Review: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard DLC Review

The Elder Scrolls V 5 Skyrim Dawnguard DLC Review

Dawnguard is The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim‘s first downloadable content (DLC) release. Originally released on Xbox 360 for an exclusive time period of a little over one month, until it eventually founds its way onto Steam Workshop for Windows users. As of this review, there is no official word yet for the PlayStation 3 release.

Dawnguard seamlessly integrates itself into the world of Skyrim for players of level ten and over. Adventurers can expect to explore new landmass, dungeons, slay new foes, collect and forge new items (including crossbows!), hire armoured trolls for battle, or become a vampire and have the power to become a legendary vampire lord. With this in mind, Bethesda’s Todd Howard promises fans a ten to twenty hour play-time with this new content, but is it worth your buck? Read more for the spoils.

Publisher: Bethesda
Developer: Bethesda
Genre: [Western] Role-Playing Game
Release Date: June 26, 2012 (Xbox 360), August 3, 2012 (Windows)
Platforms: Xbox 360, Windows (Reviewed)
Rating: N/A

Firstly, on a general note, €20, $20 and £14 is a lot of money to ask for, in regards to extra content for a videogame that you already own. It may have initially put you off. But when you compare the price point with the amount, and integrity, of content that you are getting, in comparison to other mainstream DLC available, it is actually quite a bargain. $20 for an estimated maximum of twenty gameplay hours? That’s a dollar an hour. You can decide.

With that in mind, let’s begin the review! The first quest in this DLC has it activated in a variety of different ways, including being approached by a Dawnguard recruiter or via a courier letter where you’re informed that the Dawnguard, a clan of vampire hunters, are recruiting new members. Regardless of whether you’re a vampire already or not, you will need to meet in Fort Dawnguard for further instructions. We will all remember our first time when we fired our first crossbow in Skyrim, a weapon featured in Morrowind, the third game in The Elder Scrolls series.

Speaking of weapons, there’s plenty of them to find and create, including the new Dragonbone weapons, which are made straight from dragon bones. These are high level weapons that look badass and go well with your Dragonbone armour, and moreover, when fighting against dragons. Oh, and don’t worry, you’ll be fighting plenty of dragons in Dawnguard, as there are now legendary dragons and specially voiced dragons for you to encounter — both in the new worlds within this new DLC and in the realm of Skyrim itself. One of them is a foe-turned-ally dragon named Durnehviir that, once defeated, can be called as a summon to help you in your battles; much like the Call Dragon shout, except Durnehviir comes bearing gifts: he can teach you an entirely new shout.

Being that this is a vampire overhaul DLC, the vampires out there will have more new toys for your Dovahkiin; entirely new abilities and even a whole new form is awaiting for you: the Vampire Lord! Obtainable by siding with the vampires. Becoming the Vampire Lord will grant you access to abilities such as Vampire Grip,  a Darth Vader chokehold, and Bats, which lets you quickly travel across a short distance taking no damage. What I also found enticing are the two new perk trees, one for the Vampire Lord and a fan-requested Werewolf perk tree. Regardless of whether you chose to be a vampire or a vampire hunter, both sides of the story will eventually peace together in to one direction of a linear storyline, much like the main quest. Sure, there are exclusive Radiant AI missions, different characters, a new player home, and brand new side quests, but the main quest for the Dawnguard DLC with have both vampires and Dawnguard members achieving the same goal for Auriel’s Bow.

Tagging tagging along is Serana, a new essential follower. Serana is my favourite follower because she has a unique voice actor, a hood-clothing ability, an interesting backstory (which is saying something for a non-player character in Skyrim), and mainly because she has an improved AI. For example, I was a little surprised after arriving at a specific location and she would make a useful comment about it; instead of random yibble-yabble we’ve heard a hundred times over. Another thing I like about her is that when your character stands still for a few seconds, instead of standing there staring at you, Serana would make herself useful and interact with her immediate environment, such as mining, smithing, or just sitting down to rest, waiting for you to set out.

Further down the line, your real fruition will come to light and you’ll be exploring new landmass areas and slaying new monsters with all new awesome killcams. One particular new area lasted me over five hours alone, which is more than double the maximum size of the most complex and largest dungeon in the world of Skyrim. These new areas will consist of a deadly and ghastly underworld, dark tunnels and caves, and a large and cliff-filled ice world, far away from civilisation. A new species that you will encounter are who the Falmer once were — the Snow Elves, who I found to be quite a bad-ass race.

Something intriguing that I’ve noticed with this DLC is that Bethesda have tried new things, new functions, and animations, than they’ve ever done in any of their previous role-playing games. There are now currents in caves, some of which are pitch black and require a light source, enemies that are frozen and turn to life as you take the item from their hand and what I thought was the most spectacular: legendary dragons diving into frozen lakes and submerging from the other side of the lake in motion. Impressive stuff. What makes it better is that it isn’t some scripted cutscene, you’re free to move around and are able to hit the dragons as they’re swimming around below you, looking to eat you! New dragons also mean, yes, new word walls. One of the new shouts in Dawnguard allows you to, progressively, suck the magicka, stamina and the health from the opponent(s) in front of you overtime. It’s called Drain Vitality.

This isn’t to say Dawnguard is a major improvement and overhaul. Inconveniences from the main game are still persistent within this DLC. The radiant quests still consist simply of go here, kill this person, return here for a random item reward. Rinse and repeat. More specifically, it’s the typical questlines you’d expect from an average RPG. The stories contained within them may not appeal to those looking to role-play and definitely not those who are hardcore/old school gamers. The quests and stories are full of cliché moments and alot of wondering from A, to B, to C and then back to either A or B, it felt more of a chore than the thrill to actually want to go out and explore.

So how to conclude Bethesda’s first-game dlc for Skyrim? Well, I can say this for certain, it is definitely worth £14/$20. No question, considering other publishers cutting content from discs, or worse yet, leaving the content ON disc and then overpricing that content — a simple set of costumes can cost up to £3 alone. With Dawnguard, you’re getting new weapons, armour, clothes, abilities, shouts, enemies to kill, locations and a overhaul on one of Skyrim’s most exciting features. Personally, I think Dawnguard is one of Bethesda’s best opening DLC for their RPGs. While it isn’t as content-filled and special as The Elder Scroll IV: Oblivion‘s Shivering Isles was, Bethesda still have more DLC to come. Maybe we will see another humongous landscape to come? I heavily recommend Dawnguard to you if you like Skyrim, as players who enjoyed the title will enjoy what this DLC pack delivers.

Skyrim (Dawnguard) was completed on the side of the Dawnguard faction once, with seven radiant story quests completed and all companion side quests completed. For those who regard score as an important factor to a review, Dawnguard receives a 7/10. A lot of the fun is of course with the vampires and their new abilities, and there is content here enough to potentially last you over twenty hours, but most of it is rehashed Skyrim with a Dawnguard dovuet over it. It can only be appreciated by those with a existing interest in Skyrim.

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Marco Prinzi

4 / 5 stars