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FEATURED VOXPOP oblivion437 Update: I was unfortunately not aware of Shamus Young's severe criticism of Fallout 3 available here to link in the original piece and I regret that.  It dovetails rather nicely with what I've written and it's much better executed than my piece.  I strongly recommend anyone...

The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles Preview

Joe_Dodson By:
Joe_Dodson
02/16/07
PRINTER FRIENDLY VERSION
EMAIL TO A FRIEND
GENRE RPG 
PLAYERS
PUBLISHER Bethesda 
DEVELOPER Bethesda 
RELEASE DATE  
M Contains Blood and Gore, Language, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol, Violence

What do these ratings mean?

Crazy on you.

People think the holidays are the craziest time of the year, what with the air travel (it’s not a bomb, it’s my bourbon), outrageous shopping demands (I’ll just get a six pack and tell them to split it!), and mandatory family time (Don’t drink that, Timmy, it’s a bomb).  But don’t believe the hype. For all its hijinx, hassles and heated arguments, you never feel more woefully sane than you do from October to January.

click to enlargeMarch, on the other hand, is the surreal deal when it comes to crazy time. Exhibit A) March Madness. Exhibit B) The March Hare. Exhibit C) Saint Patrick’s Day (a holiday based on alcohol and pinching, why isn’t this the new Christmas?) And finally, Exhibit D) March 26th, or the day The Elder Scrolls IV: Shivering Isles goes Live! for download.  
 
The Shivering Isles is a massive expansion pack for The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. But instead of “Closing shut the jaws of Oblivion!”, you will enter the mouth of madness, in a fearless bid to become the champion of an insane Prince. The portal to Sheogorath (read: Crazyville) is literally the open, glowing mouth of a giant stone head, visibly torn between mania and dementia (weeping on one side, cackling on the other).
 
When you pass through, a tame segment ensues where a stuffy butler-type in a jester costume cordially invites you to his master’s realm. When you accept the invitation, the jester leaves, and the room dissolves into a swarm of butterflies, before revealing the verdant, surreal landscape of The Fringe. This area acts as a buffer between sanity and reality, a trial to keep the unimaginative from accessing the halls of true and utter lunacy.
 
click to enlargeThe obstacle in your path is a giant, patched together beast with a menacing, bladed forearm, a.k.a. The Gatekeeper. There are multiple ways by the fiend, but ours involved enlisting the aid of a crazy archer. And we aren’t using the term crazy loosely. The guy is interested in the Gatekeeper because, according to him, “Everything looks better with the skin off. Why, with the skin on, you can hardly see the bones.” And he isn’t just whistling Dixie. His modest two story house is literally covered with bleached skulls and body parts.
 
With his help, you de-animate the undead guardian, and discover the twin gates to Sheogorath, Mania and Dementia. Go figure, the mad plane is literally bipolar. If you head into Mania, you’ll discover a glistening world of decadent excess, with its capital city of Bliss, and if you enter Dementia, you’ll find yourself pitched into a twisted realm of woe, ruled from its capital, Crucible.
 
Of course, outlandish weapons and armor await you no matter which choice you make, but the bizarre landscapes and characters are the real tourist attractions in Sheogorath. We only saw a fraction of what will be in store for players (but will not be in stores) when this expansion goes Live!, but one thing is clear, you’d have to be crazy not to play with madness.   

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