Game: Oblivion: Shivering Isles
Developer: Bethesda
Publisher: Bethesda
Year: 2007
Reviewed: 2009
Platform: PC
Genre: RPG Expansion
Reviewer: ValkyrDeath

After cashing in by releasing over-priced downloadable content packs with hardly anything in them, Bethesda finally settled down to releasing a proper expansion pack to the fourth Elder Scrolls game with Shivering Isles. It’s set in the Shivering Isles, land of Sheogorath, the Daedric Prince of Madness who rained burning dogs on you in the main game. The Isles are split into two sections, Mania and Dementia, and being ruled by Sheogorath they live up to their names. Each of the two areas feels completely different, although the inhabitants of each are still insane in their own way. Dementia is a dark and gloomy land full of twisted plants and trees and gothic buildings, and the people there are paranoid and depressed. In contrast, Mania is bright and colourful and the people there are…well… manic.

Oblivion Shivering Isles
Not everywhere in the Shivering Isles is this inviting.

This all makes an interesting setting in which to indulge in some more Elder Scrolls style role playing. The land mass isn’t anywhere near as large as the one in Oblivion but it’s pretty big for an expansion pack. In terms of gameplay there’s nothing really new here. It’s more of the gameplay that we got in Oblivion, but then, isn’t that what expansion packs are for? After a brief introduction in a small gateway town you get to enter the Isles through one of two gates corresponding to the two halves of the Isles. Which is rather pointless since they both come out about two feet apart from each other and the only actual difference is whether you get a Blessing of Mania or Blessing of Dementia spell to sit on your spell list unused for the rest of the game. From then on it’s an open world to explore, on a smaller scale than Cyrodiil but still with plenty of places to go.

As with Oblivion, you can barely move without stumbling across a new location. Also like Oblivion, a lot of them are virtually identical dungeons that are only really useful if you’re treasure hunting or levelling up your skills, or if you really enjoy wandering identical corridors for hours. There are also quite a few small towns to discover though, with various side quests scattered around the map, although the majority of them are in the main towns. They don’t always feel quite as interesting as most of the quests from its parent game, but there are some good ones, and the insanity theme leads to some more interesting characters than usual.

On the other hand, the main quest is much better than the main quest in the original game. Sheogorath decides that you’re the right person to stop the Greymarch, the attempt to destroy the Isles by the forces of Order. So it’s up to you to protect insanity. The quest takes you all over the map performing lots of interesting tasks and working your way up the ranks in the court of either Mania or Dementia. It involves quite a variety of objectives and is a lot better than the endless, repetitive Oblivion gates of old.

Oblivion Shivering Isles
Colour! I guess colour is such a rarity in modern games that game designers now consider it a sign of insanity.

Unfortunately, Shivering Isles does seem to contain quite a few bugs, some of them major. On one quest, I activated something and the game let me use an object I hadn’t even found yet. This led to problems when I did actually find the object and the quest later wouldn’t proceed. I ended up having to enter and leave an area until the game finally triggered something and moved on. There were other instances of having to return to places due to characters not being where they were supposed to be and a few minor problems here and there that really should have been sorted out before release.

Despite the bugs, the game is still enjoyable, and it’s a decent length too. You should be able to get 20 hours from it at least, and longer if you want to do all the side quests and dungeons. That’s a lot more than you get in most full games these days. If there’s one thing disappointing other than the bugs, it’s that they didn’t really do as much as they could have with the setting. While they did do a good job making the two regions fit their theme, they’re still surprisingly restrained and most of the things in it are mildly eccentric at best rather than insane. I was expecting some truly surreal quests but most of them ended up being rather conventional despite the weird characters telling you what to do. But that’s not a major thing, and I like to judge a game on what it does do rather than what it doesn’t, and this is more of the stuff that made Oblivion such a great game in the first place. As such, it’s nothing revolutionary, but it’s well worth getting for anyone who was a fan of the original.

Save System Review: Save anywhere and quicksave, as expected.
Graphics: The same quality graphics as in Oblivion, but with some new scenery.
Sound: Again, the same quality as the rest of Oblivion.
Bugs: The most disappointing part of the expansion. There are just too many bugs that should have been fixed before it got to the shelves.
Gameplay: More of what made Oblivion great. There’s not as much of it this time round of course, but the quality is still there for the most part.
Storyline: An entertaining and humorous main quest and some eccentric characters keep the game moving, although there’s nothing to match the likes of the Dark Brotherhood or Thieves Guild quests from the main game.

Arbitrary Final Score: 3.5 stars

If you like this, you might also like: Oblivion (which you’d have to already have in order to play this, so it goes without saying. But I said it anyway. So there.)

Happy to get some extra Oblivion or does it just drive you insane? Tell us in the forums!