reviewed on PC
OK, let me admit this right off the bat, I'm an Oblivion fan. Heck, I'm an Elder Scrolls fan; I started with Daggerfall back in '94, and loved every minute of Morrowind. But you probably read my fairly glowing Oblivion review right here at Hooked Gamers so you already know that. So you probably know what I'm going to say - Shivering Isles is great! Well, it is. I even liked it better than Oblivion. Read on to find out why.
The Mad God
Install Shivering Isles, make sure its module is loaded, and a little island appears in Niben Bay. It stands out like a tattoo of Cthulhu on an eight year old girl. The portal to the Shivering Isles is -in a word- 'inconsistent' with the rest of Cyrodiil. The three-face-on-one-head portal glows an eerie blue-white from its mouth like a colorful scream. Guards have already been dispatched, and the warning is clear: Enter, and you might never return. Those who do... well, a mad Dunmer that comes running out of the portal is all the warning you need. But you'll go in anyway, because who buys a game to be warned off from playing it?
Sights of Insanity
We have all asked ourselves this question "If I were a mad god in charge of my own plane of existence, how would I decorate it?". Okay, maybe we haven't, but the mad god Sheogorath is apparently fond of giant, bulbous mushroom-trees, weird twisting landscapes, steep rises and alien-looking 'vegetation'. I am more partial to wrought-iron, skulls, and dandelions myself but my wife tells me I can't decorate a house like that. If you are a fan of madness 'or Morrowind' the Shivering Isles will feel vaguely like home. I spent more time playing Morrowind than I care to admit and the relatively banal (though very, very pretty) landscape of Cyrodiil was all the more plain in comparison. Isles is filled to the brim with the unique, the weird, and the different. It is a much more creative place, and thus a welcome change.
Almost everything has an organic feel to it; grown in some way or shaped over time by weather. It evokes memories of the Telvanni and their tower-trees, yet another way that Shivering Isles reminds me of Morrowind. Now, as you might know, Sheogorath is quite mad, and he expresses this through a sort of bipolar disorder being torn between Mania and Dementia. Mania is characterized by extreme creativity, but also hyperactivity and hedonism. Dementia borders on the goth and delights in torment, paranoia and a generally oppressive atmosphere. The visuals of the Isles are rigidly split along those lines. Mania is characterized by bright, warm colors - reds, oranges, yellows. Even the guards of Mania wear shining golden armor (indeed, they are Golden Saints). Dementia is drab - cool blues, grays, and colors with little luminosity. Nowhere is this more clear than Sheogorath's throne room, which is split down the middle between Mania and Dementia.
Fauna in Lunacy
Along with the twisted landscape are the strange creatures that inhabit it. A large variety of reptiles (quadrupeds, bipeds, even nasty anthropomorphic frogs), giant insects, flesh atronachs, mobile trees, bone constructs, and flayed canines. Nearly all of those will try to kill you, of course. The more regular folk - your everyday sentients - are twisted by Mania or Dementia. No one is sane here. The more sane they act, the more twisted they really are. So the miscellaneous quests you receive are equally twisted. You receive a number of requests to slay a portly Bosmer who just wants to finish his collection of Flawless Pearls, there is an apparent immortal coward who wants to die, an Orc who is terrified of cats, a town with a binary problem, a request to find one of everything for an overzealous encyclopedia, a request to mess up a room, a hypochondriac who wants special water, a fetch quest for the 'Calming Pants'... even Morrowind's Fork of Horripilation makes a comeback. Really, everyone here is quite mad. Even your host.
Especially your host.
No Pros and Cons at this time