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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 Note the realistic details, such as clothes hanging on the line. I wonder if they copied it from Shanghai
The Elder Scrolls: Arena DOS Items with unknown magical properties are highlighted in blue in the player's inventory. They can be identified later in a Mages' Guild.
The Elder Scrolls: Arena DOS Priests in temples can heal or cure the player. You can also make a donation and receive the temple's blessings.
The Elder Scrolls: Arena DOS Chatting with the Queen of Rihad. She will tell me the location of one of the staff pieces if I do some work for her. Or so she says, at least

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 (181722) 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

PC Gamer May, 1994 88 out of 100 88
ASM (Aktueller Software Markt) May, 1994 10 out of 12 83
Oldies Rising Aug 29, 2011 16 out of 20 80
RPGFan Apr 15, 2006 80 out of 100 80
Abandonia Reloaded Apr 04, 2005 3.8 out of 5 76
The DOS Spirit Jul 19, 2011 4.5 out of 6 75
Gameplay (Benelux) Jun, 1994 72 out of 100 72
PC Joker Apr, 1994 63 out of 100 63
Legendra Jun 29, 2010 3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars3 Stars 60 Mar 27, 2006 10 out of 20 50


Topic # Posts Last Post
Skill system in Arena? 3 MrFlibble (12351)
Jul 21, 2013
Release date on main summary 2 Patrick Bregger (217445)
Jul 29, 2012
Term of development. 6 St. Martyne (3655)
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.


  • 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