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The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles
Platforms: PC & Xbox 360 - Xbox 360 version through Xbox Live Marketplace at 2,400 points.
It says something about an expansion pack that its biggest defect is a bug affecting those who put between 50 and 120 hours into it. Clearly, this is a bit of a disaster for those planning to kick off The Shivering Isles then return to the land of Cyrodil and complete every quest and side-quest going, but think about it – how many full games are there where you would want to put that sort of time in? Now try and think of another expansion pack that offers that much gameplay. Many? I don’t think so.
(Note: I realise the bug will affect PC gamers much sooner, but Bethesda seems to be fixing the problem for them faster).
But then most expansion packs for established RPGs entail nothing more than a clutch of new quests and dungeons, a handful of new monsters, some new arms and armour and a few big baddies to batter to make you think you’re getting your money’s worth. Most, essentially, give you more of the same, just a little less thoughtfully put together and less exciting than you remember it. The Shivering Isles, in contrast, is basically a self-contained side adventure to the main Oblivion collection, taking you to a whole new region with a whole new central plotline and a comprehensive change of style. Think of it as a holiday within a holiday, to be taken either when you’ve finished Oblivion’s central quests and you’re looking for something to do beside clean up all the side quests, or when you simply want a change of scene.
And what a change of scene it is. The Shivering Isles is a realm of madness, ruled by a crazed Daedric prince, Sheogorath, and reflecting his warped personality. The land itself is schizophrenic, split into a Northern region dominated by vivid colours and brightly rendered fungi, and a Southern region of ragged hills, gloomy swamplands and twisted vegetation. The two realms, Mania and Dementia, share a capital city, New Sheoth, which is itself divided into Manic and Demented halves, and each is guarded by a rival sect of Daedric females, the Golden Saints and the Dark Seducers. It’s a fascinating world, and if you can criticise The Shivering Isles for anything it’s that it doesn’t run with the schizophrenia theme enough. While quests frequently involve activities in both realms, there’s rarely anything that requires you to work the two in parallel in the way, say, Nintendo has done with its parallel realms in the Zelda or Metroid games. That would be genius. This is merely inspired.
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