So I figured it was time to finally pick up and play all of the Skyrim DLC. Despite my issues with the game, it’s one I’ve sunk a lot of time into since its release. Over 500 hours, in fact. I’m not sure where all that time went exactly, although the fact that I can spend 6 hours meticulously placing every item I’ve collected in a new player home mod, before scrapping it entirely and starting from scratch, it’s easy to see how Skyrim can become something of a time sink. So let’s start with Hearthfire.
In Hearthfire you get the option to buy three plots of land and build three customisable homes. Which seems kind of neat, at first, at least until you realise each home is identical to the last, aside from any specific wings you choose to build. Structurally, and in terms of decoration and clutter, each home is identical. Seriously? They couldn’t have three unique homes for each location, fitting for the area they are in? Plus, it doesn’t seem like much thought went into the placement of each home, as at least two seem to fall upon a random enemy spawn/patrol path.
Every time I fast travelled to one in particular, I’d immediately come under attack by bandits, a bear or a flippin’ giant! Usually resulting in the death of my cow and/or horse. Wonderful. Also, some clutter in the home and outside hasn’t been well placed, so stuff seems to float in mid-air. My advice – stick with player created home mods. They offer far more in terms of content, design, function, variety and quality. Oh, and Hearthfire also lets you ‘adopt’ a couple of small, homeless children you can find wandering around in some of the towns. Which is actually just a little creepy. Plus they all have cold, dead eyes. If you use a multiple adoptions mod it must be like something out of Village of the Damned.
Next up is Dawnguard, which is all about vampires. Or at least it should be. Do you like Falmer? Because I don’t! But if you do, you’ll probably grow to hate them over the course of this DLC. It has a promising start, at least. Vampires are returning, annoyingly attacking people at random just because. They even killed that blacksmith in Whiterun. You know the one I mean. She’s conveniently placed at the entrance so I can sell her my crap on my way in or out of town. Not any more though. Now she’s dead, which is frankly a bit irritating.
So these bloody vampires really inconvenienced me and payback was in order. Luckily, some dude was reforming a band of vampire hunters called the Dawnguard. Sign me up! I got some fancy new togs and a cool crossbow. My first mission was to investigate some ruin, in which I met a vampire who didn’t immediately try to kill me. This led to the option of becoming a dirty, skulking creature of the night. I declined, although it’s not like the choice has any real impact on how the DLC plays out anyway.
So far, so fine, but unfortunately, the bulk of the DLC is taken up with an extended quest to find an artefact protected by what feels like a never ending army of bloody Falmer. Where my vampires at, yo? I got pretty bored, but I slogged my way through, hoping the conclusion would at least be somewhat exciting. Ha! Everything is wrapped up with a rather crappy final ‘battle’. And then everyone just goes home. Meh. Dawnguard isn’t terrible, it just suffers from a lot of the same problems as the core game. It’s shallow, repetitive and although some of the quests sound interesting in terms of the story or the lore, the actual gameplay execution is just a bit dull. Plus, not enough vampires and too much Falmer.
Lastly we have Dragonborn, which is thankfully an improvement. We get to visit a new location. