Shivering Isles (Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion Expansion)

boyward - Staff Reviewer

Content at a glance:


Computer Platform: Xbox 360 (Microsoft)
Produced by: Bethesda Softworks
Price Range: $21-30
Learning curve time: 1-30 min.
Age level: Mature Teen to Adult
ESRB Rating: M (Mature)

Reviewed By: Phil Rownd (aka boyward)

Overall Rating: ★★½☆☆
Genre: RPG
Rating: 1 of 5 (awful)
Gameplay: 5 of 5 (excellent)
Violence: 1 of 5 (extreme)
Adult Content: 1 of 5 (extreme)


Shivering Isles (Elder Scrolls IV Oblivion Expansion). Illustration copyrighted.

Having played through all of Oblivion, I was eager to sample the first full expansion pack, Shivering Isles. In some ways the Isles are more of the same: same music, same humanoid character models, same quest structure, same glitchy game code. But whereas the land of Tamriel (the kingdom you play in Oblivion) was traditional and rather stale, the Shivering Isles are colorful and fantastic, much Alice’s Wonderland. This is because the Isles themselves are a reflection of the mind of its ruler: Lord Sheogorath. And like every other citizen in the Realm of Madness, Lord Sheogorath is insane. Like the guard tells you before you walk through the door, perfectly normal people go in, but they come out raving lunatics, their minds the property of Lord Sheogorath.

You’ll do a lot of talking with the mad residents of this Realm, and fortunately this part of the game is a lot of fun. Shivering Isles has some of the most refreshingly random dialogue I’ve seen in a video game. This is because everyone is… crazy. I also appreciated the alien-ness of the Isles. The plants and wildlife are less Tolkien and more like something you’d see in Oz or Wonderland. Here’s the thing, though. The Isles themselves are about 1/4 the size of Tamriel (Oblivion), and there’s about 1/4 as much stuff to do. Tamriel was so enormous that you could get some enjoyment from the game without playing the main question, but the fact that the Isles are much smaller means you’re going to get bored if you don’t eventually get involved in the quest. So, assuming you’re going to play the main quest, here’s what you can expect:

The violence here is extreme. Right away, you witness the giant Gatekeeper slaughter a group of travelers. You need to get through his Gate, but the keys are sewn into the Gatekeeper’s body. You’ll have to figure out a way to slay him and then take the keys from his corpse. This disturbing event sets the tone for the rest of the game. The errands Lord Sheogorath assigns to you include deciding the fath of adventurers who enter His maze. (I capitalize “Him” because they do so in the game.) With the press of a button you can end their life with a nasty trap (and watch it all happen from above), or cruelly force them into an experience that can drive them into madness. You’ll also serve as the Grand Inquisitor, torturing the residents to flush out a conspiracy. In your adventures you’ll encounter corpses hanging from meat hooks, bowls on the floor collecting the dripping blood. You’ll watch as “Failed Experiments” rise from the floor– half-rotted bodies shambling about, some without their heads intact. At one point you have to wade through a room flooded with ankle-deep blood. You’ll build a monster from raw body parts and watch him slaughter your enemies. You’ll have to murder a woman in order to obtain her eyeball. Blood splatters on the walls, bodies of torture victims and chunks of meaty human flesh lay strewn about on altars, and the dungeons are crawling with disfigured men and beasts whose rotting flesh is only barely held together by stitches.

Even though I don’t recall hearing a single curse word in the entire game, I would still classify the language as extreme. The conversations you’ll have with the mad residents of this Realm regularly deal with some extremely dark and morbid themes. Misery, despair, paranoia, betrayal, murder, torture, dismemberment, cannibalism, mind-altering drugs, suicide, and assisted suicide are regular topics on the Shivering Isles. A lot of it is played for laughs, but you’ll have to decide for yourself whether you can laugh at such black comedy, and then again you’ll hear disgusting things said that aren’t intended to be funny at all.


Lord Sheogorath is also referred to by another title: Madgod. Idols in His image are enshrined throughout the Realm and worshiped by citizens. Worse yet, if you complete the main quest the citizens will worship YOU. to get there, you’ll have to participate in a murderous ritual in which a former Duke or Duchess must die, and then you collect their blood or their heart and place it on an altar to claim the vacated throne. You’ll also assist a mad sorceress by going to the Gardens of Flesh and Bone to harvest components needed to create a killer monster, something akin to Frankenstein’s monster. You’ll then participate in a magical ceremony to bring this flesh to life. These quests are unavoidable if you want to complete the main story line. There are also religious cults and heretics and zealots similar to those in the original Oblivion game.

About half of the female characters wear bikini outfits around town. At least one book, “The Lusty Argonian” contains sexual innuendo. There is some gossip about two characters having an affair. You may occasionally hear a vague reference to, as one character puts it, “erotic bedroom games.” If you beat the game you can summon a dancing entertainer to your throne room.

You’ll have to consume Felldew, a hallucinogenic drug, to progress through the main storyline. You can use Greenmote (a similar drug) to send a political rival into a fatal drug overdose. There are taverns and plenty of booze for everyone and at least half of the kingdom enjoys the lavish lifestyle.


At one point you can raise objections to torture and demand the victims’ release. You can help the citizens solve their problems: fetching medicines, finding a place for them to safely sleep, and so on.

I paid almost $30 for this rather short expansion (about 8 hours to complete the main quest), and I don’t feel like I got my money’s worth. There were times when I greatly enjoyed my experience among the mad on Shivering Isles and wished Tamriel had this much life and spontaneity, but the citizens’ madness created a great number of unpleasant events that I never want to experience again.

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Year of Release — 2007

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this Spotlight review are those of the reviewer (both ratings and recommendations), and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Eden Communications or the Answers Network.

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