I’ve racked my brains to think of a snappy introduction to Bethesda’s first expansion to Skyrim: Dawnguard but sadly my brain power is only allowing me “more Skyrim”, which in reality is all that is offered by this hefty price-tagged installment. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing though, as you will find out.
I’ve written multiple teaser articles in the build up to this game but it didn’t quite grab me as I had hoped. There are a lot of things the game does very well but there is also various problems that have yet to be fixed. Any game that requires a guide on how to begin playing will automatically set people off on the wrong foot. Like I have previously written, I wasted around an hour searching for a wrongly placed icon because I was too stubborn to seek help. After paying a whopping 1600 Microsoft points part of me had hoped some of the irritating little bugs would have been fixed. I certainly never expected to be bamboozled by one before I’d even begun the quest chain. Before I lead you down the wrong path and drown this introduction with misery it’s probably wise to highlight some of the many positive features that the game offers.
Almost as soon as you begin the Dawnguard quest chain certain parts of the environment are quite breathtaking. Dawnguard headquarters looks particularly impressive when first discovering its locations and as you explore more of the expansion the environment continues to take your breath away. Rather than re-hashing older dungeons newer twists have been added, and although you are essentially just in a cave it all looks just that little bit better.
A personal favourite location of mine is the final sections of the game while you are exploring the vast yet barren, snowy, cliffs of the Forgotten Vale. It is an area with barely any creatures save for a few sabre cats and a rare sighting of a Frost Ogre. Despite the hours I spent wandering around trying to find the way-points, I throughly enjoyed it. There is also the incredibly random appearance of the two dragons I stumbled across that broke free from underneath the ice. I also accidentally (maybe a little on purpose) jumped into the river and got swept at great speeds right back into the bottom of the cave wasting another 30 minutes of my life.
If you’ve watched the trailer then as you will expect Dawnguard is very centred around the rise of the vampires and how the Dawnguard are working to stop them at all costs. However, I was much more gripped by the Snow Elf related lore and the battles with the Falmer while trying to acquire Auriel’s bow. While playing Skyrim the concept of the Snow Elf always intrigued me, and their demise to the Falmer was never really looked at in any detail, but the expansion provided this as an excellent sub-plot woven into the main story.
Along side all of this there was of course all of this shenanigans with Vampires, Demons and those trying to stop them corrupting the world. I chose to fight the good fight alongside the Dawnguard but I’ve heard the real action is on the dark side. At best, following the Dawnguard chain can only be described as more Skyrim as it’s essentially just more quests with a different story and the added bonus of playing with a crossbow.
The game also adds perk trees for Vampires and Werewolves; a much needed boost as both operated fairly redundantly in Skyrim up until this point. Which leads me nicely to some of the concerns I have with the game.
If like me you played the death out of Skyrim, racking up over 100 hours, then a lot of what Dawnguard has to offer just wont be of much use to you. I entered the quest chain with my main, a level 54 character, and found that most of the items and weapons I collected along my travels were absolutely no use to me at all.
Sadly I cured my Wood Elf of his full-moon hungry disease a long time before Dawnguard came out and it was disappointing to discover there was no way of playing a Werewolf again aside from leveling a new character of course. Not that it would have made that much of a difference, acquiring the perks to place in the appropriate tree would have been a ball-breaker post level 50.
I persisted using the crossbow for the hell of it but I later discovered it was considerably less powerful than the bow I had been using prior, which was disappointing to say the least.
Another gripe I have is that certain parts of the Dawnguard quest line felt like filler content; go here, kill this vampire, go to this cave you have already been in and find some crossbow plans. Do this multiple times. Often the caves were frustratingly long and repetitive. Lots and lots of content but it seemed to be lacking in the way of quality, particularly in relation to the side quests.
I only had a brief spell playing as a Vampire Lord while in the Soul Cairn and it didn’t really live up to how I imagined it was going to be. I think I would have preferred to have just been a Vampire with more Vampire powers rather than turning into a Demon Lord. I am most certainly in the minority on this one though.
I plan to re-do the chain with a new character and play the Vampire side and will be sure to update this if my opinion significantly changes.
I have two very different perspectives on this game, so bear with me.
Overall I would argue that if, like me, you’ve played all there is to play in Skyrim, have a character who is over level 50, then Skyrim Dawnguard isn’t worth the rather expensive 1600 Microsoft points that it costs to download. At times it feels a little more like a big patch rather than a full expansion and a lot of the interesting new features wont be of benefit to the high-level character.
If you are new to Skyrim, or you haven’t really played much of what the game has to offer, then I’d almost certainly recommend you get this downloadable content despite its price. The talent perks for the Werewolf and the potential of playing as a Vampire throughout most of the game would be an exciting turn of pace while battling through Skyrim’s vast content. The seasoned player may feel a little cheated going back for the content on offer, but all of the little additions would certainly add a substantial amount for a new player looking to conquer the land on his or her first play.