The Elder Scrolls V: Skryim release in November of 2011 was unprecedented, resulting in ten million copies sold within its first month and reaching a nice, round $650 million dollars in revenue, making it Game of the Year material quickly. It gave fans a much-needed return to the world of Tamriel, their first since The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion debuted in 2006. Though it surely gave Bethesda a bit of a reprieve to watch the fans glorify it as the best Elder Scrolls game to date, if not of all time, their work on the series wasn’t quite finished. After taking some time to charge through the game with a bow, dagger and a skill at lurking in the shadows, I’m finally ready to give a round-up on the downloadable content released for Skyrim so far.
Vampires, once were adequate facsimiles of greedy and gluttonous behavior, have been so overly romanticized that it’s hard to enjoy anything involving them. When Dawnguard was announced, I wasn’t exactly jumping up and down in excitement over content geared towards them and when released, I was decidedly more interested in killing them than being a part of them. Finishing it, I felt indifferent.
Dawnguard is an interesting exploration of Skyrim’s vampires, an expansion on vampiric lore, and the nifty addition of the Vampire Lord and its perks. Noting that it had been a while since I’d gone through the game, I went ahead and used a separate character to run around and explore the vampire side. I have to say, the Vampire Lord form feels a bit limiting at times. The skills earned through perks are alright, and they add some interesting functionality, but at the end of the day, I wasn’t impressed.
One of the few additions in the content, the Soul Cairn, was a unique place where the spent souls from soul gems go that was fun to explore and added some visual fancy to the game. I was happy to run amok within this ghostly landscape, and talk to random phantom NPCs, one of whom will be familiar if you’ve ever played The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Of course, navigating it was a chore near the conclusion of my exploration of that realm, as it was a bit confusing, with no stand-out landmarks to speak of. The Dawnguard castle was another nice, yet simple spectacle, but I think my favorite part was visiting an old, seemingly untouched Snow Elf/Falmer monastery with two unique looking dragons and a cool boss sequence near the end being one of the few satisfactory moments of Dawnguard.
Delving into semi-spoiler territory, the end missions for the vampire side are rather, well… disappointing. I really felt like I wanted the option to aid in Lord Harkon’s mad quest, only to backstab him and take the throne of Clan Vokihar, knocking him from his high-horse once he had successfully blotted out the sun. Sadly, this was not to be.
Overall, I’d say that Dawnguard was a mediocre addition.
7 out of 10
You know, when I heard they were adding the ability to let players build their own houses, I thought, “I own the PC version. I can just add my own house through the SDK”. Of course, this isn’t true for everyone, console gamers not-withstanding, but I bided my time and put down the cash to check it out when it was released. What I got felt rather rough around the edges and didn’t add anything that I was impressed with. The option to buy and build your own estate is a nice touch, but the options felt limited and the addition of hired hands and adoptable children didn’t really do much for me.
First of all, I had no friggin’ idea where to purchase the land to get a house, so I had to go online and research that tiny tidbit of information. Kind of a failure on Bethesda’s part, I think. Of course, I was already at the point where I’d defeated Alduin, completed Dawnguard in its entirety and had become the official Thane for almost every damn town on the planet, so I had no inclination to check back at those small little settlements dotting the map and I had no clues pointing me there. Once I’d discovered the means to do so, I went about buying said plot at point when I had enough money to buy it five times over by then.
I picked up all the tools and supplies to build the foundation, going out of my way to mine every iron ore deposit on the continent, and searching high and low for even more materials for furnishing my house. Finally, I had a homestead which I could be proud of, though I skipped out on building a children’s bedroom, because fuck that noise. The addition of a garden was nice, though, sadly, Shadowmane never took to the horse stables I’d built, preferring to muck about outside my door. The cooking, smithing, and alchemy crafting tables allowed me to skip the part where I drag fifty dragon bones and scales to the nearest weapon’s dealer, and since they added fletching, I was even happier to set up shop in my house’s basement.
At some point, I bought another place and gave it some bare-bones furnishing, with the addition of a children’s room so I could try out the adoption feature. At some point, the kid wandered off, never to be seen again. I imagine he’s either dead in well in the middle of nowhere, or is being raised by wolves and had taken to preying on hapless passers-by.
All-in-all, nothing special… and certainly nothing to put money into if you, like me, had already bought all the original player housing in vanilla Skyrim.
6 out of 10
The most welcome of the DLC’s to come out, Dragonborn adds much to the game that I may not have asked for, but certainly found enjoyable.
Dragonborn starts out with a run-in with some cultists who, upon identifying you, bear their arms for a fight. Dispatching them leaves you a scrap paper clue leading you to the docks of Windhelm where a boat ferries you off to the Nordic province of Solstheim, an island that has seen better days. After the eruption of Red Mountain, ash seems to cover everything on the southern half of the island, which has been throughly bombed out and the once proud province of Vvardenfel is now a gloomy shadow of its former self, while that fiery volcano continues to rumble and spew ash in the distance.
Your first stop is Raven Rock, a settlement you had a hand in building under the East Empire Company during the Bloodmoon expansion for Morrowind. The mining village is now occupied primarily by dark elves, or Dunmer, under House Redoran, one of the three governing Dunmer houses that rules over the region. If you can’t tell already, I was a big fan of Morrowind and I whole-heartedly recommend playing that game.
From there, you’ll traverse the island searching out this cult who praises another dragonborn who claims to be the true ‘Dovahkiin’. You’ll encounter new materials and be introduced to new armor sets and new Thu’um, or Shouts, including one that allows you to bend the wills of those around you. You’ll also be introduced to a new realm to explore, hidden within certain books scattered throughout the various dungeons and crypts on Solstheim. This new realm, called Apocrypha, might feel very Lovecraft-ian in nature, as the walls are composed of innumerous moldy black tomes and scrolls and the daedric prince Hermaeus Mora appears through black portals, filled with octopus eyes and dark, slimy tentacles.
As mentioned in the rumor mill some time ago, you are indeed treated to dragon riding. Kinda. Mechanically, it’s an autopilot system with little to no real control. You can direct the winged beast towards a target that you’ve locked onto, where you can then attack with magic, or have the dragon do so on your command. Still, knowing that dragons fly around in a weird shifting manner in Skyrim, I still felt a bit let-down by the extremely limited control set-up for them. It’s basically a mount that roams through the air while you yell commands at it.
That said, even if they only had one Telvanni tower to run around in, it was still a fun trip and the best DLC thus far, in my book. It felt great to return to a half-familiar land and reminisce of gaming adventures past.
9 out of 10