Arena, Part III: Late-Night Mugging!

My last post ended with a plan to visit an equipment store. That was my first objective this time around. I set off looking for a bargain equipment store, but following the somewhat generic directions provided in response to my inquiries with the townsfolk actually led me to the Adventurer’s Equipment Store.

I was shocked to find that the blacksmith/store owner/sole salesperson in the store was a muscular giant–and I mean, he was literally a giant…a_061

 

 

He towered over me. And here’s the thing. You can sometimes change your elevation in the game–say, by jumping, or by stepping up onto a table or ledge. But you cannot change the angle of perception. Something low to the ground will be imperceptible to you if you are too close to it. And someone who towers over you–their head’s getting lost in the clouds. This resulted in conversations with this demigod of a man, including attempts to barter, where I stared straight at his hard abs, right above his crotch, as he hammered steadily at the molten blade in his hand. Like so:

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I think all the blacksmiths have this model, too.

Anyway, the bartering system was easy enough to figure out. You can counter the merchant’s requested prices, and then you type in a different number. The goal is to request a price that he will either instantly agree to (suggesting you actually probably bid too low) or that he will counter. Go too high to sell or too low to buy and he’ll reject the offer entirely. In my experience, it seemed easy enough to inch down by 1 gold at a time as he more quickly jumped his offers up to match mine. I doubt I’ve found the sweet spot or optimized the system, but it’s actually a fairly immersive element to the game–something I enjoy up there with physically swinging my weapon.

I sold off all my loot from the dungeon, accumulating a decent amount of gold. I also bought a full leather armor outfit–prompting another all-too-frequent bout of web searching as my armor modifiers went down (bottom line is, it’s a good thing, and you want lower or negative numbers to make it more difficult to be hit and damaged–AD&D THAC0 nonsense that I have always had a tough time wrapping my head around).

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Aizen is so cool now.

I also gave this fine fellow, who goes by the name Shurseth T’rizon just so you know, the saber I’d been using since I’d found it in the dungeon. This wasn’t a sale, but a repair request. Interestingly, in Arena, repairs are not instantaneous. He promised me that my saber would be fully repaired in nine days. I dutifully noted that this would mean an appointment with him on 5th Hearthfire 3E 389, my first effort to actually note a date.

At this point, I opened a Word document to start taking notes. I soon after also figured out how to enter text on my local map, so I could actually find the place again, as names only get automatically marked on your map when a villager notes it for you. I was beginning to be amazed by the odd bits of hardcore roleplaying immersion the game had, even though it (thankfully) had no requirement to eat or drink.

I returned to the city streets with only a dagger tucked at my side. Since I had time to kill and didn’t want to buy another weapon or risk dungeon-delving with a dagger, I decided I’d stroll about town and get to know it better. This started out well, and at some point the heavy fog (or was it ash and smoke?) rolled away and I could see crisp shapes and bright colors. In the distance, a massive volcano fumed and belched red lava; I was sure that this had to be Red Mountain (from Morrowind).

I had read, perhaps weeks ago, that towns became like dungeons at night, with the potential to run into monsters or dangerous humans. I did not recall this tidbit on my evening stroll, though. I just enjoyed the walk, loving the vivid colors against the crisp black of the deepening night sky.

I wandered into a hedge maze, coming across a sprawling manor of sorts at the center. Seeing as how it was late, and I didn’t know what the building was for or who might live there, I didn’t dare enter (I was actually pretty invested in roleplaying at this point). I observed a pleasant little fountain flow for a bit, and then I made my way out of the hedge maze. I turned down an arbitrary direction up the street, thinking I’d find my way to an inn, when I heard an all-too-familiar FWOOM. I had enough time to think, “Is that a fire spell?” when BAM, at least a third of my health disappeared.

I attempted to pivot around in a hurried panic. Of course, even the quickest of spins in Arena is a painfully slow chug-chug-chug, though, and the tension mounted. Finally, I had completed my turn and faced this guy:

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No big deal, I thought! The observant among you might have noticed that my health bar was lower in the above image than I had claimed, though. And that is because this picture was taken a few moments later…

I charged at the mugger, pulling my dagger, and swung at him. One hit, a spurt of blood, and…my dagger broke. The guy was still standing, and he took a couple swipes with his own blade, nearly killing me! I really panicked at this point, trying to spin around as fast as I could, thinking, “Fuck fuck fuck, this guy’s going to kill me! And I have no idea when I last saved!” The stakes were resultantly as high as they could be in a typical video game situation.

