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The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles

Platform(s): PC, Xbox 360
Genre: RPG/Action
Publisher: Bethesda
Developer: Bethesda


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PC Review - 'The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles'

by Tim McCullough on May 10, 2007 @ 12:32 a.m. PDT

Shivering Isles features more than 30 hours of new gameplay and allows you to explore an entirely new plane of Oblivion — the realm of Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness. In Shivering Isles, you can continue playing with your existing save game/character, or create an all-new character just to explore the new content.

Genre: RPG
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: March 26, 2007

Without reading word one, if you have spent any time playing the massively popular Elder Scrolls IV – Oblivion, you know that you are in for some great adventuring. So, can lightning strike twice in the same franchise? Let's all put on our asbestos underwear and rubber boots and see.

Elder Scrolls IV – Shivering Isles is the first official expansion for the 2006 RPG Game of the Year, Elder Scrolls IV – Oblivion. In Elder Scrolls IV – Shivering Isles, you become the champion of Shivering Isle's mad ruler, Sheogorath, who tasks you with defending his two twisted realms, Mania and Dementia. You will also be asked to help spread his madness throughout the lands by completing various assignments. Elder Scrolls IV – Shivering Isles seamlessly integrates with Elder Scrolls IV – Oblivion. You can use an existing Oblivion character or create a new one. With this expansion, you will add approximately 35 hours worth of additional adventuring to the original game. The base game Oblivion is required to install and play this expansion. The game package includes a single DVD and a fold-out map of the Shivering Isles.

You don't experience Elder Scrolls IV – Shivering Isles simply by installing the software and running the game. By design, Elder Scrolls IV – Shivering Isles is integrated into Oblivion and feels like it was always there. After 24 hours of game time in Oblivion, you will be notified of a mysterious door appearing on an island in Niben Bay. As is the case with all new quests, the interface allows you to choose to switch to the new quest or to continue on your present path. If you choose to take on the new quest, you will be immediately teleported into a room which becomes the entry point into the new Shivering Isles content. If you decline, you can always travel by land to the Island in Niben Bay when you are ready. (Note: Please read below about a possible bug which is related to starting the Shivering Isles adventure.)

Once in the portal room you will have a conversation with the High consul of Shivering Isles, Haskell, who will lay down the storyline and give you an opportunity to accept or decline the challenge. Upon accepting the challenge, you will be rewarded with what I consider to be the best visual effect in the expansion, your transportation to the Shivering Isle.

Without disclosing too much of the storyline, I will say that you won't simply teleport to Shivering Isles; you will first be challenged to prove your worthiness for the task of becoming the mad king's champion. You will need to figure out how to defeat the Gatekeeper of Shivering Isles to obtain the two keys to the Gates of Madness. After successfully defeating the gatekeeper and entering the main portion of the Island, you will need to meet with your new employer (Sheogorath) and assist him with a series of quests. Some of these quests will challenge you to explore your own morality (reminiscent of the classic Ultima series), and other quests will simply be errands to fetch various items.

Despite the menial nature of several of your assignments, you will be handsomely rewarded for successfully doing the king's bidding. It was quite apparent as I played that a serious amount of time went into the development of the quests and stories contained within Elder Scrolls IV – Shivering Isles. I found myself becoming easily immersed into the game content and would often become annoyed or even amused with various characters as I interacted with them.

A few words about transportation in Elder Scrolls IV – Shivering Isles — I initially took my white horse with me into the new realm, and I really didn't encounter any problems in doing so. However, it soon became apparent to me that I would have to abandon my horse to get around on the island. This was confirmed by two situations; the first was that I couldn't get past an early gate with the horse and the second, while on the island, I did not come across any other horses. So, if you are using an existing character from Oblivion, I would recommend leaving behind your horse prior to entering the door to Shivering Isles.

While playing Elder Scrolls IV – Shivering Isles, I would occasionally experience lock-ups. These almost always seemed to occur when I exited through a door (loading point). Since I also had these problems while playing Oblivion, I consider this problem to be either a bug in the game engine or a compatibility problem with my computer hardware. The current "best solution" for this problem, as well as most others, is to make sure you save your game frequently.

Another nasty glitch in the expansion has to do with the disappearance of the gatekeeper. When you initially get to the Gates of Madness and find that the adventurers are fighting each other instead of the gatekeeper, and the gatekeeper is nowhere to be found, then you have discovered the bug. Without the gatekeeper, you will not be able to get the keys to enter into the main portion of the Shivering Isles.

There are basically two ways to begin to play the Shivering Isles content: by accepting the quest when it is offered (teleportation), or by venturing through the forest and crossing the lake to the small island located in Niben Bay. If you encounter the missing gatekeeper bug, chances are that you simply selected the (teleportation) entrance. What you will need to do to avoid this bug is start your adventure by entering through the forest/island route. Needless to say, I spend a serious amount of time discovering, researching and resolving this issue prior to really enjoying Elder Scrolls IV – Shivering Isles.

Elder Scrolls IV – Shivering Isles uses the same gaming engine used for the base game, Oblivion. And like Oblivion, the graphics and effects are visually appealing, especially when you consider the low polygon modeling of the objects in the game. The textures are brilliantly designed and are used successfully to affect various moods, especially for the two distinct realms within the expansion, Mania and Dementia. Mania features bright colors and curious landscaping, while Dementia exhibits gloomy and dark color texturing with foreboding landscapes. Similar to Oblivion, the sound effects and music used for the expansion create a convincing soundscape which draws you deeper into the game and reminds you of the nature of the environments you are exploring.

Like Oblivion, Elder Scrolls IV – Shivering Isles does not contain a multiplayer mode. I personally believe that this is one of those rare titles that won't ever benefit from having a multiplayer mode. Although the game could successfully be transformed into a MMO (massively multiplayer game), a traditional multiplayer mode would have the effect of reducing Elder Scrolls IV – Shivering Isles to a hack-and-slash combat game. With the interaction and adventure elements removed, Elder Scrolls IV – Shivering Isles would essentially lose just about everything that makes it great.

Despite the gatekeeper glitch and a few tolerable crashes at transitioning points, Elder Scrolls IV – Shivering Isles is certainly money well spent. Characters are well developed, and the main storyline is interesting. This expansion pack will easily bring around 30 to 40 hours of additional gameplay to the base Oblivion game, so if you enjoyed the original, you won't want to pass up Elder Scrolls IV – Shivering Isles.

Score: 8.5/10

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