Thursday, July 10, 2008

A Tour Of The Isles

A week or so ago I had the pleasure of returning to The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion as I finally was able to gain access to the expansion for the game, Shivering Isles.

I absolutely loved my time with Oblivion although the game's main story, constant loading screens and a few other niggles here and there didn't sit well with me meaning that I didn't enjoy all of my time in Cyrodiil. This in turn meant that I had mixed reactions upon returning to the game. On the one hand, I was looking forward to returning because it was new content to experience, it was a return to a rather beautiful game and it meant I got to hear the game's soundtrack again as well. On the other hand though, the aforementioned niggles, especially the constant load times meant that I was hesitant as I put the disc back in ready to venture into the Shivering Isles for a new adventure.

Thankfully for me, my qualms with the game were forgotten about pretty much instantly after loading the game. I was in Anvil and had just woken up from a sleep. Venturing outside, I notice that it was raining and as I love rain in games it was a nice surprise. I walked around Anvil for a while getting used to the controls and just admiring the rain before realising that I had to go near Bruma to access Shivering Isles. So I fast-traveled to Bruma only to be disappointed to see that the rain had stopped. That was soon forgotten as I left Bruma though, as there was an absolutely gorgeous sunrise happening over the water. After admiring the beauty of it all, I swam out to the small island that holds the gate to the Isles and ventured in.

What came next was my entire Saturday night disappearing as I became immersed in the Isles and the various stories within. I won't go into too much detail, but needless to say I was very impressed with the content found within and the Isles as a location as well. Whether it was taking down the Gatekeeper (a big arse troll that guarded the gates to either Dementia or Mania), becoming the Duke of Dementia or pushing an NPC off a really high staircase because he asked me to kill him (but have it seem like a suicide or accident) a couple hours before; I just really enjoyed playing the story and quests that Shivering Isles had to offer. While there was a lot of exploring of dungeons and caves still, I thought for the most part that the quests found within were quite different to what I was used to doing in Cyrodiil and as a result, it was a nice breath of fresh air and a relaxed joy to be a part of.

I also liked the art direction that the Isles had, from the purple sky lit up with stars to the way the trees looked. Seems like trivial things to care about really, but when combined it just added to the experience.

I ended up finishing the main quest line for Shivering Isles on the Saturday night/morning, as well as quite a few side quests here and there. I got my final Achievements that I needed from the game and ultimately had a wonderful time. I actually wish it wasn't over because now I don't really have much reason to play Oblivion anymore or more importantly, return to the Isles. There will always be quests that I could do in the game but now that the major storylines and quests are done, I don't have much motivation to return which is a shame. As a completionist, knowing that there's still a lot of quests to do is rather annoying but as it is such a big game with so many things to do, I don't think Oblivion will ever be a game that will be finished 100% unless of course I wanted to spend another 70 hours in the game...

All in all though, a fantastic return to a game that I quite enjoyed and one of my first experiences of an expansion of a game. Most expansions to games generally happen on PC games only and as I don't play PC games due to not having a computer decent enough for it, I haven't really experienced expansions before. I don't count maps added to Halo or whatever as expansions, even though they technically are. Anyway, Shivering Isles comes well recommended from me, as does Oblivion if you are yet to experience it.


On a related note, I recently stumbled across this blog which offers a different take on the Oblivion experience. Instead of playing the game as the intended hero, the author has decided to play Oblivion with an experience of living like an NPC (non-playable character) and it's an interesting and different take. Give it a read.

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