Review By: Jared Black
|Publisher:||Bethesda Softworks / 2K|
|# Of Players:||1|
|Accessories:||Xbox Live (downloadable content), Requires the full version of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion|
This is one area of the game I thought was actually a bit disappointing. Although the residents of Sheogorath’s realm are clearly insane, from the ogre that fears cats to the guy who refuses to sleep indoors lest the walls fall on him, they don’t seem to me like the type of people that truly embodied mania or dementia. Sure, their requests aren’t normal, and their talk is often nonsensical, but most residents merely seem to only have one or two odd quirks rather than true craziness.
Like the people, the realm itself is divided down the middle by Mania and Dementia. The Mania side is very bright and colorful, full of lush vegetation and towering mushrooms, with a vibrant nighttime sky that’s truly dazzling. It’s a little reminiscent of parts of Morrowind, and a nice change of pace from the somewhat generic look in Oblivion. Dementia is much darker though; a truly foreboding place where it gets dark in the mid-afternoon, and pitch black at night.
On both sides, Shivering Isles presents an impressive roster of new enemies and creatures. There are the super fast Elytra (giant spiders), the walking tree-like Gnarls, twisted ogre-like creatures called Grommites that hang their eggs upside down near water, skinned hounds, and more. Then there is Sheogorath’s own personal guard, the Golden Saints on the Mania side, and the Dark Seducers (which never actually tried to seduce me, sadly) on the Dementia side. Both races consider themselves superior to mere humanity, and treat you as such, with the Golden Saints also looking down upon males in particular.
The game also adds other things you’d expect from an expansion pack, such as new armor (crafted out of amber or madness ore) and weapons. There are also new books, spells, and powers befitting of the land. Sadly there’s no house for you to buy and inhabit, which is unfortunate since it would be nice to have a place to store things in the realm. That brings up another annoyance with Shivering Isles, in that it feels a bit too separate from the main game. Residents rarely mention the land of Cyrodiil, and even traveling back and forth between the two realms is a bit of a hassle since you have to pass through The Fringe each time.
I mentioned before that I was a little disappointed that the NPCs aren’t really crazy enough, but that’s far from this expansion’s biggest flaw. Instead, it’s the technical glitches. My experience with them started before I even actually played it. As I chronicled in this news story, it basically reset the entire Mehrunes’ Razor quest (another downloadable) and nuked half of my saved games. Once I made it into Sheogorath’s realm, I ran into another bug where a side quest (fortunately not part of the main game) was broken. I needed to light three torches to open a jar with an item inside, but when I arrived the torches were already lit. As a result, I could never open the jar, retrieve the item, and finish the quest. Far less important was that Dark Seducers frequently called me the “Duchess” of Mania, even though my character is in fact male. Of course, there’s also the infamous (and devastating) reference bug, but I never personally experienced it on Xbox 360 and a patch is now available that prevents it from occurring going forward.
Falling somewhere between the Morrowind expansions Bloodmoon and Tribunal quality-wise (with the former being the most memorable expansion pack I’ve played in any game), Shivering Isles is a worthy, but somewhat lacking, addition to the Oblivion experience. It’s still well worth the $30 of course, just not up to the series’ usual brilliance.
Posted: 2007-05-22 18:21:52 PST