One of the best features of Oblivion on the Xbox 360, is having the ability to download additional content from Xbox Live. To date there have been several downloads, ranging from horse armor to the Knights of the Nine quest download. The largest download available to date has to be the new Shivering Isles expansion pack. For years now expansion packs have been exclusive to computers but all of that changed with the Xbox 360. Now gamers all over the world can extend their 360 games by downloading additional content for a small asking price. Bethesda’s masterpiece is once again brimming with life thanks to the Shivering Isles. Before you jump in though, you should take note that you’ll need copy of Oblivion, an Xbox Live account, 2400 Microsoft points and just under 1GB of free space on your hard-drive. If you’ve got all that, you’re ready to experience one of the most unique expansion packs ever released.
Whether or not you’ve completed Oblivion is irrelevant once you’ve downloaded the expansion pack. You can jump right into the new content as soon as you want. Shortly after you start playing your regular game you’ll be told of a portal arising over Niben Bay. Once you decide to enter the portal you’ll be whisked away to a far off land, unlike anything found in Tamriel. Upon arriving in the Shivering Isles your character will be greeted by a rather bizarre fellow named Haskill. Haskill informs you that the Shivering Isles are broken up into two main realms, the realm of Mania and the realm of Dementia. The Daedric Prince of Madness, Sheogorath, is the supreme ruler of both realms and upon arriving in the Shivering Isles, you’ll become the Prince’s right hand man. As you perform more and more tasks for the insane Prince, you’ll slowly rise in rank, in the Court of Madness.
Does this story sound as epic or sweeping as the main storyline from Oblivion? Well it shouldn’t. Bethesda went out of their way to ensure the storyline in the Shivering Isles was as unique as possible and the truth is they’ve succeeded. About the only thing one can compare the Shivering Isles to is Alive in Wonderland because the entire world is twisted and turned and some of the quests you’ll partake in are nothing short or insane. One of the side-quests, for example, will have you trying to murder a man who’s fed up of living but is too fearful to commit suicide. You have to kill him in such a way that it looks like an accident. This is but one of many surprisingly twisted, yet addictive new tasks set before you in the Shivering Isles expansion.
While the storyline is refreshing, some of the tasks do get a bit repetitive over time. Since this is only an expansion and not a full on sequel, it’s understandable that Bethesda didn’t have the resources or the time needed to give the title as much diversity as they likely would have wanted to. While the beginning of the game offers some truly unique quests, eventually Sheogorath will send you on basic fetch quests, which grow tiring. The good news is that you’re completely free to spice things up on your own by taking on side-quests. Don’t forget that this is The Elder Scrolls so you can still make new weapons, items and armor with the items and ingredients you find scattered around this new area. There are several areas that you can make use of. While the weapons and armor you make may not be the most useful compared to what you’re already equipped with, you can always sell them off for loot. By the time you’re done with the Shivering Isles you’ll likely be one wealthy adventurer.
The setting is what ultimately separates Shivering Isles from Oblivion and that’s a very good thing because it gives the game a nice breath of fresh air. While some of the characters are certainly over the top, others are so nutty they’re hilarious. Sadly the Prince, Sheogorath, is a bit on the annoying side because he constantly shouts. He’s one of those characters that should be interesting but comes off too strong so you’ll likely tune him out very early on. However, most of the NPCs are cheerful in their insane ways and they come across in a humorous manner so you shouldn’t have any problems with them.
Outside of the regular townsfolk, you’ll have to contend with tons of new monsters who want nothing else but to see you dead. The new dungeons are home to some seriously nasty creatures but your new weapons will put them to rest. The new spells in the expansion are also highly useful to combat these new evil-doers. There really is something for every character class and skill-trade. While the Shivering Isles aren’t one hundred percent mandatory, we highly recommend you download this expansion if for nothing else but to return to the wonderful world that is The Elder Scrolls.
Shivering Isles controls just as well as Oblivion and it also seems to stress the 360 as much as said title did before. There are some lengthy load times present but thankfully the dungeons have been arranged in such a manner as to limit the loading. There’s still a dip in the framerate whenever to much action occurs at one time and on occasion there’ll be some environmental pop-in. For the most part though, this is one fine looking expansion pack. The particle effects look wonderful and virtually everything in the environment is twisted and fits the bill perfectly. Like Oblivion the size and scope of the game are what make this title so impressive. It’s one of the prettiest games on the 360 and will impress even the stingiest graphics junkies.
The audio is just as impressive but because of theme, some of the voices used can be overwhelmingly annoying. Sheogorath is by far the worst character in the expansion pack, which is a real shame given how often you have to speak with him. He constantly talks gibberish and screams at you, which will likely cause you to turn down your surround sound, just to shut him up. Everyone else talks just as they should for insane inhabitants of the Shivering Isles. Prepare for a good laugh every once and a while.
The Shivering Isles is one of the best downloads you can purchase from Xbox Live. It is well worth the money because of all the extra content you get and the sheer number of hours added to an already insanely long game. Couple that with the ten new achievements and you have yourself a must-buy expansion pack for those that loved Oblivion. With the gates of Oblivion closed, it’s now time to enter the maddening realm of the Shivering Isles. Don’t miss out!