The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion is easily one of the best games for the 360, and roughly a year after its release the expansion Shivering Isles is now available. Can the adventures awaiting you in the realm of the daedric prince of madness stand up to those in the rest of Cyrodiil?
The Shivering Isles are a truly unique experience to anything offered in Cyrodiil. The scenery presented to you when you enter immediately makes you feel like you’re in a different world. There are two sides to the Isles, Mania, and Dementia, both with their own feel. In Mania you’ll experience vibrant colors and majestic views, while in Dementia you’ll feel like you’re trekking through a swamp. It adds a good amount of depth to the expansion, and makes it a nice break from the world outside the realm.
The quests in the Shivering Isles offer a pretty wide range of tasks for you to complete. Some are mundane, but the majority of them feel very different from your quests in Cyrodiil. Add into this the size of the realm, it’s about 1/4 to 1/3 the size of Cyrodiil, and you have a good amount of material to cover. You should easily be able to milk the 30 hours of gameplay out the expansion that is touted, and there are branches in the storyline that promote replay value. The Shivering Isles are just as fun to explore and wander as Cyrodiil is, and the quests are unique enough to offer you a break from the rest of the Oblivion quest lines. One of the first quests for Sheogorath is a good example of this as you lure a group of adventurers into a dungeon and room by room get to decide whether or not to kill them outright or simply drive them insane.
The new enemies are also a nice addition and help immerse you into the Isles, and reinforce the difference between Cyrodiil and the Shivering Isles. Likewise, the caves and forts feel much different than their counterparts outside the Isles. There’s a much greater organic feel to the underground areas that you can enter, with many of them mixing masonry and carved tunnels with more natural caves. The caves themselves don’t feel like they’re caverns as much as you’re traversing the underground root structure of an ancient tree. This more natural approach really helps set Shivering Isles apart.
One of the best things about Shivering Isles are the NPCs who inhabit it. It’s hard to explain just how different they are from the NPCs in Cyrodiil, the majority of them are completely insane. There’s even a good amount of variety in the types and severity of insanity. You’ll encounter plenty of paranoid delusional NPCs mostly from Dementia. One of the best parts of Shivering Isles is talking to all the NPCs just to see how crazy they are. The lord of the Shivering Isles, Sheogorath, is no exception. He offers up some of the best dialog the expansion has to offer.
The item creation in Shivering Isles is a nice addition, but slightly disappointing due to a lack of versatility. By collecting various amounts of materials found in the Isles, users can have a smith fashion weapons for them. Matrices used to create magic items out of raw materials are nice but don’t make up for the fact that you can only make items out of 2 materials. There are a significant amount of magic items that users will collect by playing through the main quest, including some truly unique and powerful items.
Not surprisingly, the game performs better in the Isles, with fewer instances of framerate drop as well as fewer lockups. After running around Cyrodiil and experiencing the usual bugs, it’s nice to head into the Isles and be mostly free from this. There is a drawback to having the Isles, it doubles the amount of time it takes to load the additional content every time you start the game.
Shivering Isles offers a wealth of material for the 2400 MS point price tag. The 30 hour mark will be easy to reach, and the Isles are detailed enough to suck you in much like the rest of the game. The amount of depth and variety in the Isles, combined with how different the Isles feel from the rest of Cyrodiil make this expansion a worthy addition to Oblivion, and a worthy addition to your hard drive.
Final Score: 8 out of 10 Good (How do we rate games?)