect.
  • Elite Mooks: Demonic Temptress is essentially the elite version of a Succubus, having the same attacks and attributes but being a lot stronger. Likewise, Wraith is an elite version of a Spooky Ghost.
  • Energy Ball: The Hadouken spell, which does base 250 damage. Pretty good for a basic attack spell, but you'll be getting enemies with 1000+ HP not long after unlocking it, while the end-game bosses have 4000+.
  • Extended Gameplay: The last 10 levels are essentially this. You have defeated the Emperor, and received the last Kylem letter, wrapping up the development of the proper storyline. The Ultimate Evil is just an excuse to have you fight some more, and most of the enemies by that point are just harder versions of what you had already fought.
  • Fallen Angel: One of the enemy types encountered once the demons start appearing. They have decent strength, but are Vulnerable to Magic.
  • Good Old Fisticuffs: Alec Trevelyan fights with his bare hands in melee. Being a boss, he still does great damage with them.
  • Guide Dang It!: Good luck figuring out on your own that Kylem's endings depend on your primary stat by the time you reach level 20. Presumably, since they affect your moniker and thus your reputation in the "normal" world, her behavior is also influenced by that. Have even better luck figuring out how to obtain the secret ending.
  • Guns Are Useless: It’s possible to get a Rfile of Experience early on which does 20 damage; same as a rock. Latter-game firearms are more useful, but not overwhelmingly so when compared to other ranged weapons.
  • Heavily Armored Mook: Armored Rhino and Armored Elephant are literally armored variants of the "normal" enemy of their type. There are also enemies that were always armored, like Dark Knight.
  • Invisibility with Drawbacks: A spell you can get for 10 blood after unlocking Shield earlier. Costs 2 blood to use, lasts for 6 turns, but attacking while it lasts has a chance of breaking its effects and making you visible again.
  • Irony: Veterinary items all deal extra damage to enemies with Claw attack, which means practically all the non-herbivore animals.
    • There's also a Gameplay and Story Integration-related irony near the end; maxing out your luck by level 19 (i.e. not spending points on anything else) results in an ending where your loyal wife, Kylem, who has been delivering you letters of support all along, gets handed over to the Emperor by her own mother.
  • Katanas Are Just Better: Katana of Draining is a notable example, as it deals a whole 45 damage and inflicts a really useful Exhaustion effect.
  • Killer Bunny: The Evil Bunny, which can randomly replace a "normal" enemy on any of the last 10 levels. Its stats and abilities are randomized, so there's no readily available strategy against it.
  • Kill Sat: Alec Trevelyan has a GoldenEye satellite, which will finish its targeting and kill you in 9 turns from the start of his boss battle.
  • Kiss of Death: The Succubi "attack" in melee with a "Tainted Kiss".
  • Life Drain: The Leech effect. It is used by a few enemies, most notably Vampires and Necromancers. Weapons marked with this effect will heal you with every attack.
  • Man Bites Man: Some humanoids, like vampires have a bite attack.
  • Mind over Matter: There's a Telekinesis spell, though it's not very useful.
  • Multiple Endings: First, there are 4 endings to the story of Kylem, which ends with her final letter at level 20 the letter's contents are determined by which stats you levelled up during the game, and 2 to your own once the full game ends at level 30:
    • Kylem is handed over to The Emperor by her own mother, Eve, after she's become ruined by Kylem's efforts to smuggle letters to the player, and the quest to avenge Jake. Eve sends you the last letter herself, saying she plans to start a new life in the South, and wishing you luck. This ending occurs if your Defence or Luck is maxed out by level 19.
    • Kylem leaves the city and goes to the North, in order to raise the army that would free you from the Arena. This ending occurs if you have not spent any skill points by level 19.
    • Kylem commits suicide, consumed with grief for Jake and unable to tolerate herself after she avenged him in kind. This ending occurs if you have invested into several stats without maxing one out, which probably makes it the most common ending.
