Escape From Prison is the first main quest of The Elder Scrolls: Arena. Despite it being such, it is an immensely difficult test of time and skill for a new player. This level, indirectly, introduces some of the game's mechanics.
Ria Silmane, once Tharn's apprentice, is captured before she can warn the Elder Council of the Imperial Battle Mage's treachery. Manipulating the essence of magic, Tharn prepares to take the true Emperor's place as ruler of the known land.
The Imperial Wizard wastes no time gathering his servants, and turning them into twisted counterparts of the Emperor's Guard.... —Arena's introduction
- Receive Ria Silmane's dream bridge.
- Escape the cell, explore and loot the prisons.
- Level up at some point in the process.
- Find the Shift Gate, and escape.
- After escaping (and leveling up), sleep to receive Ria's next dream bridge.
Arena's character creation system was the first known instance of character creation within the series, and is somewhat simple, in comparison to The Elder Scrolls II: Daggerfall. After picking a name, the Champion is given the choice to answer ten questions regarding their moral and ethical reactions and decisions to different situations to automatically generate a character, or can select it from a list. Then, they are sent to the character sheet, where they must distribute a randomized set of points to their main attributes (which maximizes at fifteen), and are also given a random amount of gold that maximizes at two-hundred, and minimizes at eighty.
After everything has been distributed, the Champion must choose their appearance, which varies due to their selection of race and class for their character. After which, the player enters "The Arena", and is greeted by the ghost of the murdered Ria Silmane.
The quest first starts with Ria using a dream bridge before the Eternal Champion. She tells them that Jagar Tharn has taken the guise of the true Emperor, and that he has imprisoned all the members of the Imperial Guard. She instructs the Champion to escape the prison, by searching for a "Shift Gate", a portal which will teleport the Champion to a random city of their selected home province.
After Ria's dream bridge, the Eternal Champion wakes up in their dark and slimy prison cell. The first thing that they should do is exit the cell, equip the weapon they started with and find more gold. This can be done by first walking outside of the cell, turning left, and looting the dead body right outside the cell, and equipping any better weapons and armor they find. Some "roleplaying messages" might appear on the screen (messages to note and describe the Champion's current surroundings), which are harmless and normally have no effect. After this, the Champion has two choices:
- Escape the dungeons as quickly as possible.
- Stay in the dungeons and gain extra loot and experience.
Regardless of their choice, three things should be noted.
- No matter which way the Eternal Champion goes, they will always run into an enemy in the dungeons. The two most common enemies are goblins and rats, though they can also come across a Thief or more rarely, Lizard Men.
- The Champion might lose quite a bit of health and will thus need to heal. It is unlikely that they will have healing potions at this point unless they are a type of mage (whom starts with a minor healing spell), so the alternative is to sleep in niches. Niches are the grey, rectangular openings of elevated surface in the walls that the Champion can rest in until they are fully healed without any worry of enemies killing them. They can also choose to camp on the floor, with the risk of being attacked at any given time during the resting period.
- It is very easy to get lost in the dungeons. All main quest dungeons in Arena are massive, handcrafted mazes with similar looking corridors. It is therefore recommended to use the map to refer to, and make sure one knows where they are going.
With this information taken into account, the Champion should now make their choice whether they want to escape quickly, or get some loot. If they choose to escape quickly, a good way to reach the Shift Gate fast is to follow Ria's advice and go west, then south from the prison cell they initially spawned in, and keep following that path, going west and south, where they will have to fight few goblins/rats on the way to the gate.
If the Champion chooses to instead stay and explore, this can prove quite beneficial as the goblins/rats can level the Champion quite a bit. They can also find some worthwhile loot while exploring the dungeons. Loot in Arena can be recognized easily by a pile of gold, an opened (or closed) chest, or suit of armor lying around on the floor. The loot can range from a random amount of gold, weapons, or armor. It is still important for the Champion to rest from time to time to heal up, and regain stamina after fights. If they are having a hard time finding a place to rest, a good place to do so is their own prison cell, and rest on the slab that the ruby key was on. This counts as an elevated surface, and no monsters will spawn.
