The Elder Scrolls IV: The Shivering Isles (360)

By Chris Dahlberg

Published on Saturday, February 24, 2007

Xbox 360 and PC owners have had plenty of love from Bethesda Softworks recently thanks to plenty of downloadable content. In addition to plenty of small downloadable quests and other content, the Knights of the Nine addition also added plenty of extra content to a game already massive in size. But all of this is about to change when The Shivering Isles launches sometime in March. With over 30 hours of new content for Oblivion owners, this looks to be something most will want to check out. The Shivering Isles will be downloadable only for the Xbox 360, and I had the chance to give it a brief play test at Bethesda’s Rockville office.

Bethesda has stated that one can jump into this expansion whether they’ve fully conquered the main game or not. This is because once downloaded, the expansion adds a new island that can be discovered once the player has rested for a full 24 hours. After that, the players are free to jump into this new storyline, which involves the realms created by a man named Sheogorath. It turns out that the Isles in this storyline are fantasies created by Sheogorath himself. The island is divided into two different areas, Mania and Dementia. Although I exclusively spent my play time in the brighter and cheery Mania, it seems as though Dementia is a much darker place.

Immediately upon jumping into this new world, it is clear that the game world itself is much closer to the fantastic sights seen in Morrowind. Don’t get me wrong, the main game of Oblivion had plenty of interesting things to see, but The Shivering Isles is much closer to the art style and overall feel that was present while playing through much of Morrowind. This works quite well, and it was a lot of fun just exploring the various areas to see what kind of creatures and NPCs inhabited them.

The Shivering Isles is meant to add more to the Oblivion in terms of quests, items, and enemies, rather than adding any new character types. But this is perfectly alright, as the Shivering Isles themselves are quite interesting to explore. Although my play time with the game was only limited to a little over an hour (as the other hour was spent playing the Playstation 3 port of the main game), there were quite a few new enemies that I encountered. One of the most interesting new enemies would be the Tree Gnarl, which is very reminiscent of an Ent from Lord of the Rings. The core gameplay of Oblivion, as one would expect, is unchanged, although some of the new weapons promise to add some interesting functionality, such as one that changes every 12 hours based on the time of the day (either dusk or day). There is also a particularly interesting item/drug called Felldew that will temporarily enhance your character but will ultimately result in some withdrawal (and there are even Felldew addicts in some places). Thanks to interesting additions such as these, The Shivering Isles should add enough new elements to Oblivion to attract players back to the title.

One of the first tasks in the game is getting the keys to the doors leading to both Dementia and Mania. To do this, players will have to defeat a fearsome and gigantic creature known as the Gatekeeper. Attacking the creature head on will not work (as players will see an entire adventure party get wiped out by the creature), so some additional tactics must be discovered. There are two major ways to do this. The first is to get some bones from the skeletons in the Gardens of Flesh and Bone and get one of the major NPCs to make some bone arrows, and also get some tears from his creator. Once these two requirements have been met the Gatekeeper is actually pretty simple to defeat, but it was an interesting diversion.

While I didn’t actually put that much time into the quests themselves, I discovered the rich world that will make up the island of the Shivering Isles. Although I stayed in the Mania areas, I explored them from top to bottom and came upon plenty of camps, towns, and other landmarks. This method is actually a good way to get better weapons, as many of the enemies drop elements at random that players will need to bring to the blacksmith. All in all, while I chose to explore the outdoor areas rather than most of the dungeons, I cannot wait to see what the quests themselves entail.

My play time with The Shivering Isles was a bit less than what others may have already tried, I found an exciting and very fantastic world within my grasps. While it may be a bit disappointing to some that there are no new character types as there were for Morrowind in its corresponding expansion packs, the difference between the areas in the expansion and the main Oblivion game should more than make up for it. The rest of this expansion pack will hopefully be as unique as my brief playing time was with it, as it could definitely convince players who shelved the game to bring it back out for another go.

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