    • Kylem flees the city alongside everyone else who can, as the demons summoned by The Emperor have overwhelmed his police, and are killing everyone they can find. This ending occurs if your Attack or Accuracy is maxed out by level 19.
    • You defeat The Ultimate Evil, but remain trapped in The Arena.
    • You defeat The Ultimate Evil, and go to the secret area you found earlier. Afterwards, you intend to search for the survivors...if there are any.
  • Mummy: Here, they appear at levels 10-15. They have respectable stats with 300+ HP, but they are both Flammable and Vulnerable to Ranged, and they don’t even have a ranged attack of their own.
  • Necromancer: One of the enemies encountered at levels 10-15, when The Emperor gives up on the living beasts and begins sending out various undead. Its most notable skills are Life Leech, and a Chance to Poison.
  • "Not So Different" Remark: In one of the Kylem's endings, she realizes that by burning The Man with a Bucket to death in revenge for him executing Jake in this manner, she's become no different from him, and chooses to kill herself.
  • One-Hit Kill: The "Summon Angelic Horde" spell. Of course, the enemy might still be Immune to Spells in the first place...
  • Our Ghouls Are Different: The Ghoul here is a powerful melee-only enemy, with 476 health, Brawler trait and Chance to Wound, but also has a weakness to ranged attacks.
  • Our Ghosts Are Different: The Spooky Ghosts are already quite powerful with health at around 350 both melee and ranged attacks and the chance to teleport randomly. Wraiths are practically boss-level, however, at 476 health and 77/59 damage, with those same abilities.
  • Our Trolls Are Different: Here, these are the literal internet trolls. Their abilities are "Angry", "Offensive" and "Attention-Starved", melee is "Schadenfreude", while "Insults" are their ranged attack.
  • Our Vampires Are Different: They are all flaming corpses and they have the Life Leech ability. Thankfully, they’re also melee-only.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: Here, they can charge, but they’re also Weak, as well as flammable, receiving far more damage from fire tiles and flaming arrows. An elite version, Cursed Zombie, lack Weak, and possesses Chance to Wound.
  • Our Zombies Are Different: The Zombies in this game appear at levels 10-15. They have about 120 health, and possess charge. However, they’re also both Weak and Flammable, so the best way to kill them is actually to let them get close and walk into lots of fires in process, and then shoot them with fire arrows up close.
  • Parental Betrayal: In one of the endings, your wife, Kylem is handed over to The Emperor by her own mother, Eve, who notifies you of this in the last letter you receive. In her own words: "I have given everything and received nothing in return. I can't go through life with nothing. I took The Emperor up on his offer and handed Kylem over to him for a large reward. I don't know what he plans to do, but frankly I don't care. I now plan to take my earnings, leave the city and head South to start a new life. Good luck"
  • Playing with Fire: The Fire Bolt, Fire Ball and Inferno spells. The latter two are direct evolutions of Fire Bolt, costing blood to unlock and use, and gaining AoE. Fire Bolt itself, however, is unlocked by default when you get the spellbook, and also doesn't require any blood to use, instead only being limited by its 3-turn cooldown. However, it is also correspondingly weak, and the fire cell it creates just goes away once the enemy passes through it.
    • That is, unless the enemy lost all its energy and can no longer move, becoming stuck in the burning cell and receiving its damage every turn. You can help that happen by casting Encumber (-10 energy/turn), or going straight for Sap Energy (-100% energy a turn) Doing the latter right as an enemy appears then setting their cell on fire can successfully leave them to burn to death while being out of range to even shoot at you. Just beware of enemies that are Immune to Spells, for whom this wouldn't work.
  • Plot Parallel: One of Kylem's letters, sent after Jake is burnt alive, recounts the depressing story of "The Helpless Horse", which is meant to be a clear parallel to your shared situation.
  • Random Transportation: Spooky Ghosts and Wraiths will randomly teleport around the Arena.
