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I granted the title of e-AAGH.net’s 2006 Game of the Year upon Oblivion for good reason. It’s one of the best games I’d ever played.  Naturally I had to give the expansion pack, Shivering Isles a go. Now that I have, I’ve found that I may have enjoyed it more then the original. Can an expansion pack win a Game of the Year award? We’ll see at year’s end.

The Isles are the work of the Daedric Prince of Madness, Sheogorath. You get there from an odd door that opens in the Nibany Basin. Once there you are immediately given tasks to test your fortitude, key amongst them being the slaying of the monstrous Gatekeeper. In traditional Elder Scrolls style, there’s more then one way to go about this (starting with brute force, of course).

The main quest takes you to only a few choice points on the Isles, but I enjoyed it much more than Oblivion’s. Sheogorath himself is a riot and I felt like I was making more of a difference here. That sensation of progress pushed me through the story much faster then in the main game.

Mania and Dementia rule separate parts of the Shivering Isles. Mania’s lands are bright and cheerful (and it’s people a little disturbing). Dementia, on the other hands, are darker and more depressing. I found myself drawn to Dementia when the story inevitable had me take sides, but you can go either way (Betasim, for example, played exactly opposite my path on a whim). I won’t spoil any more of it for you but to say that you would do well to know both.

Some of my favorite features included the Museum of Oddities, the Amber and Madness weapons/armor, and the many references to older Elder Scrolls games. Once I got to the Isles I didn’t want to leave. I enjoyed the borderline psychotic personalities, and the new monsters and weapons are more creative then in Oblivion. It did seem easier, though. Sadly, there’s nothing new on the character creation front. No new races, classes or features.  The graphics, beyond the new clothes, items and world, are the same as last year (not that that’s a bad thing), and the sound is just about unchanged – but some of the voice acting is classic.

I’d recommend this is in a heartbeat to anyone who enjoyed Oblivion. This is what an expansion pack should live up to. It should make you love an older game all over again, and Shivering Isles does this. Buy it and love it, and when you do, summon Haskill and tell ‘im Alpha said ‘hi.’ Alphasim out.

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