Shivering Isles is the first true full sized expansion of our 2006 game of the year, The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. If you needed an excuse to revisit the wonderful world of Oblivion, this is it. The Shivering Isles goes deep into the twisted realm of a mad god, introducing a land filled with new creatures and caverns to explore. Add a few mores to your Elder Scrolls with the Shivering Isles.
Bethesda has given Oblivion fans a fairly steady amount of downloadable content since Oblivion was released. There have been some eventful add-ons like The Nights of the Nine, and some that haven’t been as bountiful, you know its coming… horse armor, but the best add-on is the latest. This full expansion pack of Shivering Isles is now available on the Xbox Live Marketplace for roughly $30, or 2400 MS points. Shivering Isles will set you back a few bucks, 1GB of hard drive space, and a few hours to download. This is more than your average Xbox Live Arcade game, but so is the Elder Scrolls IV.
Shivering Isles is a new realm in the Elder Scrolls created by the Daedra Prince of Madness, Sheogorath. Sheogorath decided he needs a champion, and he slaps a portal right into the lake beside Bravil. Stepping through this portal is a decision that is warned against the minute you get close to the gate, but like any adventure, you have to go in. The realm of Sheogorath is filled with the bizarre and macabre creatures, inhabitants, and environments. Sheogorath is also referred to as the madgod which makes sense when you come to the Gates of Madness and you have to choose which side of insane you want to venture into. It’s up to you to decide if you want to be Sheogorath champion, or if you just want hang out and take in the weird mind of the gods creation.
What’s new in Shivering Isles besides the plot line are more than a dozen new creatures, items, ingredients, spells, weapons, and more. There is definitely enough to warrant a full expansion and it could be better timed because most gamers have already had the chance to close the oblivion gates. Besides all the new items, etc… you have a number of side quests, interesting characters, and a lengthy main plot to explore. The Shivering Isles is on the flip side of normal and shows a wilder, more psychotic side to The Elder scrolls that we haven’t seen to this extent.
The Shivering Isles content gets loaded into your game like any other downloadable content and you will be alerted in game about a the new portal opening in the Niben Bay. In my game I had to rest for 24hrs before this popped up, but I have heard that it also just comes up automatically as soon as you load in. Once you step into the portal in the Niben Bay you will enter the bizarre, one room, one desk and two chairs. A man named Haskill dressed in funky red jester styled shirt will ask you to sit and then he will explain the situation about the madgod and his will to find a new champion. If you say you will enter the realm of the mad, Haskill transforms the room into Sheogorath's realm and the adventure begins.
You will immediately notice the different in the Shivering Isles because of the landscape. The landscape has also been overhauled with a more unique look then Tamril. The countryside is filled with hills and plant overgrowth that resembles a jungle swamp. For the spell creators, there are lots of new ingredients to conjure up some nice potions that are tied into the overgrown landscapes. In the Shivering Isles you will need all the extra help you can get because the enemies are diverse and seem to have been bumped up in the A.I. department. These new creatures do more then saunter over to you, they jump and leap. If you have a strong warrior class you might still be able to take the enemies out without an effort, but for the weaker stealth characters, arm that bow and get ready for a fight. I found that the enemies in the Shivering Isles presented more of a challenge then Oblivions normal breed. Once you tackle the Isles and return to Cyrodiil these enemies will seem like a cakewalk.
The big concept in Shivering Isles is split between two personalities of Sheogorath's mind, Dementia and Mania. During your progress in the Shivering Isles, even before you enter the land through the Gates of Madness, you will be faced with choices between these two sides. If you’re looking to replay the Shivering Isles expansion pack, I recommend keeping two saves at the minimum at the Gates, so don’t have to do as much early groundwork to get the story going. Sheogorath's realm isn’t for the timid, this is one twisted paradise for the mad and the quests reflect this. You will have to spark up your evil side to progress through the unmoral missions. Without giving away too much, one example is that you get to determine if innocent adventures so go mad, or be killed, no option for freedom. The main plot line is dark and evil, but it has a side of humor that helps lighten the reality of these situations, and after you dealing with a mad god.
Further on in the story of Shivering Isles you will have to help Sheogorath save his land from the upcoming Graymarch and Jyggalag. You will also have to deal with the Duke of Mania, Thadon, and the Duchess of Dementia, Syl. These parallels run through the entire game with the Mania side being a little more straight ahead, and the Dementia side working more in treachery and stealth. Other themes that are explored within the Shivering Isles are Conspiracies, Torture, Paranoia, Addiction, Suicide, Schizophrenia, and more wonderful traits. Thus, reinforcing why The Elder scrolls is “M” rated.
Even though Shivering Isles is packed full of new content its not a real necessary must have expansion, until you have finished the main quest in Oblivion. Since the normal quest, and side quests are lengthy in Oblivion, I would hold of for first time players. Shivering Isles is an extra bonus that is a lot of fun, but it’s a major sidetracking experience from the already many quests in Oblivion. Since I completed Oblivion with one character ranking over 100+ hours, and I had a second character that handled a few other guilds, I took my weaker friend into the mouth of madness. This gave me a chance to be challenged instead of pushing through the adventure with my pure warrior character that finished the game.
If you choose to explore the Shivering Isles you can earn yourself a whole lot of loot, more experience, and some extra achievement points. Like Oblivion the achievements are based off the main plots progression, although one achievement will make you replay a section of the game twice, if you’re looking to max out your score. In total you will rank up an additional 250 gamer points which worth the investment to some achievement addicted gamers. I’d expect to put a good fifteen to twenty hours into the main quest, and then up to thirty if you want to explore all the nooks and crannies of the Isles. This makes this add-on worth the price of $1/hr, which is good in my books. If I was counting, and I am, this puts my total Oblivion experience well over the 160hr mark.
The Shivering Isles expansion for Oblivion was everything I expected, and a little more. This expansion into the land of the mad shows us Bethesda’s dark side which sparks more creativity within the plot, characters, and design. Stepping through that portal near Bravil will reignite your passion of Oblivion, and remind you why you’ve loved the game originally. If you’re a fan of Oblivion, Shivering Isles has enough content that is worth the price of the download.
Gameplay: 9, Graphics/Sound:9, Innovation: 8.5, Mojo: 10 Final: 9 / 10