MG’s Take: Shivering Isles (360)
Author :        Date : 29-Aug-08

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 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 extra investment 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 this new realm, you will be greeted by fresh environments across the land and the dungeons/towns that you will frequent. The isles are comprised of two main political factions and their respective lands are portrayed well by the appropriate use of colors, textures, and wild life. The ruler is a fellow named Sheogoreth, who 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 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, save the country, and become its 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 – there 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 since this has already been done in various reviews on Oblivion. I will say that certain graphical elements have improved over the already great performance of its 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 are 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 will aid you in your efforts against the minions.

You do receive 250 additional achievement points for 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 Xbox Marketplace. The total download is a little under 1 GB, 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: Shivering Isles.

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