Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Skyrim DLC

Post-Launch Review
Skyrim DLC (PC)
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios


 If I had to choose three words to describe Dawnguard's story, I would pick generic, standard, and boring. This vampire hunter story has been told plenty of times. You've got your crotchety old guy that no one believed but was right all along, vampires trying to get around the sun weakness, and a hawt female vampire who proves that not all vampires are evil. Yawn.

The new gameplay stuff is better, but not great. You can use crossbows,  which are almost as good as bows. You do get the option to side with either the Dawnguard or the vampires, and if you pick vampire you become one. That's cool, and the powers are really neat... but super overpowered. Which is especially problematic when you can already be super overpowered before even becoming a vampire.

The best elements are the things that have nothing to do with the vampire story. You'll be sent to find and decipher more Elder Scrolls, which requires you to find a Moth Priest and learn about how the Elder Scrolls are read, and what the long-term effects are. You get to uncover some information on the snow elves and a bit of their culture before they became the falmer, mirroring an ancient ritual that has you make a quiet trek through the beautiful Forgotten Vale. These segments are where the DLC shines.
Recommendation: maybe.
The vampire stuff is cool, but the rest of it is just more Skyrim. There are some great segments and lore, but the main story is pretty unimaginative and boring.


SUPER AWESOME... as long as you're trying it on a new save file. To build a house you need to do all kinds of running around to gather materials. On a new save you can build your house as you adventure, but with an experienced character you'll just be fast travelling back and forth until your house is done... and if you already bought some of the other houses, a custom one won't add that much. You also can't include all building options in the same house, and you can't change your mind and renovate structures once you've added them. What's most inconvenient is moving all your stuff if you've already been filling a house - I have thousands of pounds of crap in Whiterun that would be really annoying to carry over.
There are some flaws and bugs as well. Your display cases don't allow you to place stuff inside; weapon racks don't properly hold weapons; armour racks can display the wrong armour and can duplicate items; your beds don't apply the Well Rested bonus; there are some renovation bugs; and it takes FOREVER for your furniture to show up if you have your steward order it for you (as in, in-game months), making it way faster (but more expensive) to build it yourself. Fortunately the Unofficial Hearthfire Patch fixes a lot of these issues - I'll talk about some good mods to install in a future post.

Recommendation: play it on a new save. 
There are some pretty cool features you can build into your house, and will add a lot of convenience if you build the right stuff together. It's pretty unwieldly to build everything on a long-established character, but if you build as you go you'll probably be much better off. Once you fill out the rooms they're really awesome - the armoury and trophy room in particular are great showcases for your collection.


This is the good stuff! A whole new island to explore, with new architecture and terrain types (ash-covered forest, volcanic features), new armour and weapons, new unique item enchantments, new crafting ingredients and recipes, some touches of Morrowind, and plenty of new quests and dungeons to discover.

Dragonborn hooked me before I even started playing it. I went to Riften and was attacked by a group of cultists shouting that I'm an impostor and the true dragonborn has sent them to kill me. Uh, what? I learned all the words of power and killed the dragon god, I damn well want to know who's calling me an impostor!

Solstheim's new environments really got me excited to explore again. After 100 hours of vanilla Skyrim I burned out on exploration and never finished clearing the map, but Solstheim's ash forests, ice caves and glaciers, and the realm of Apocrypha were new stuff.

Spoilers in the next two paragraphs - skip them if you want the main story of Dragonborn to be a surprise.
Speaking of Apocrypha, there's a lot of lore involved in Skyrim. Miraak, the first Dragonborn, gained his power from Hermaeus Mora, the Daedric prince of knowledge and fate. Apocrypha is really creepy with all its ruined books, black liquid, and tentacles - the visuals plus the theme remind me strongly of H.P. Lovecraft. Anyway, Miraak gained power from Hermaeus Mora in exchange for service, and Miraak wants to use the new Dragonborn to take his place and return to Tamriel, which he'll take over using his power to control dragons.

I didn't feel that the game properly communicated the terms of Miraak's service, though - Miraak appeared on Solstheim at least once to taunt me by stealing a dragon soul, but when I saw him again later he said he was trapped in Apocrypha. That's weird, he was in Tamriel a few hours ago. And he's been gathering and communicating with followers somehow. Is he trapped or isn't he? In any case, I also felt the final battle with Miraak ends very suddenly. It was a cool fight - Miraak called down dragons and consumed them to heal several times - but when I killed him, Hermaeus Mora showed up and stabbed Miraak and told me I'd be serving him now. And that's it. I couldn't even say no. Back to Tamriel with me.
Recommendation: play it.
Dragonborn adds a ton of lore and gameplay, and it's high-quality stuff. It recaptures the feeling of discovery that I loved about the base game, and expands on lore and story in interesting ways. Plus all the new gameplay features will keep you busy.

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