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The Elder Scrolls: Arena is a first-person action role-playing game in which the protagonist must rescue the Emperor Uriel Septim VII from his dimensional prison by recovering the eight pieces of the Staff of Chaos. The emperor's position has been usurped by impersonator Jagar Tharn, whose slain apprentice rallies the protagonist in his dreams to find the eight pieces of the staff and return the status quo.

It is the first chapter in the Elder Scrolls series and the first game that is set in the fictional world of Tamriel. The game features 3D environments, with sprites representing non-playable characters and enemies. In the beginning of the game the player chooses the race for the protagonist, based on his or her home province. Each race has its benefits: for example, Redguards from the province Hammerfell have physical attack bonuses. There is no skill system; leveling up occurs after a sufficient amount of experience points has been accumulated. The player is free to raise any of the protagonist's main attributes by allocating the points gained with the level.

Unlike later games in the series the player can travel through almost all of Tamriel, instead of being restricted to certain provinces. There are over 400 cities, towns and villages to explore, as well as many magical items and spells to create. The player can walk endlessly in any direction as more and more land will be procedurally generated. Walking manually however never allows the player to reach other cities; the fast travel feature must be used for this. The player is free to go where he or she wants. The story itself is resolved in a linear fashion, although the locations of items is randomly determined at the start of the game.

Melee combat is performed through mouse gestures and spells are cast using a menu interface. The player controls only a single character, which happens in real-time. In the wild and in dungeons the player can expect opposition from enemies which need to be defeated and who drop loot. In the cities NPCs can be found, some will barter or provide other services to the player.

The CD-ROM release features speech in cutscenes and additional rendered sequences that the floppy version does not include.


The Elder Scrolls: Arena DOS Summurset Isle offers quite spectacular outdoor views. This inn is located at the  picturesque lakeside.
The Elder Scrolls: Arena DOS Each province has its own map with places of interest
The Elder Scrolls: Arena DOS Dungeons have convenient maps that fill out as you explore them. So much better than the 3D nightmares of Daggerfall
The Elder Scrolls: Arena DOS Stonekeep is an ominous place. This adventurer was less lucky than I'm going to be...

Promo Images

The Elder Scrolls: Arena Screenshot
The Elder Scrolls: Arena Screenshot
The Elder Scrolls: Arena Screenshot
The Elder Scrolls: Arena Screenshot

Alternate Titles

  • "The Elder Scrolls Chapter One: Arena" -- Full informal name
  • "Arena" -- Informal name

Part of the Following Groups

User Reviews

Size matters Unicorn Lynx (181442) 4.25 Stars4.25 Stars4.25 Stars4.25 Stars4.25 Stars
The exotic world of damp and cold weather Alex Man (32) unrated
Beautiful world. Now for a story to go with it. anton treuenfels (37) 3.75 Stars3.75 Stars3.75 Stars3.75 Stars3.75 Stars
Hands down best CRPG even released, bar none! Paul Kostrzewa (15) 4.75 Stars4.75 Stars4.75 Stars4.75 Stars4.75 Stars
Under a rough surface lies an epic adventure MaiZure (126) 4.25 Stars4.25 Stars4.25 Stars4.25 Stars4.25 Stars
Simpily one of the best games ever. Blackhandjr (104) 4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars4.5 Stars
Made to look foolish by Morrowind, unfortunately. Neon Hammerite (44) 2.25 Stars2.25 Stars2.25 Stars2.25 Stars2.25 Stars

Critic Reviews

Computer and Video Games (CVG) Jun, 1994 90 out of 100 90
PC Gamer May, 1994 88 out of 100 88
Score May, 1994 86 out of 100 86
Oldies Rising Aug 29, 2011 16 out of 20 80
The Retro Spirit Jul 19, 2011 4.5 out of 6 75
Power Play Mar, 1994 70 out of 100 70
Retro Archives Jan 25, 2019 13 out of 20 65
PC Joker Apr, 1994 63 out of 100 63
Legendra Jun 29, 2010 3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars 60
JeuxVideoPC.com Mar 27, 2006 10 out of 20 50


Topic # Posts Last Post
Skill system in Arena? 3 MrFlibble (17087)
Jul 21, 2013
Release date on main summary 2 Patrick Bregger (271534)
Jul 29, 2012
Term of development. 6 St. Martyne (3649)
Nov 01, 2007



Arena was at first, not going to be a RPG, but instead a gladiator style game. Someone came up with the RPG idea, and it caught.

Freeware release

To coincide with the 10th anniversary of the Elder Scrolls series in 2004, Bethesda Softworks released the first game, Arena, as freeware. It can be downloaded from the Elder Scrolls website


The Elder Scrolls: Arena was primarily inspired by a collection of pen and paper RPGs, the Ultima Underworld series, and the first-person RPG Legends of Valour.


A German version of the game was announced and the box distributed in Germany even included a sticker and post card offering to exchange the game for the German version once available. However no localized versions were ever released. One reason may have been that the game's program code is using fixed text lengths, making it very difficult to find equal length translations for other languages.


  • Computer Gaming World
    • May 1995 (Issue #130) – Role-Playing Game of the Year
Information also contributed by Agent 5 and Isak

Related Web Sites

  • Official Elder Scrolls Website (Bethesda Softworks official site for the Elder Scrolls series.)
  • Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages! (A wiki page that is dedicated to the Elder Scrolls series. It a great source for hints and backround information concerning the Elder Scrolls saga. Just about everything can be found here.)
faceless (445) added The Elder Scrolls: Arena (DOS) on Jan 27, 2000
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