Dragon Age: Origins arena (6) in Orzammar. Map from


An open room with few entrances. Often used for combat, either with the enemy/enemies in the center or coming in waves. The arena entrances are often locked/inaccessible during the encounter. The arena can contain cover or any elements deemed necessary for the encounter. A tangible reward is usually given afterward, or before if the encounter is used to teach an item's use.

The arena, often a relatively long encounter, acts as a break in the exploration by implementing heavy combat. It marks a significant point in the level's structure, often as the end of the level, and gives a good reason to reward the player with a checkpoint, an item, or a quest completion.

Variables and Affordances

  • Physical size: an arena of a larger size affords more tactical movement.
  • Amount of cover (None or Some): no cover makes an arena more of a gladiatorial challenge, forcing them to take on all the opponents at the same time. Some cover allows the player to pace the battle themselves.
  • Number of entrances: one entrance means the enemies come in predictably, while multiple entrances are harder to cover.


  • Mass Effect 2. In Rite of Passage (Grunt's Loyalty Quest), Shepard, Grunt, and another party member are thrown into an arena to prove Grunt's worthiness as a krogan.
  • Borderlands. Several times arenas are used as a side quest, in which the player is locked in a room and an increasing amount of enemies are released to fight you.
  • Dragon Age: Origins. In Proving Ground, both in the dwarf noble introduction and in the main game, the player has to fight a series of opponents in a large series of arenas.
  • Boss Battles. Boss battles often take place in arenas.
  • Cover. Arenas often contain cover to help strategize combat.
  • Reinforcement. Enemies often come in waves of reinforcements in arenas.
  • Enemy. Arenas are constructed for the purpose of fighting enemies.

Quest-Level Relationship

  • Defend. In arenas, physical movement is usually restricted, as the player must hold her ground against oncoming enemies.
  • Kill Action. Combat is required in arenas, and other actions are usually unimportant until the arena is left behind.
  • Deja Vu Quest. An arena may be revisited, or remade, such as the Ring of Blood/Amphitheater of Anguish/Crucible of Carnage quests in World of Warcraft, or the Hercules world in Kingdom Hearts. While the challenge may be different, it will consistently follow the same pattern in order to bring out nostalgia within players.


Pattern inspired by Ken Hullett's level design patterns project.

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