Arena:Codex Scientia Review
First off, I believe in a strong sword arm, helping little old ladies cross the street, and buying tons of Girl Scout cookies. That magic stuff is for sissies (although a good magical, reflecting shield comes in darn handy fighting some of the tougher monsters) which is probably why I "rolled up" a Barbarian character in TES:Arena.
Having said that, my Barbarous chivalry prevented me from using the Codex as a tour guide and I only delved into its arcane knowledge in times of direst need (of which, there were surprisingly few).
The Codex itself is intended to supplement, rather than replace, the Player's Guide and is divided into a number of sections as each describedarately below.
Aside from the usual "puff" pages and system requirements information, the Introduction gives players their first overview of the three major character classes in Arena: mages, warriors, and thieves.
The Mage Class is the most complex of these three character classes within Bethesda Softworks' universe and there is some advice worth heeding in the Introduction. The Intro briefly touches on which races make the best mages, cost of casting spells vs. mage subclass, etc.... Some of the information is (I think) obvious to veteran RPGers. The "if you're going to be a spellcaster, intelligence and dexterity are major assets" sort of advice.
The Warrior Class is the sword fodder of just about every RPG since D&D and I love playing them. The guidelines for this character class are fairly consistent among all RPGs and Arena is no exception. The Intro contains (what I consider common sense) advice of the type; "if your fighter has a higher armor class, get single-handed weapons and use a shield. If your fighter has a lower armor class, use two-handed weapons with greater damage potential." No big surprises here.
The Thief Class is second in complexity to the Mage Class. The Intro gives a quick overview of the Thief Class and the implications of character race, use of armor and magic, and a few tips on thieving in the Bethesda Softworks' universe.
This section is very brief and concise. A condensation of some of the information found in "The Races" section of the Player's Guide. It only takes a couple of minutes to read from start to finish. If you plan on playing a character of either the Mage or Thief (sub)class, or if this is your first RPG, then I heartily suggest you take the time to read the Introduction. If your character is one of the Warrior (sub)classes, I don't think it would hurt to skip this section of the Codex.
Not very much here. A little over two pages emphasizing the dangers of exploring the Wilderness areas outside of the cities, how to move around, tips on how to find remote dungeons and vague references to "interesting places tucked away in the wilderness."
Not much to draw any conclusions from. If it's early in your game and you plan on wandering in the Wilderness and have a few moments to spare, then by all means go ahead and browse this section. If you've already advanced several levels and have explored plenty of cities and dungeons, then I personally don't see anything to be gained by reading this section.
 Special Notes for Certain Monsters
This section of the Codex complements "The Bestiary" section of the Player's Guide. The Player's Guide gives a rundown of all the monsters you'll encounter playing Arena and quickly explains what makes then dangerous or lethal. The Codex expands on these explanations for some of the monsters listed in the Player's Guide, but not all of them. Whereas the Player's Guide is implicit, the Codex is explicit. For instance, the Player's Guide states "...Snow Wolves are said to be able to freeze their prey using some sort of magic." The Codex states "...they're blasting you with frost spell after frost spell...they do less damage...if you have a potion or two of resistance to cold...". Occassionally the Codex lists the number of Hit Points a monster has or the chance it has to hit your character.
I don't know about you, but if the Player's Guide states that something is going to freeze me I can usually make the intellectual leap to realize that I'm going to need some sort of protection against cold/frost (be it potion or enchanted object). The hps of all the monsters in the Bestiary are listed in a table later in the Codex, so including that information here (intermittently) is superfluous. As for the percentage of the time a monster will probably hit your character? When I'm in the middle of a fight I'm not calculating percentages to see how many times I can hit a monster before it hits me. I am a firm believer in the "hack it until it stops moving and then hack it a couple more times for good measure" school of thought. This section is worthless.
 Game Playing Reference Tables
This section of the Codex contains the following tables:
- Table of Racial Starting Statistics
- Character Class Level Advancement Table
- Bestiary Attributes Table
- Monster Hit-Point/Experience Point Table
The Table of Racial Starting Statistics is actually a set of tables; one for each of the races in Arena. Each table is broken down by character attribute (STR, INT, WIL, AGI, SPD, END, PER, and LUC) vs. gender for each race. The Character Class Level Advancement Table lists the experience points required per level for each character class. Just as the Table of Racial Starting Statistics lists the attributes for each player character, the Bestiary Attributes Table lists them for each of the monsters in Arena. Likewise, the Monster Hit-Point/Experience Point Table lists the damage, xps, hps, and xp/hps for each of the monsters you'll encounter. There is also a "Special Note" included in this section on Jagar Tharn's attributes and capabilities.
