Shivering Isles Review

I was worried that it would be difficult to jump back into Oblivion, as it had been many months since I had even booted up the game. Sure, I spent well over 120 hours conquering the land of Cyrodiil, but I would undoubtedly have trouble remembering where I was, what spells I used, or the number of times I had killed that annoying admirer you’re "rewarded" with upon becoming Grand Champion of the Arena. Right? Actually, nope — after five minutes of wandering through inventory screens and a quick run around my wizard’s tower in Frostcrag Spire, I was sucked right back into the Elder Scrolls universe. Following an on-screen prompt that a portal had appeared in the middle of a lake, I wasted no time in entering Shivering Isles.

The expansion adds a whole new and entirely separate land for you to explore (similar to Morrowind‘s Tribunal expansion, which wasn’t connected to the mainland). After a short conversation with a little robed man, I was able to enter the new world. Immediately my eyes were drawn to the huge, twisted tree-like mushrooms and night sky, which was filled with hundreds of stars and awe-inspiring galaxies. It’s quite the site to behold, despite the game engine still being the same as what we saw in Oblivion over a year ago. Textures do get muddy as you get closer to them and some pieces of wildlife (vines hanging from trees, for instance) have that 2D feel to them. Draw distances occasionally become glaringly bad as nothing appears in the distance, with a city suddenly popping up once you get close enough. But, with those caveats aside, it’s hard to really complain about Oblivion‘s graphics. Hopefully, the patch to enhance the graphics in the Xbox 360 version of the game comes sooner rather than later.

Shivering Isles is split into two parts; Mania and Dementia. These two parts make up the land with their unique and drastically different looking styles — different not only from each other, but from what you’ve come to expect in Oblivion. Cyrodiil was populated by massive forests and crumbling castles. Dementia, on the other hand, is a land of massive roots that are twisted all around you, with a very dark and ominous vibe to it all. Mania is a much brighter and more colorful place, with huge mushrooms apparently acting as a replacement for trees. The inhabitants — whether you’re talking about the people, the guards or the creatures you fight — also reflect the area they are a part of. It’s a really fun juxtaposition as you walk from one area into the other, and it’s definitely a great departure from the Lord of the Rings vibe that Cyrodiil had going on.

Your task in Shivering Isles is to act as the champion of the Prince of Madness, Sheogorath, and to prevent the Greymarch from taking place. Sheogorath is an interesting character, as his dialogue often goes off on wild tangents. It would prove to be a serious annoyance, but since you can easily skip dialogue, it didn’t ever get in the way of the real meat of the dialogue. Personally, I really liked him — saying things to the effect of "It’s simply essential. But if only it were essentially simple." really causes my mind to do a double take.

Quests are the usual fare of exploring dungeons, killing off monsters, and gathering various items, but scattered throughout are some that are some of the most fun and original in any Elder Scrolls game. I won’t spoil any of it, because even hearing what I was required to do was really entertaining. But rest assured, if you enjoyed the Dark Brotherhood questline in Oblivion, some of the quests in Shivering Isles will be right up your alley.

With the land, quests, characters and enemies that are all so drastically different from those found in Oblivion, it’s very fresh and certainly welcomed content. But it’s a shame there was no new original music. With the two majorly different parts to the world, it would have been interesting to see what composer Jeremy Soule could come up with. At least there is the solid existing soundtrack and plenty of new dialogue.

Still, many of the fundamental problems from Oblivion remain. The map can’t be zoomed in or out. Lip-syncing can be severely off, as a character’s face will show little expression while he or she is quite clearly shouting or laughing. Some conversation topics will yield angry responses, and then a moment later, another topic will play out as if you didn’t just inquire about the person’s involvement in some dark intrigue — and the character will oftentimes still bid you a very kind farewell as you walk away, even if it contradicts the sentence he or she spoke a moment earlier.

Yet, it doesn’t really matter. Oblivion is a phenomenally fun and entertaining experience, and the various technical flaws and annoyances don’t really drag it down. While newcomers to Oblivion won’t need to pick up Shivering Isles from the get go — there is an insane amount of content in Oblivion, after all — anyone looking to get back into the game and those still playing religiously simply must buy Shivering Isles. It’s worth every penny.


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Author: GamerNode Staff View all posts by

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