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[Discussion] The Shivering Isles could have been so much better

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Posted (edited)

I hate when fans try to excuse a company's lazy behavior. For example:


The realm's justice system is similar to Imperial law. Theft, assault and murder are all punishable by fines or jailtime. Prisoners are held in dangerous dungeons far away from civilization, and prisoners have the option of serving their time or leaving their cell and braving the depths of the dungeon. Criminals who resist arrest are promptly slain by the Daedric guards. Patrols along the main roads kill the dangerous creatures who wander nearby. Even Sheogorath himself is subject to his law, but will not be imprisoned. The Fringe is under the same justice system as the Isles proper, but as no guards are posted within its walls, the bounty only comes into effect once the criminal passes through the Gates of Madness. Attempting to grow a beard or attacking the Madgod is a crime punishable by execution. Those personally executed by Sheogorath are teleported several thousand feet above Execution Point, where they fall to their death.

(Quote from the UESP Wiki).

Imperial Law is only the Shivering Isles justice system because the developers thought creating an entirely new system based on madness would have been costly in terms of engine changes. So inexplicably Sheogorath is suddenly fair, punishing theft and murder. His realm should have been CHAOS incarnate. Trials are supposed to be insane. In some cases criminals should have been rewarded, in others, they should have been punished in creative ways. Copying the justice system from tamriel is an oversight, though I'm sure many people will justify this by coming up with plausible excuses such as "Look, maybe the laws were like that because Sheogorath was about to turn into Jyggalag, and thus he became more orderly". It's a nice excuse... a very nice one. But I can't do it. I know the real reason.

The Shivering Isles has 14 side quests and 17 chain quests from the Main Story. I only liked three out of the 14 side quests: Vitharn, The Great Divide and the Museum of Oddities. Everything else is *trash*. Fetch quest after fetch quest after fetch quest. Bethesda's specialty.

And then there's the SI Main Quest, which was amazing. You could argue that back in 2006 Bethesda still made some considerable effort toward their main content (i.e, the Guild Quest chains such as the Dark Brotherhood, Thieves Guild, Arena [simple but fun], Mages Guild [Fun until the Voldemort clone appeared] etc. I'm not giving that merit to the Fighters Guild, because it's one of the most deplorable, lazy and stupid questlines ever written). The Knights of the Nine expansion is also pretty good and worthy of playing or replaying.

But the rest ISN'T.

The Shivering Isles was delivered to us as a fraction of what it could have been. The Lore is generally interesting, the Dungeons are kind of fun to conquer, the Oblivion Gates are interesting thematically and aesthetically, Vaermina's plane of nightmares is one of the most amazing in theory, but the Realm of Madness is without a doubt the best concluded idea for a setting they ever had. I find myself in a position where I acknowledge what we really got and feel happy about it, and also find myself looking at the true potential - and feeling sad for it. What would it be like if the NPCs weren't stupid but really mad? What if the demented were really intelligent and the worst psychos to ever grace the earth (sexually deranged, calculating, deceiving the player into complex ways)? What if the manics went really crazy with their imagination? What if the DLC had more side quests that were BETTER WRITTEN and way more imaginative (and mad), instead of the rushed two to four dialogue plot we got? Even the Shivering Isles MQ had room for improvement, though I admit it's a great questline (8.5/10). It's a few steps short from extraordinary (each step to the top takes a lot of extra effort), but at least it's something you can replay excited when revisiting the game. Another problem I have with the SI expansion is that there is nothing to do after you become the Madgod. There's no endgame content. An expansion in one of the few games where it's interesting to become a god deserved a huge free patch full of quests that would make you feel as one of the top tiers of the verse (the daedric princes). You also have no power by the way. Jygallag leaves you and if you don't mod your game or give yourself real power though cheats, you're the same adventurer you were. At least Bethesda made several NPCs recognize you as sheogorath, even though that's a small detail when you consider the ES Lore and how the game should have treated you. A couple of long and exciting post-game quests as a daedric god with challenges among the other gods (such as the Aedric gods or the other Princes) would have realized that potential. Gods fight their peers, and it would have been more than enough to "keep the game challenging from a gameplay perspective".

But that requires passion. If the gaming industry - led by an interest in profit - would allow the devs to be more passionate about their works, these ideas would be commonplace. The devs would "feel" their games and think of ways to improve them beyond their initial scope. It's obvious these improvements have to end at some point, but I think we would be getting longer, better and way, way more interesting games.

The only devs I think of now (2024) that are passionate or somewhat passionate about their works are the Indies.

Edited by gabrielrock19
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