|System: X360 (download), PC||Review Rating Legend|
|Dev: Bethesda Softworks||1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid||4.0 - 4.4 = Great|
|Pub: 2K Games||2.0 - 2.4 = Poor||4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy|
|Release: March 2007||2.5 - 2.9 = Average||5.0 = The Best|
|Players: 1||3.0 - 3.4 = Fair|
|ESRB Rating: Mature||3.5 - 3.9 = Good|
by James Ruffin
When we as gamers think about games we have played in the past that really stood out for us, we remember graphical details or events revolving around the game's playable action. Seldom are our fond memories tied exclusively to games whose specific characters were unique and entertaining enough to make them stand alone. But Bethesda's expansion for their 2006 Game of the Year, The Elder Scrolls IV: The Shivering Isles (SI), is one of those games. Play it, and characters like Sheogorath will reside in your memory for a long time to come. Luckily, its captivating characters are far from the only things that SI offers.
While not the first piece of expandable content for Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion, Shivering Isles is the most complex. Players aren't just treated to a new series of missions or a new dungeon to explore, but an entire new realm, replete with new armor, weapons, enemies, and loads of story line and side quest missions. SI takes place in the Shivering Isles; the realm of the Daedric Prince Sheogorath, the God of Madness, who rules as king. A land of extremes, SI is divided into two halves, Mania and Dementia, reflective of Sheogorath's own fragmented personality. Ruling Mania in the capitol city of Bliss is Thadon, the drug addicted Duke. His counterpart, the intensely paranoid Syl, presides as Duchess of Dementia in its capitol city of Crucible. Everything from the landscapes, to the people, to the missions are as wonderfully quirky as the lands in which they exist would suggest.
Once downloaded, the 990 MB expansion is entered via a portal that appears on an island in Niben Bay a short distance east from the coast of Bravil. Players will receive a journal entry and map marker to alert them of its appearance and right away, they'll know they are in for a treat. After a short introduction to Sheogorath's right hand man, and the completion of a short introductory quest, players will enter the Shivering Isles. Mania, the land of splendid, brightly colored mushroom trees, and undulating hills occupies the northern half of the Shivering Isles. Its doppelganger Dementia, the land of twisted roots and bleak swamps, unsurprising occupies the Isles' southern half. The entire Shivering Isles is approximately 25-30% the size of the explorable environment in Oblivion and players may explore each at their leisure. SI offers the same free-form quest setup as Oblivion so time is no constraint. But I would encourage players to seek out Sheogorath as soon as possible because his boisterous, extremely animated attitude, mixed with his mild insanity, makes interacting with him an enjoyable experience all its own that players won't soon forget.
So what about the weapons and armor? I'm glad you asked. Mania and Dementia offer their own unique sets of both. Perhaps the largest difference between Oblivion and the Shivering Isles is that in Oblivion one needn't collect the raw materials to forge one's weapons. In fact, weapons can't be forged at all. In SI, however, they can. In addition to the weapons and armor you obviously can loot from the bodies of the new creatures, like the ferocious, lizard like Grummites in Dementia to the walking tree-like Gnarls in Mania, players can gather the raw materials of amber in Mania, and madness ore in Dementia. Collect enough of either, and a smith in either Bliss or Crucible will tell you what weapons and armor he or she can make for you. Dementia offers a full new set of every weapon class and heavy Madness armor while Mania offers a full new set weapons and light Amber armor. But wait, there's more: find the rare weapon and armor piece specific Matrices, and the smith's will also enchant your custom made finery for you. And finally, once players have progressed far enough through the main quest the armor and weapons of the two capitol cities' guards will also become available: the Golden Saints (remember those, Morrowind fans?) in Bliss and the all new Dark Seducers in Crucible.
Weapons and armor aren't the only combat-specific additions, however. Players will find spells to summon the new creatures found in the Isles, from the impressive Flesh Atronachts to the giant insect-like Elytra, and new, quirky clothing to replace the mundane robes and other non-armor garments that are so abundant in Oblivion's Cyrodil.