  • Sanity Slippage: This happens to Kylem after your child is executed by being burned alive. She blames you for it in a subsequent letter, though eventually relents, and focuses on revenge instead. However, killing the executioner not make it better for her. In one of the endings, Kylem ends up committing suicide, her final letter stating "I cannot live with myself. I am disgusted every time I look in the mirror. I have become that which I hated. I am The Man With The Bucket. I killed Jake".
  • Sealed Evil in a Can: The Ultimate Evil, which was kept sealed for as long as The Emperor lived.
  • Shout-Out: Enraged status effect replaces your regular attack messages with <Player_name> SMASH!
    • The basic magic attack spell is Hadouken.
    • Wight Walker enemies, which are Flammable. However, they are also Flaming Corpses as well.
    • Level 25 boss is Alex Trevelyan.
    • One minor boss is Swiper. Though, he might drop The Map, which is necessary to get the good epilogue.
  • Shock and Awe: The Lighting Strike spell, which can be unlocked for 30 blood and cast for 3, after getting Hadouken and Arcane Torrent earlier. It is the most powerful direct damage spell, dealing 1750 at first, and which can go up to 25,000 (more than any creature's HP in the game) if you've cast Enrage on yourself and maxed out Magic Mastery. Just don't try it on the enemies Immune to Spell, or those who reflect even a fraction of the damage back at you.
    • Interestingly, the Thunder Storm spell is NOT an example of the trope. Instead, it simply extinguishes fire in a 5 x 5 area. Useful if you've had an Explosive Corpse detonate nearby, or were earlier cornered by an enemy with a fire trail. Otherwise, it's actively counterproductive, since the fire tiles are far more likely to damage your enemies than yourself.
  • Shovel Strike: Several versions of a shovel are available as melee weapons.
  • Superhero Sobriquets: You are awarded these depending on your level and your primary stat, from level 5 onwards. Even choosing not to level up any stat gives you a particular sobriquet, depending on the level. Kylem mentions your first sobriquet in her fifth letter. This is the only hint you'll get that your primary stat will influence her ending.
  • Teleport Spam: There's a Teleport spell, though it is obviously not powerful enough to teleport you out of the Arena. Not unless you manage to find The Map, which gives you the particular cell number you need to teleport to, in order to find the Secret Arena. Still, it can buy you time against more powerful enemies.
  • Tomato in the Mirror: After Kylem avenges Jake's death by killing his executioner, she says that the demons terrorize other people, but never bother her, as if they know she's now one of them. In one of the endings, she commits suicide, literally writing that she cannot bear to look at herself in the mirror, and that she's become what she hated.
  • True Final Boss: defeating the Emperor at level 20 ends up releasing the Ancient Evil he kept contained, which becomes the true final boss 10 levels later.
  • Universal Poison: Tarantulas, Diseased Vultures, Scorpions, King Cobras and other enemies like that all inflict poisoning that works in the same manner. Weirdly, regular Spiders, and even the Black Widow Spiders, will not inflict any poison. Anacondas, on the other hand, can inflict it quite easily, and same goes for a few enemies not traditionally associated with poison, like Necromancers.
  • Violation of Common Sense: Heavy Rock for Veteninary item has a greater range (6) then items like FIRE ARROWS or even Crossbow of Draining.
    • Imp Devil, which leaves a fire trail behind itself, is NOT immune to fire damage.
    • Wight Walkers are both Flammable AND Flaming Corpses.
    • Elephants do not have Charge trait (unlike, say, rhinos), and only have 128 health. That’s the same as a Scorpion!
  • Was It Really Worth It?: One of Kylem's letters literally asks you if rebelling in the first place was worth it, pointing out just how much the things have gone wrong since you rebelled against The Emperor and were thrown in the Arena. Though, she apologizes for it in the next letter. Given that the endings imply hardly any human survived what first The Emperor and then The Ultimate Evil unleashed in a bid to stop you, she may have been right the first time.
  • Weak to Magic: The Fallen Angel enemies.