Being a hardcore RPG gamer and a huge fan of The Elder Scrolls
IV: Oblivion, I have to admit I was a bit reluctant to make this purchase
after being disappointed in the previous downloadable content offered by
Bethesda. Sure, The Knights of the Nine did satiate my RPG\Oblivion
appetite for a little while, but by no means did it satisfy my craving
as completely as did the expansion packs Tribunal and Bloodmoon
for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. I am glad to report that the
$30 you will have to fork over for the Shivering Isles expansion
will be money well spent.
Your quest begins on an island in the Niben Bay, which can be
accessed at any time, by any character – there is no prerequisite for entering
the domain of the Shivering Isles (there are leveled items in this
new world, so level up a bit in Cyrodil if you want to add the really
good items to your inventory). In the world of the Shivering Isles, you
will be greeted by fresh environments across the land and the dungeons/towns
that you will frequent. The land is comprised of two main political facets,
and the respective lands are portrayed well by the appropriate use of colors,
textures and wild life. The ruler is a fellow named Sheoogoreth,
which many of us know as the Daedric Prince of Madness. The world
has an almost surreal feel to it, which accurately reflects the deranged
minds of its inhabitants. Though presented beautifully, this new realm
can never be mistaken for the almost ‘Sound of Music’ atmosphere
that the general landscape of Cyrodil screams of.
Without giving away any spoilers, your general main quest is to protect
this demented paradise from, of course, an invasion from an evil force.
You must rise through the ranks of this land, through both factions, and
save the country and become it’s ruler. New enemies will thwart your efforts,
including the Knights of the Order, various hell hounds and the
Grumnites, a race that is somewhat similar to the Orcs, though
more organized. There are plenty of side quests apart from your main objective
that are also available. These include the standard ‘fetch item’
missions to the more obscure (one nut wants 100 calipers to build a fantasy
air ship that only resides in his mind).
The basic game play is the same as The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
– they have been no changes to any commands, menus or the like. That being
said, I will not review the general mechanics of the Shivering Isles –
other posts can provide that. I will say that certain graphical elements
have improved over the already great performance of it’s parent - frame
rate is more consistent, water reflections are improved, general AI of
the new fiends you will encounter is better.
Many new types of armor, weapons and magic are available for your discovery/purchase.
Depending on your level, these may not replace any of your current inventory,
but do add nice additions. There are also two weapon shops that will create
new items for you if you collect the respective ore that they request -
this is very similar to the quest in the Bloodmoon expansion – not great
items, but kind of cool. There are no houses or horses to buy as there
are in Cyrodil, but you can acquire a new traveling companion if
completing a certain quest that you will aid you in your efforts against
the minions of either land.
You do receive 250 additional achievement points if completing all of
the missions, but, curiously, your fame\infamy points are not affected
at all for your deeds/actions. I think that this is a severe oversight
on Bethesda’s part – this is a stat I monitor frequently. Total additional
game play will put you around 40 hours or so, more if you spend time exploring
the vast isles.
Having the Xbox 360 version of ES IV, I downloaded the
new content via XBL (Xbox Live). The total download is a little
under 1 gig, so make sure that you have the space available on your storage
device. I have a relatively slow cable/DSL connection and it took around
40 minutes to download it.
Overall, I was very pleased with The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering
Isles, and would highly recommend it. The download is pricey, but the
content is varied, interesting and most important, plentiful. Be prepared
to let your loved ones know that, once again, you are a non-factor in real
life and instead are going to take another journey into the world of Oblivion: