When it was released last year The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion was widely considered to be the first great role-playing game for the Xbox 360. It was massive in scale, beautiful to look at and full of dozens (if not hundreds) of quests to go on. This was not one of those games you could beat in a weekend; Oblivion was so large and involved that I wouldn't be surprised if people are still working their way through the world of Cyrodiil one year after its original release. Regardless of whether you're still closing Oblivion gates or just letting the game sit on your shelf collecting dust, Bethesda Softworks is ready to unleash the newest chapter of The Elder Scrolls series.
Shivering Isles is Oblivion's first real expansion pack. Unlike other downloadable content, Shivering Isles takes you outside of Cyrodiil into a completely new world full of strange new monsters, bizarre landscapes and some of the craziest characters ever to grace a role-playing game. Shivering Isles doesn't rewrite the game play of The Elder Scrolls, but it does do an excellent job of offering you some truly memorable missions and a fresh new world that is actually fun to explore.
Currently this new expansion pack is only available on the Xbox Live Marketplace, which means that if you're going to jump into this brand new world then you will need to have some sort of broadband connection and around $30. The new content takes up close to a gig of hard drive space, but if you're the type of person who fell in love with Oblivion then Shivering Isles is definitely worth the time, money and hard drive space it's going to take to download. While this may not be the most ideal distribution for everybody, I didn't have too many problems with getting it downloaded and running on my Xbox 360.
Once you've downloaded Shivering Isles you are free to access the content at any time, regardless of who your character is or how far you are with the general Oblivion missions. After waiting a day or two a mission bubble will pop up and inform you that people have discovered a brand new island out in the middle of a giant river. It's your job to go there and discover what the heck is going on, a task that is about to take you to a brand new world full of mysteries and crazy people … lots and lots of crazy people.
Before you even enter the new world a guard warns you that everybody that enters ends up going mad, something that is only illustrated further by a few stragglers who pop out of the door and seem to be out of their mind. I don't know about you, but this sounds like the kind of mission I want to embark on, so I gladly jumped into the light and was transported to a bizarre new world that combines Alice in Wonderland with Tim Burton's nightmares. You're met by an oddly dressed man named Haskill who tells you that you have entered a portal to, you guessed it, the Shivering Isles. He tells you all about the Daedric Prince of Madness, Sheogorath, and how you're going to be put to the test to demonstrate your worth. After making a few jokes at your expense and warning you of the troubles ahead Haskill waves his hands and all of the walls turn to butterflies, revealing a colorful new world full of unique architecture and strange plant life.
The world of Shivering Isles is split into two different realms: One that is colorful and upbeat called Mania and another that is sad and full of darkness known as Dementia. The ruler of both is Sheogorath, this crazy old man who is just a couple games short of a trilogy. Even though he is completely off his rocker, Sheogorath seems like a nice enough guy who just needs you to help him out on a couple of missions, most of which will feel familiar to anybody who spent the time going through Oblivion's storyline. As you complete these lengthy missions you will improve your rank and title, until you ultimately find yourself crowned the Madgod of the Shivering Isles.
At first these missions are a whole lot of fun, some of them are much more impressive than anything I remember playing in the main Oblivion storyline. In one early mission you have to activate an ancient dungeon that allows you to trap intruders. Once you've battled your way through the corridors and activated the dungeon you get to sit back and watch a couple of wayward intruders explore it. As you watch the party look around and try to make sense of their surroundings you can choose to kill them off by creating a monster they have to battle or make them go mad (and eventually die). For example, in one room there's a huge cage with some sort of treasure tucked behind it. If you want to make it simple you can spawn a monster and kill them off that way, or you can drop thousands of keys … none of which actually open up the cage. Regardless of what you choose the outcome is the same, all of the adventurers die and its your job to rush back to Sheogorath and get your next quest.
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