The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles PC DVD-ROM
Published by: 2K Games
Developed by: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: Out Now
The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles is the latest expansion pack for the excellent The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion but unlike the first expansion, The Elder Scrolls IV: Knights of the Nine, this isn't simply a collection of additional items and a few quests. Shivering Isles is a real expansion offering pretty much what you'd expect from an expansion for one of the most impressive RPGs that we've seen in the last few years.
Once you've installed Shivering Isles you'll have to pass a day's worth of game time before you get the message that a portal has opened on Niben Bay. It's this portal that leads to the Shivering Isles. You're warned against going into the portal as everyone who has gone into it has come out an insane wreck. Still, it would be a waste of money buying the expansion and then choosing not to explore what it offers so after going through the portal you'll find yourself talking to someone who tells you that you are in a location known as The Fringe. Sheogorath, who is also known as the Daedric Prince of Madness, needs a new champion to help him restore order to his rather insane kingdom. You are told that the people who have returned to Tamriel in a disturbed state have done so because they were not fully prepared for the challenge ahead. After being given the chance to back out, you'll be placed in the Shivering Isles.
There are two realities, Mania and Dementia, for you to explore in Shivering Isles and each has its challenges. Sheogorath wants you to be his champion and to achieve this you'll have to complete a variety of challenges. The task is immense but the rewards are many. There are new ores and ingredients to gather. There are new weapons and armour to be had. There's much wealth to be earned and even the possibility of being made a god exists should you succeed in completing your trials. There are new enemies to fight such as Flesh Atronachs and Grummites. Most of the quests are enjoyable. Some are a little tedious and are basically fetch quests but most are certainly worth the effort. In total there are over 25 hours of game-play on offer in Shivering Isles and it's perfectly accessible for both new characters and long term characters, which is good to see.
Shivering Isles is an enjoyable expansion but it's a little disappointing that it doesn't offer anything that changes the core Oblivion experience. There are no new races or classes or anything that would give a longstanding player a completely different way of playing the game. If you've been playing Oblivion since it was released it's a fair bet that you would probably have appreciated such additions and whilst the new locations, quests and items are certainly appreciated, it's a shame there are no real game changing additions here. It's also a little disappointing that you can't take your horse with you and that you're forced to traverse the whole of the Isles on foot.
As Shivering Isles is an expansion pack it's obvious that there isn't going to be any graphical improvements. However, the two alternate realities of Mania and Dementia look quite different from various locations you'll have encountered in Oblivion. Dementia is dark and creepy, also like something you'd expect from an old-fashioned horror movie. Mania, on the other hand, is bright and has a slightly crazy feel to it. It almost looks like something from Alice in Wonderland with giant mushrooms and other such strange flora scattered around. The fact that Mania and Dementia look so different from Tamriel is refreshing, which is important when you consider the size of the Shivering Isles is well over a quarter of the size of Tamriel and that you're going to be doing a lot of exploring.
Shivering Isles is exactly the same as Oblivion in regards to its deaf gamer friendliness. Not all speech in the game is subtitled but all of the main dialogue appears to be. The game offers both 'General Subtitles' and 'Dialogue Subtitles' in the options menu. Some peripheral dialogue, such as when you walk near to characters who are talking to each other, isn't subtitled but this isn't a problem. Certainly everything to do with the game's main story and the quests on offer, as well as tutorial messages are shown in text. As with the original game, deaf gamers will be at a slight disadvantage when it comes to being notified of the presence of enemies. The game's music changes whenever an enemy is making their way toward you, which gives hearing gamers a few seconds warning to be on their guard.
Whether you've enjoyed Oblivion on the 360 or the PC it goes without saying that you'll enjoy what Shivering Isles has to offer. There's plenty of content here and the surroundings are quite different from Tamriel which is refreshing. The additional treasures, weapons and armour you can obtain are certainly enough to make fans of Oblivion want to have this expansion. Of course it's a little disappointing that the core experience hasn't changed at all but when the original game was so impressive, it's not that much of a disappointment. All things considered, Shivering Isles is a worthy expansion.
Shivering Isles offers a lot of extra content and play time and will most definitely please fans of Oblivion. It doesn't change the game in any particular way but on the whole it's a very good expansion.