I'm back again with my review of the first of three DLC packs for Skyrim: Dawnguard. This one adds a whole new quest chain to the game which splits off down two different paths after a bit of initial set up. You can either choose to side with the eponymous Dawnguard, a group of vampire hunters who have seen better days, or you can side with Harken, an extremely old and powerful vampire lord. I have actually completed both sides of the story as different characters, and I definitely enjoyed the Dawnguard version more. There is a lot of crossover between the two sides though, as you will be doing essentially the same missions, just for a different outcome.
The main quest chain is fairly lengthy, though the last quest drags on far too long in my opinion, to the point of becoming somewhat tedious. There is some cool lore for long time Elder Scrolls fans, though this is not quite enough to raise the whole thing above mediocrity. Some of the plot and the actions of the characters don't make a whole lot of sense in the scheme of things either. Backing up the main quest chain are a bunch of side quests that you can do. These seemed to make more sense and be better structured on the Dawnguard side because the quests were all centered around restoring the dilapidated Dawnguard fort back to its former glory, and recruiting new members for the cause. The vampire side quests were a lot more random in their nature and after a while I kept getting given variations on the same ones.
This DLC does offer a few more new things, however - it introduces crossbows and bolts, and also the ability to make your own arrows at a forge. This is very handy, especially if you play on Expert or Master difficulty where you will constantly be running low of ammo. The other thing new to this DLC is the expanded vampire and werewolf skill trees. Now as you kill enemies in vampire or werewolf form you will earn experience which can be spent on a dozen or so exclusive skills. They are pretty cool and powerful, and the whole skill tree only takes a couple of hours to unlock if you put your mind to it. Being a vampire is such as pain in the ass in general though that as soon as I was done with the Dawnguard story I sought out a cure.
Overall this DLC is just OK in my opinion. It's just about worth the asking price if you're dying for more Skyrim. Once again as with all of the DLC, the best way to get it is as part of the Legendary Edition.
Overall: 7 out of 10.
So, here I am again with another review for the next piece of Skyrim DLC, Hearthfire. Unlike in Dawnguard or Dragonborn, you won't be setting off on all all new adventure this time, unless you consider interior decorating and adopting a child an adventure (which you might well for all I know)!
Considering the original asking price, what you actually get in this DLC doesn't really amount to all that much. Player housing was already present in the main game to a certain extent, and those houses were quite handily placed within exisiting cities for easy access to blacksmiths, general goods stores and potion shops. The three new plots of land available to you are all fairly remote, and each has their own particular disadvantages for living there. For example the one I chose to build first, Lakeside Manor, just happens to have a giant living right next door, who has a nasty habit of loitering in the garden and killing my cow and horse!
After building this first house and all of the optional wings, a task which takes a lot of blacksmithing and materials, I then decided to adopt a child. There was a girl called Lucia in Whiterun who I decided to take under my care, though sadly my adventuring lifestyle can keep me away from her for months at a time. Luckily I have a steward to keep an eye on her! When I do turn up at home to offload any pelts, ingots and other assorted junk I've looted from the corpses of bandits, there are sometimes situations that require my attention. Maybe the cellar has become infested with Skeevers, or perhaps a dragon is trying to set fire to the thatch. It could just be that Lucia is bored and wants to play hide and seek.
Building the foundations of the house won't use up too many of your own material supply as most of the stuff you need can be found right on your plot of land. The main things you will need to go off and buy are lumber and iron ingots, as well as things like glass and straw for interior decorations. Once the actual house is built you can just pay your trusty steward to buy and decorate the place on your behalf, if you're lazy like me. This does cost quite a lot though.
Hearthfire is a tough thing to recommend. If you're getting it as part of the Lengendary Edition of Skyrim, then you may as well build the houses and adopt a child just for the the achievements points (if you're into such things, that is). Otherwise it's really not worth the money, and is definitely the weakest of the three DLC packs that were made available.
Overall: 5 out of 10.
It's time to go back to Skyrim one last time and take a look at the final piece of DLC that was released for the game, Dragonborn. This time around, Bethesda have created an entirely new landmass for you to explore, complete with new enemies such as the terrifying Ash Spawn, annoying Ash Hoppers and several new varieties of spider. Well, I say Solstheim is new, but apparently it has been featured before in the Bloodmoon expansion for Morrowind. As I understand it, several of the quests on the island refer back to characters and events from Bloodmoon as well, which is a cool little nod to the fans.
So, then what does this DLC consist of? Well, Soltheim is a fairly sizeable new area to explore - certainly nowhere near as big as the main game, but it has over 30 new places to visit, from settlements such as Raven Rock, Tel Mythrin and Skall Village, to Nord barrows and Dwemer ruins. The look of Solstheim is quite different to Skyrim as well, due to the island being affected by the constant plume of ash coming from the Red Mountain, which can be seen but not visited.
The main quest line of Dragonborn sees you going up against Miraak, who was once a loyal Dragon Priest but was swayed by the influence of the Daedric prince Hermaeus Mora. You may remember him from the main quest of the game proper when you were tasked in with finding the Oghma Infinium, a very powerful tome that granted your character one of three boons. It turns out that it's not the only book of its kind, as there are another seven Black Books hidden around Soltsheim to find. You will come across several of these as part of the plot, and visit Mora's Oblivion realm known as Apocrypha. This place is heavily influenced by Lovecrafts Cthulu mythos, as are the denizens of that place.
The rest of the Black Books are entirely optional, yet it will benefit you greatly for seeking them out as you can choose another power from each one, and there's an achievement for recovering at least five of them. You will be aided in your quest by colourful characters like Glover Mallory - the brother of Delvin from the Thieve's Guild, and an extremely eccentric Telvanni Mage called Neloth who is brilliantly voiced by Dwight Schultz. He is the highlight of the entire DLC in my opinion.
There quite a few other optional quests to be found on this island as well, and your total time spent should you do everything could be as much as 30 hours, to you definitely get your money's worth with this one. Also included in this DLC are several new types of crafting material such as Stalhrim, Chitin and Bonemold for making your weapons and armour even more effective. There's even almost and hour of extra music, including tunes that will be familiar to fans of Morrowind, as well as brand new tracks composed just for this DLC. Not everything about Dragonborn is as great as it could be though - being able to tame and ride dragons sounds really exciting in theory but the reality is a massive disappoinment.
This aside though, Dragonborn is by far the best of the three DLC packs that Bethesda made available. It's a shame they stopped there, as Hearthfire really felt like it was chucked together quickly just so that they could get out of their promise of three exclusive pieces of DLC on the Xbox 360. Most fans were hoping there would be at least one more offering, but it was not to be. So, my time with Skyrim finally draws to a close - well, almost. I still have the business of restoring the Thieve's Guild to their former glory, and I've yet to finish the main story for a second time. Still a fair few hours of gameplay to be had then!
Overall: 8 out of 10