The Table(s) of Racial Starting Statistics are a nice complement to "The Races" section of the Player's Guide. The Character Class Level Advancement Table is a duplicate (and expanded) version of the table found in the "Character Starting Equipment" section of the Player's Guide. Unless you have a hard time multiplying by 1.5, there isn't much point to including this table and it doesn't even mention the 1.5 xp multiplier for levels beyond the 20th. The Bestiary Attributes Table and the Monster Hit-Point/Experience Point Table are nice if "inquiring minds want to know", but I don't see any real need for this information. If you really want to depress yourself, read the "special note" regarding Jagar Tharn. Overall, mostly trivial, worthless statistics.
 Dungeon Maps
The heart and soul of every hint book for this type of game has to be the maps of the different dungeon levels. All of the dungeons and their various levels are diagrammed for each of the "fixed" primary and secondary quests. Any dungeons you encounter while your character is on an ad hoc adventure are not listed here. Each map is nicely laid out and (as far as I can tell) accurate. Each map is clearly marked with treasure, keys, staff pieces, and fixed monster encounters. Randomly generated monster encounters (obviously) cannot be determined before hand and are not indicated. In addition to the various maps, this section of the Codex also contains a table specifying where each piece of the Staff of Chaos is found.
The map renderings are great but largely unnecessary. When I went through Arena I explored each and every level to it's fullest before moving on to the next. I didn't have any problems finding every room. Once I finished a level I checked myself against the maps, but I never had to go back and find something I had missed. If, however, you're the type that likes to start at the top and race down the stairs, grab the brass ring and get out again, then these maps are essential. As for knowing in advance where each piece of the Staff of Chaos is? You still have to go on all of the secondary quests before someone will mark your map with that piece's location. Until that happens, even if you do know where the next staff piece is you still can't get to it. Overall usefulness? It depends upon your gaming style.
 Riddles and Their Answers
The bane of all adventurers. Riddles. All of the riddles asked in Arena are listed in this section along with their answer(s).
Most of Arena's riddles can be solved with about five minutes of thought if the answer isn't immediately obvious. OK, I admit it, I cheated once but as far as I'm concerned that one time made the Codex priceless. This section is worth the cost of the whole book. If I had wanted to answer riddles I'd have bought The Jewels of the Oracle.
 Artifacts and Their Attributes
This section of the Codex lists all of the magical artifacts available in Arena along with their properties and attributes. In addition, this section tells the adventurer how to go about obtaining information relating to any of these artifacts. The Codex is also nice enough to inform you that once an artifact's spell point level drops to zero, the artifact vanishes.
If you care to go after any of the artifacts within Arena, then this section is a must. There are some misprints; "Amulet of the Warlock" instead of "Warlock's Ring" and "Necromancer's Ring" instead of "Necromancer's Amulet" as well as one flat out untruth "...you cannot possess more than one artifact at a time." Other than, a great comfort to artifact seekers.
 Magical Items and Their Attributes
This section begins with a duplicate of the Metal Types table found in "The Equipment Stores" section of the Player's Guide. Next follows general descriptions and listings for "Magic Weapons", "Magic Armor", "Marks, Crystals, Bracers & Rings", and "Bracelets, Belts, Torcs & Amulets". At the end of this section of the Codex is a listing of all potions broken down by potion type with description(s) of all possible potions of that given type.
Overall? Not really very useful. Knowing what types of magical accouterments exist is nice, but not life saving. The section on potions has it's uses. If you recover an unknown potion in the bowels of a dungeon, you can match it's description in this section to determine what type of potion you have found.
There are tables and formulas in this section for everything from Saving Throws to Chances of a Critical Hit.
Unless you plan on getting a job programming at [Bethesda Softworks], I can't see any reason why any player would want this information.
This final section of the Codex contains a table on the various diseases a character can catch and a reprint of the "Holidays of the World of Tamriel". Where else could they put it?
 Overall Conclusions
The Codex Scientia is, for the most part, filled with duplicate, useless or trivial knowledge. Unfortunately for the players, there is some desirable information buried in its depths. The redeeming portions of the Codex are the Maps, Riddles and Artifacts sections. The rest of it is dross. If you purchased the Deluxe Edition of TES:Arena, the Codex Scientia was packaged with the game. If, however, you had purchased an earlier version without the Codex, you will have to decide for yourself if the answer to that one riddle that's been keeping you awake for the last three days is worth the cost of the Codex.
Original text by Pete Ryan