Review Dawnguard the first DLC for Skyrim

first_imgThe Elder Scrolls: Skyrim was one of the most popular games of 2011, and with its Radiant story system players are still finding ways to eat up their time outside of the main quest line. Just last week Bethesda released Dawnguard, the first add-on for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It’s only available on Xbox 360 for now due to Microsofts 30-day exclusivity period. I bought it, once again becoming the Dovahkiin, to see just how much extra content there is for 1600 MSP ($20).The Dawnguard were an ancient guild of vampire hunters, the group ceased to exist long ago but have now been reformed to combat the powerful vampire Lord Harkon who wishes to end the tyranny of the Sun by harnessing the power of the Elder Scrolls. To stop him you’ll need the power of Auriel’s bow. Or you could join him…Vampires vs. WerewolvesThe first big decision you’ll have to make in Dawnguard is whether to stick with the Dawnguard or join Lord Harkon to help him end the sun. If you join Lord Harkon he’ll turn you into a vampire lord, this will replace the beast form ability if you became a werewolf during the Companions quest line. Transforming into the vampire lord form is very similar to transforming into beast form; the camera shifts to third person and you’re granted special abilities. These abilities consist of a death grip in which you lift your target into the air while draining their health and replenishing your own, as well as levitation and being able to turn into a shroud of bats. Unlike Lycanthropy you can end the transformation at any time you please.Along with this new transformation Bethesda has also included skill trees for both the vampires and werewolves. By feeding on your victims you gain access to skill points which are assigned just like the skill points you earn when leveling up. There’s two achievements related to these skill trees, one for unlocking 11 skill points in the vampire tree and another for the same in the werewolf tree. This resulted in me spending a few hours slaughtering villagers and eating their hearts (you know, to level up my werewolf). It started off fun, but pretty quickly turned into a huge grinding session.New WeaponsOne of the biggest additions featured in the DLC is the crossbow, which is gifted to you by one of the members of the Dawnguard. It’s pretty powerful but has an agonizing reload time during which even your movement is slowed. I hadn’t done much archery in Skyrim until now, which left me being battered by enemies as I shot them in the face without being able to deal much damage. (Luckily my character has over 400 health points and a full set of Daedric armor to back him up.) Soon my archery skill improved and I put a couple of skill points in its tree and fared a little better. You also get to improve the crossbow through a number of side quests given by a member of the Dawnguard, including the addition of exploding elemental bolts.Another addition to the weaponry that fans will be extremely pleased with is the ability to buy and smith Dragonbone weapons. They’re more powerful than their Daedric counterparts, unlike the armor, which always frustrated me.Auriel’s bow is the special weapon needed to defeat Lord Harkon and can be used with two new types of arrows: Sunhallowed Elven arrows, used for fighting vampires as they explode with sunlight when they hit, and Bloodcursed Elven arrows for fighting alongside the vampires.New LocationsThere are three new locations added in Dawnguard; Fort Dawnguard, Castle Volkihar, and Soul Cairn. Fort Dawnguard will be your base of operations if you choose to fight alongside the Dawnguard. It’s a huge castle that can also be used as a player home and contains a place to forge weapons and armor, as well as enchantment and alchemy tables. Castle Volkihar is equally as big and can also be used as a home if you joined the side of the vampires.Soul Cairn is a plane of Oblivion, complete with wandering souls. The area is massive and it’s tempting to try and explore it all, but from what I saw it seems to be mostly void of treasure. However, you can gain a kickass demon horse, named Arvak, that can be summoned with a conjuration spell once you’ve found his skull for the soul of its owner.There are plenty of new creatures to be found in Skyrim once Dawnguard has been added, including variations of old ones. One of the more awesome variations is the armored trolls that can be hired for 500 gold from Fort Dawnguard and act as a temporary follower. The new creatures include Death Hounds, Gargoyles, and the Chaurus Hunter – a winged version of the Chaurus.Kinect ControlsI hadn’t spent any time on Skyrim since before Kinect controls were released, so I took this opportunity to test them out. Overall they’re extremely handy and even introduce a couple of new features previously only found in the PC version. Firstly, you can now say ‘quick save’ to well, do a quick save, and ‘quick load’ to load the save. You can also assign items in your favorites to hot keys by entering the favorites menu, highlighting the item of your choice, and saying ‘assign [command]’ to assign the weapon to the spoken command. You can then say ‘equip [command]’ to equip that item. The command can be a huge variety of different key words as this list provided by Bethesda shows. There’s so many that it’s impossible to remember them all so the PDF comes in handy, but I found myself using ‘quick map’ followed by ‘quest’ most frequently to open up the map and move the cursor to the currently active quest.An awesome feature, on paper at least, is when you hold RB (previously used to dragon shout) you can use any shout by speaking it in the dragon language. I tried to use ‘Fus Ro Dah’, which is one of the more simplistic shouts, and ended up using a different shout entirely. After that I decided to stick to the English names of shouts, which can be spoken without holding RB, but you have no control over the power level so it’s full power or no power.While the commands can be handy they can also prove troublesome. For example, while in the college of Winterhold’s courtyard a dragon descended from above to attack. I shouted ‘storm call’ to rain lightning upon the dragon, but Kinect instead decides to interpret this as “ice form” leaving poor J’Zargo – who just happened to be stood in front of me, frozen solid and then the rest of the college decided to turn on me. It also managed to pick up conversations happening a few feet away and interpret them as some form of dragon shout which is subsequently let loose on a unsuspecting villager.BugsNow this wouldn’t be Bethesda without some bugs in the game. I experienced an increased number of crashes playing Dawnguard, and a couple of times I experienced a never ending loading screen. The most frustrating bug of all though, had to be the lag I experienced during fights after a few hours of playing. It rendered my character completely useless. Once my follower had dispatched the current flock of enemies I saved and reset my system which seemed to fix the problem.The Ending (with spoilers)My first playthrough I chose to be the good guy and help the Dawnguard stop Lord Harkon. The final quest of the main arc for this side sees you storm Castle Volkihar with the rest of the Dawnguard. This was incredibly confusing due to the sheer amount of people in the fray and I found myself hitting friendlies quite often, but you can pretty much ignore these vampires and head straight for the quest marker where Lord Harkon is waiting.After defeating Lord Harkon there’s not much that really happens. There’s a small ‘it’s over’ speech and you can go on your way. You can have Lord Harkon’s daughter Serena accompany you if you wish. She can turn you into a vampire lord at any time and you can use Aela from the Companions to turn you back to a werewolf, too. It feels as though there should be something bigger to end with that forms a conclusion, but I guess this is a little more difficult given the open ended nature of the Elder Scrolls games.I’ve yet to complete the game from the vampire side, purely due to the sheer size of Dawnguard. We told you previously that there’s between 10 and 20 hours of content in this DLC, but I think if you want to see everything it has to offer (and unlock all of the achievements) you should expect to dedicate significantly more time to playing it.There’s a lot of replay value in Dawnguard as you can play through from both sides. Lord Harkon also gives you the option of handing over Auriel’s bow right before you fight him, so it would be interesting to see where that leads. For some, 1600 Microsoft points ($20) will seem a little expensive for DLC, but after spending well over 10 hours on a playthrough without completing all the side quests, I’d say it’s completely justified and money well spent.last_img read more