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The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles
Review By: Jared Black
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks / 2K
Genre: RPG
ESRB: Mature
# Of Players: 1
Online Play: No
Accessories: Xbox Live (downloadable content), Requires the full version of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion
Buy Now: Buy The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles at Amazon.com!

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At this point, I don’t believe there’s a lot I can contribute to the overall debate of The Elder Scrolls’ brilliance. Online denizens seem to have universally agreed that it does what it does insanely well, even if there are still great debates on the various mechanics the series uses to produce that open-world brilliance (such as the auto-leveling of monsters and equipment in Oblivion as the player levels) and the merits of that approach in general. Shivering Isles then really has little to prove; you know well before reading this review that it’s going to deliver a solid, open world (dare I say…sandbox) RPG experience. Unfortunately for Bethesda, and us, it doesn’t quite measure up to recent releases in the series.

The main quest in this expansion pack involves the Daedric Prince of Madness Sheogorath. The Greymarch is upon his realm, where at the end of every era the Daedric Prince of Order Jyggalag and his minions attack and take over the land. After a mysterious door appears in the middle of Niben Bay, the player is beckoned, and eventually tasked with breaking the cycle of the Greymarch once and for all.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles

I won’t go into a lot of details (especially since the requisite “big twist” actually surprised me quite a bit), but the main storyline is solid enough. The beginning is fantastic, with Sheogorath’s right-hand man Haskill (he of the stoic British personality, yet dressed in a joker’s outfit) introducing you to the realm, and then with you stepping through the door of a thousand fluttering butterflies. The effect is tremendous, and one of the true highlights of the entire expansion.

When you emerge, you’ll first enter The Fringe, a proving grounds of sort for would-be adventurers and Greymarch thwarters. Basically, it’s designed to keep the riff-raff out, with a gigantic Gatekeeper guarding the entrance into the realm proper. The gameplay from here on out will instantly feel familiar. Not only will you have several different ways of disposing of the Gatekeeper, but you’ll also be able to do a little social networking in the town of Passwall.

It’s in Passwall that you’ll notice that the residents are a bit…off of their rockers, not that the people going insane after entering the door weren’t an indication of that. Once you make it through the Fringe, the land is divided into two sides: Mania and Dementia. People on the side of Mania are generally more artistic types, also known as your classic crazies and/or artistic geniuses, while Dementia followers are darker and enjoy pain.

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Posted: 2007-05-22 18:21:52 PST