From the amazing developers at Bethesda comes the first DLC for the Western RPG epic, the Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. You most likely are reading this, having either played or hopefully knowing something about Skyrim (and if you don’t fall into either of those categories, stop reading and go play this game!), so without further ado, I shall jump straight into the specifics relative to this DLC. First of all, to be quite frank, those of you who’ve played the Shivering Isles expansion for the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion will be disappointed if you go into Dawnguard expecting the same level of size and longevity. You know, they don’t call it “content” for no reason. DLC can range anywhere from 1 to 10 to even 30 hours (such as Shivering Isles) worth of gaming to have yourself dive into.
Dawnguard, unfortunately, falls into the 10 hour area give or take a few hours, depending on exploration (more on that in a bit) and side quests. Speaking of side quests, there are quite a few of them, along with some miscellaneous tasks, that add to the length of this relatively short DLC. These are your basic side quests and tasks that you are already accustomed to from the main game, minus the memorable characters and stories sadly. It is worth mentioning though that one side quest in particular, despite being your basic fetch quest, has a certain interesting character that will be much appreciated and understood should you have played previous games, Morrowind and Oblivion, as he gives references to specific events in both games. But you’re wondering about the main storyline aren’t you?
Well, I am happy to say that the main quest for this game is quite enjoyable, definitely an improvement over what I personally thought was a weak civil war quest line from the main game. For those of you who don’t know much about Dawnguard, you may be wondering why exactly I’m referencing just the civil war storyline. Well, the reason why is because both quest lines have you, the player, picking a side in a war. Instead of hillbillies and metal heads, you have eternal vampires and well-trained hunters. The quest begins when you encounter vampires and a new breed of dogs called death hounds attacking a city you’re in. Once defeated, you can hear one of the city guards mentioning that a group of vampire hunters called the Dawnguard are recruiting. With your map updated with a new location, you begin traveling in search of the Castle Dawnguard. There your quest begins in search of a group of special vampires that seem to have a big plan up their sleeves. At the beginning, you will meet a new companion who will aid you along the way. Spoiler alert: she’s hot! (for a vampire) and before you ask, unfortunately no you are not able to marry her, that I know of. Your quest takes you then to the second and other important castle that is home to this special court of vampires. Without giving away too much spoilers, you have the choice to join either group, the Dawnguard’s goal to eradicate the vampires and the vampire’s goal to block out the “Tyranny of the Sun” so they may freely go as they please without fear. The storylines themselves are much more complicated than that and I found one side in particular to be much more interesting and no I will not say which in this review so as to not influence your own decision. It is wise however to do both storylines as each have their own achievements associated with them, so there is the incentive in that.
Past the main quest, Dawnguard offers other new things to Skyrim. As I mentioned earlier, there are new enemies, some brand new and others more difficult variants on the already existing creatures. Another new addition, gameplay-wise, is the crossbow and the ability to become a vampire lord. The crossbow itself looks pretty sweet and does a decent amount of damage while the vampire lord offers new powers, a new transformation ability, and an entire perk tree dedicated just for it. Without giving away too much, the vampire lord does use magic as well as melee, however I would like to mention a problem while transformed. You are limited to the third person camera view, but that itself isn’t the problem (though it would be nice to have first person as well). The problem is, without first person, I had a somewhat difficult time casting magic at my target accurately which eventually caused me to not use one particular spell ever. Other than that, it is a rather enjoyable new experience.
Usual Skyrim glitches and bugs aside, Dawnguard seemed to host its own issues. Slight framerate drops are noticeable occasionally and in one particular instance, an entire area’s texture hadn’t loaded and thinking it was just lagging some, stood there for about an entire minute before it finally loaded while everything else around it looked perfectly fine. Also (possibly because of the near 600 MB download for 360), I noticed almost all the time while playing the DLC, the loading times were noticeably longer than it had been before.
Don’t let these issues discourage you though as there are some great wins for Dawnguard, technically speaking. For one, the attention to detail is just as grand as you would expect. In one particular instant, I had been talking to a NPC for quite a while when I notice out of the corner of my eye, my new companion deciding to sit down on the ground because of how long I was taking. Also, there are two rather large areas that can be explored during the course of the main quest, the first of which is host to most of the side quests. The first main area will have you haunted and had me surprised at how large and open it was. Bethesda did a brilliant job though of making that area be visited first as the second major environment is truly amazing. Though it lacks side quests, it does invite you to explore every single corner as it is quite simply beautiful. I don’t want to give too much away but I spent a lot of time just admiring the beauty and the wonders Bethesda had done. There are quite a few fantastic and memorable boss battles as well, that are actually varied and left me wondering why there wasn’t any like this in the main game.
- Nice story with great characters
- Some of the best, if not best, environments visually from the series
- Cool new gameplay options
- Creepy and morbid tone great for those of you still in the Halloween mood
- Short compared to what’s been done in the past
- Slightly overpriced (though there is a sale this week on Xbox Live)
- More technical issues of course
- Mostly uninteresting side quests
- Still unavailable for our Playstation friends
- Why can’t I marry my hot new companion?!
Should you download it?
Well, it is a fantastic story that any Skyrim owner should own, however it is pretty pricey considering the Shivering Isles/Knights of the Nine Expansion for Oblivion was about the same price. It is on sale this week on Xbox Live, like I said, so if you do plan on getting it, now is the best time!
This review was done with a review code provided by Bethesda, for review purposes only. Our staff at Gamer Syndrome greatly appreciate Bethesda entrusting me with the ability to review this DLC for our site and our thanks go out to them.
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