I’m finally out of the Imperial Dungeons. Aizen’s gained a couple more levels now. He’s a real pro at slaying rats and goblins.
There were apparently a lot of rats and goblins that needed slaying. It was pretty tense at first, but the game putters along at a mind-bogglingly slow pace, and the hit boxes on most enemies seem to be fairly wide. Combat is nonetheless fun. The slow movement through environments and somewhat counter-intuitive control scheme are detriments, but I really do enjoy swinging my mouse to swipe at enemies with my sword. Enemies won’t cross canals of water, so it was also fun to blast rats and goblins across the way with a low-level fire spell that nonetheless detonates a massive pyrotechnic display that lights up the entire room.
It’s almost funny that melee combat is so responsive, because almost everything else is not. Whereas hit boxes on enemies are rather wide, it can be difficult to figure out where and how exactly to click to look through a pile of loot. Even using magic, while effective and pretty, can be frustratingly slow. And I’ve clicked on my map icon probably ten times more than it’s actually opened.
The combination of unresponsive controls and fuzzy graphics means it’s difficult to tell sometimes what’s interactive. I’ve clicked around half a dozen times at different sections of wall and space, trying to get a secret door to open (indicated, conveniently enough, in red on the map), only to have it rumble open without any obvious input. And I’ll never know whether the below pile of sacks around a barrel contained any useful goodies or not:
After much wandering and looting and general frustration with the controls offset by amusing yet brief fights, I encountered a very special rat that managed to give me a disease before it died. Stomach Rot. I was familiar with diseases in later Elder Scrolls games, but I was nervous about what a disease meant in the thoroughly strange Arena. The manual informed me that a disease could lower stats over time until death. Without any Cure Disease potions, I frantically searched the Internet for further details about what Stomach Rot did to a fellow. But no luck.
Apparently there was no need to worry, though. I didn’t look everywhere in the dungeons, but I explored quite a bit, monitoring my character sheet and health and fatigue bars. Health and fatigue seemed to tick down a little bit over hours of game time, but I was determined not to sleep any further and risk a worsening illness, and the problem never manifested into a larger issue (this time).
Eventually, having exhausted most obvious areas to explore, as well as a few more hidden areas, I finally made for the Shift Gate, a magic teleportation device that Ria Silmane had told me would get me out of the dungeons, which I’d found easily enough about midway through my dungeon crawling.
And I faced my greatest challenge yet. The game had a simple form of rudimentary copy protection, in which you had to enter the magic cost of a randomly decided basic spell to access the Shift Gate and leave the dungeon. Those costs could be found in the manual, so if you hadn’t purchased the game first-hand you were probably out of luck. I had the manual and the setup PDF for the official free digital version of Arena. However, I couldn’t seem to get any of the values I tried to enter to work. Nothing would appear. I once more took to frantic searches online, this time with even less luck. People did not know where to find the codes, but no one seemed to have a problem entering the answers once they were found. The solution, when it eventually came to me after maybe five game-crashing failed attempts (the worst being the unexpected first, which cost me maybe fifteen minutes of unsaved game time), was that my keyboard’s number pad for some reason would not input any values into the prompt; simply typing from the row of numbers at the top worked. Yes, NumLock was on. Yes, my number pad works elsewhere. I don’t know why it wouldn’t work there, but it didn’t, and it took me a stupidly long time to figure that out and try something different.
Well, once I figured out how to enter the numbers, getting out was easy, and I was warped to a random Dunmer city.
The city proved to be more mystifying than the dungeon. It didn’t look like much of a city. The entrance was lined with terraced stone walls. The buildings were few and far between, and most of them were low to the ground, stocky brick structures. There were hedges (or corn rows?) that randomly lined sections of road, other areas were suddenly open, and still other areas twisted confusingly back and forth around some oddly shaped, low-slung buildings. There was a park in the middle of the city that I initially feared was a wood outside of the city–a fear that might sound silly, but visibility was so low with the constant thick gray fog, so I really could not see what lay ahead.
My fellow Dunmer, in this Dark Elf town, had a strange habit of remarking on the fact that Aizen was a Dunmer. They also had a lot of redundant job functions. I met two tax collectors. And I met two joiners, who both informed me that wood rot was everywhere! People I talked to seemed to like to toy with me, or else they really didn’t know their town very well; directions were horribly vague, often amounting to some variant of, “Walk East and ask someone else.” Since I had a nebulously defined disease, my first priority was finding the local Mages Guild to get a healing potion. After a lot of wandering, and a lot of stops to ask for directions, I found it.
In I went, encountering some descriptive text, and after orienting myself in the place, I crossed to the nearest (and only?) mage around to purchase a Cure Disease potion. Downing the beverage, I was finally healed of the status effect and set out to find an inn to rest. I found a suitable place nearby, which actually became the first location marked on my map; I was close enough that a kind resident did me the courtesy of clearly showing where I had to go. I went inside, paid for a place to sleep, and then…set up camp in the common area, unable to figure out where I had to go to sleep. Apparently that’s what your supposed to do, and I woke up fully refreshed in a private room. Stepping back outside (to save, since you can’t save indoors), I prepared for my next bit of wandering, which would hopefully end at an equipment shop to sell my heaps of accumulated dungeon trinkets and to maybe buy some cool new stuff.
That equipment trading will have to wait for next time, though.