It is recommended that the Champion level up during their time in the dungeons. To continue the main quest after they escape, the player must reach level 2 or higher, and sleep to get another dream bridge from Ria again.
Eventually, the Champion will come across Ria's Shift Gate. It is a square portal-like wall that has a blue border around it with black in the middle. It is located on the southwest part of the dungeon. On the floppy disk version of Arena, a window will pop up asking the Champion a question as they enter it:
What is the cost of (Item/Spell)?
Originally for the floppy disk version of Arena, the Champion was supposed to get the answer from the manual that came with the box. However, on all current releases the costs of the certain item or spell are found in the games directory, in the "Docs" folder under the name "Passwords.txt." If they answer the question incorrectly the first time, it will ask the same question except with a different spell or item, and if they fail the second time the game will close.
After the Champion has correctly answered the question, they will be teleported into a random city in the province which they selected. After this, the quest is officially complete, and the Champion can sleep in an inn (or where available) to gain another dream bridge from Ria, and begin their quest to find the eight pieces of the Staff of Chaos.
- The dungeons have a good amount of gold and treasures. Taking some gold and items (even if they are not useful to the Champion) will be very helpful in the first levels, as they can be sold for hefty amounts.
- If the treasure the Champion found was of poor taste, reloading the game and looting again will give a different, randomly generated amount of loot.
- Leveling inside the Imperial Dungeons is not hard and can also be very helpful, as the Eternal Champion will get out with some experience.
- Enemies can still hurt the Champion even while they are in water, so one must be careful while climbing out.
- To continue the main quest, the Champion must level up during, or after exiting the dungeon.
- On the CD-ROM re-release of Arena, the copy-protection question that the Shift Gate enforces was removed, and the player can enter and teleport with ease.
- Unlike other dungeons, if the Champion has no weapon equipped and starts swinging at a wall (or the cell door before it is unlocked), they will actually start taking damage which stacks over punches.
- If the Champion's strength is high enough, they can actually break the cell door open by swinging at it with a weapon, or their fists, avoiding Ria's key overall. They will take some damage, though.
This section contains bugs related to Escape From Prison (Arena). Before adding a bug to this list, consider the following:
- Enemies can, and will get stuck around corners. They can still be hit, making fights easier.
Some enemies, when stuck behind doors or walls, can be seen through objects and can still be killed.
- This can be fixed by turning the detail settings down (in turn downgrading render distance), or restarting the game if it becomes to distracting.
Rats will often attack the Champion, but not be visible on the screen due to their view.
- This can be fixed simply by backing up so the Champion can see the rats, or they can simply swing their sword at the ground and hope to kill the rat.
- If the Champion sleeps in the corridors after leveling up, they will get the second dream bridge of Ria even though they are supposed to get it when they escape the prison and sleep in an inn. This does not affect the main quest, and it proceeds as normal.
- If the Champion breaks open their cell door and takes the key afterwards, there will be no way to get rid of the key from their inventory.
- Staff of Magnus, but upon entering the cost, the game will act as if the question was failed.
Upon taking the Shift Gate question (on the floppy disk release of Arena), the gate will occasionally ask for the cost of The item it's referring to is the
- This may also occur with an item named "pog11.img," and possibly multiple others.
- Fail the question and answer the second. There is no other fix, other than obtaining a build of the CD-ROM re-release. After the first time, the game will not repeat the question.
Even in niches, enemies can still spawn and will attack the player.
- Find any elevated surface (i.e.: prison cell's elevated slab) without a direct overhead.
|Arena Main Quest|
|Escape From Prison • Stonekeep • Fang Lair • Fortress of Ice • Labyrinthian • Selene's Web • Elden Grove • Temple of Agamanus • Halls of Colossus • Temple of the Mad God • Crystal Tower • Mines of Khuras • Crypt of Hearts • Vaults of Gemin • Murkwood • Black Gate • Dagoth-Ur • Imperial Palace|