I finally got turned back around and took off! But because this is Arena, I moved forward at a snail’s crawl of a run. I only had a couple points of hope: the enemy behind me would move just as slowly, and the lack of further fwoosh or fwoom noises suggested to me that the guy had either depleted his magic or used a one-off scroll in his first attack. I dashed around corners, cut across streets, and swung close to buildings, looking for any safe harbor. Finally, a door ahead, with a sign indicating an inn!

I rushed up to it, clicking desperately, and…at first, nothing happened! See, Arena responds pretty well to keystrokes, but it can be frustrating to get the game to recognize mouse clicks, and it seems that targeting doors properly is especially difficult. So here I was, pressing down as hard as I could on the up arrow to get as close to the door as I could, character pressed right against the wood, slowly inching sideways against it, as I swung my cursor all over that damned portal with a flurry of clicks, desperate for entry into a safe space, and nothing was happening. I knew the guy had to be close…I knew he had to be right behind me…

The screen went black. It was loading.

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I popped into the inn. I’d made it! I’d escaped that asshole! And I’d escaped him by making it to an inn, of all places, where I could rest and recover.

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I bought a room for a couple of days, so I’d have plenty of time to rest up and heal, and I spent a little time talking to the locals in the common area. They were altogether not fond of me, though.a_070.png

 

 

 

 

 

I slept well, woke up fully healed and refreshed, and set out from the inn to do a little more exploring in the safety of morning (and to save).

I had a little fun chatting with some of the townsfolk, but most of them had little valuable information to offer. I eventually encountered a mason, whose name I did not record and do not now remember, who provided a lot of quite valuable information.

a_072a_073a_074 The first bit of dialogue shown is a general rumor that alerted me to a local festival, and a good one to know as Aizen is a Nightblade. The second was a work rumor, offering up the possibility for my first quest. And the third was in response to my inquiry about Fang Lair, the place Ria Silmane wanted me to track down to start getting pieces of the staff to defeat the Imperial impostor. I was pretty grateful for the friendly exchange.

I set off for the inn, meeting a couple of weirdos along the way:

At the Devil’s Locker, I found another crowd who wasn’t very interested in me. One did suggest that the bartender would be friendly to me, so long as I tipped. Taking the advice, I went up to talk to the bartender, where a text prompt explained to me that Golgth approached me and asked me to escort his aunt to the Bargain Equipment Store. He said he’d hired a couple of guards for her, but they’d turned up dead. I was nervous about accepting, given that my only weapon was broken, but I felt that we could run from danger if needed, and I hoped I’d be safe in broad daylight on main streets with a lot of people about.

The journey was safe and uneventful. It was easy enough to find the bargain store, which was actually close to the Adventurer’s Equipment Store. On my way, I did find some more beautiful architecture, for some sort of temple that was pretty to look at but of minimal interest to me (I did dart briefly inside). a_077.png

I thought that the way the game handled escort quests was interesting. They’re still escort quests, but it was almost like hauling inventory. The escorted individual becomes an icon in the upper left corner (observable in the image to the left), and you get an entry in your logbook. So long as you make timely delivery, you accomplish the quest and receive your reward. So it basically becomes more of a courier quest. Given that dragging along an NPC, worrying about pathfinding and dumb AI, sounded highly unappealing, I was relieved by this system. And it must be easy for the game to keep generating new random quests when the quest system is this basic. I could see this getting annoying after the 3rd or 5th or 10th time, but at least for this 1st time it was fun and a decent way of learning more about the city I’d temporarily taken up residence in.

That ends yet another short saga spun into a long story. The short version: I’m still playing Arena, and it’s still fun. I hope that will always be an accurate short version of events so long as I play this game.

To close, though, I just wanted to show off the world map, with a focus on the region of Morrowind. It’s interesting to see how much the game world has changed and how much has stayed the same.

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None of the Vvardenfell settlements look familiar. Maybe I’ll eventually set out that way, before continuing on the main quest in search of Fang Lair…But before I do any serious questing, I need to get that saber repaired and back in my possession!

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