The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles - 360 - Review
Feeling much like Alice did when she went through the rabbit hole, I had been accustomed to the bright green pastures of my old and familiar stomping grounds, but looking at the new, alien terrain before me I felt like I was in a new world where anything could happen. Not to long ago I was overlooking the bay just outside the township of Bravil and now I was standing before immense mushrooms and sunlight that felt strangely unnatural. This new realm within the well-known world found in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is part of yet another expansion pack on the Xbox 360 thanks to the Xbox Live Marketplace but The Shivering Isles is far from just a mere horse armor add-on … this is a quest into the depths of madness itself and it is way too fun.
Joining the recent crop of expansions found in both the Xbox 360 and the PC version, The Shivering Isles - once downloaded - is a complete new side quest that contains its own storyline that takes you from your main Oblivion quest. Like the recent Knights of the Nine (or even the Thieves Den or the Wizard‘s Tower), this expansion is sewn into the world seamlessly. The only difference is that The Shivering Isles does not offer any pop-up message that a new quest is available like the Wizard’s Tower or Thieves Den expansion. Instead, it is up to the gamer to seek out the location of the new side story.
Listening to a passerby, I’ve come to know that a mysterious portal has somehow popped up in an island in Niben Bay just outside the town of Bravil. Swimming across to the island you’ll notice the vegetation is not quite like those of the rest of the realm and there’s a stone portal entrance that resembles three screaming faces. In fact, the portal does scream and warn anyone who is tempted to enter the portal that madness awaits and the portal itself is guarded by a knight. As if to demonstrate the fact that this way lies madness, a traveler jumps out of the portal raving like a maniac and attacks the knight who easily dispatches him.
It isn’t until you enter the portal and speak with a mysterious man named Haskill who tells you about Sheogorath, the Prince of Madness and ruler of the Shivering Isles as well as the connected realms of Dementia and Mania. You are told that Sheogorath is interested in meeting you and if you accept passage into this other realm you should seek him out immediately. Well, this isn’t an easy feat to accomplish because once you are teleported (the room where Haskill “interviews” you suddenly becomes filled with butterflies that disappears to reveal the Shivering Isles) you learn that you must get past a giant of a monster known as the Gatekeeper. Apparently, the keys to unlock the gates to both Mania and Dementia are sewn inside the monster’s flesh. Like many of the quests in Oblivion, nothing is as it seems and it’s not going to be a walk in the park.
Unlike the rest of the other expansions, the realm found in The Shivering Isles has an entirely different look. Sure, you’ll encounter lush green grass and trees but the deeper you travel unto this new terrain the more you come to realize how insane this place really is and why most travelers come back from it stark raving mad. Both Dementia and Mania have their own distinct personality so they look different. The land of Mania, for instance, is made up of brightly colored mushrooms and skies that seem dreamy during the day and alien during the night. Dementia, on the other hand, looks just as impressive only there’s stranger flora and fauna and areas covered in vines and swamp land. You’ll encounter towns like Passwall and after claiming the keys from the Gatekeeper’s body, you’ll find interesting locations like the Hill of Suicides where the spirits of those who took their own life wander in the spot where they took their life.
Once you meet the Prince of Madness, you will embark on a series of quests and basically serving as yet another one of his servants. Aside from the main quest to discover the secrets of both Dementia and Mania, you will also encounter a number of NPC that will offer up side quests that lead to riches and new items you’ll find or forge on your own. The quests are actually fun diversions, like the time you join a hunter in killing the Gatekeeper or the side quest given to you by a character that doesn’t want to commit suicide so he tasks you to kill him.
The Shivering Isles is a lengthy experience with plenty to see and do and much like the Knights of the Nine expansion, there are interesting new items and creatures to kill. The Shivering Isles is filled with interesting new monsters like the Gnarls (creatures that resemble trees) as well as the Grumites (the amphibian-like creatures that guard many of the dungeons you’ll encounter). The bad news is that the vast amount of land you’ll uncover is done on foot since no horses seem to roam this realm. Still, this is a minor gripe considering the fact that you can visit this new place with a new character or an already created one. This is, by far, one of those expansions that allow you to jump into its new storyline at any point. You will need at least up to 1 gigs on your hard drive and the expansion costs 2400 Marketplace points (or $30).
Well worth the Xbox Live Marketplace points, The Shivering Isles expansion is a deeply engrossing jaunt that offers more things to do, see and experience in this lengthy adventure. Filled with twisted and interesting characters, diving into these new quests will give fans of Oblivion even more reason to revisit this Xbox 360 title. Of the few The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion expansions that have showed up on the Xbox Live Marketplace, I highly recommend purchasing this one.
Review Scoring Details for The Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion: The Shivering Isles
Both Dementia and Mania are two halves of a strangely interesting world where you’ll encounter a number of quirky characters and embark on a number of quests (many of them are actually inventive and fun). There are twists and turns along the way and the adventure is surprisingly lengthy.
Mania is a colorful, mushroom-filled world where the light shines softly and the leaves fall gracefully around you to cinematic perfection. Meanwhile, Dementia is a place where the water shimmers and the monsters look like living nightmares. We are definitely not in Kansas … I mean, Tamriel … anymore.
The same great music and stellar voice acting can be found in this expansion as well and the sound effects are still wonderfully detailed.
The new monsters will certainly not make your lengthy jaunt into this world of madness any easier and the final battle you’ll encounter will be a tricky one. The good news is that you don’t have to come to this realm with an experienced character but be prepared to get into some dangerous battles.
The main quest is actually pretty lengthy and there are side quests aplenty that are actually pretty inventive. The realm is a really twisted place that makes Wonderland look pretty sane and there’s some new loot to claim in this world.
The Shivering Isles is, by far, one of the best of The Elder Scrolls IV expansions and another reason you’ll be spending even more time exploring this massive world. While it is pricey, the new world you get to explore adds more RPG gaming goodness and enough quests to make this yet another juicy chapter in this already lengthy epic.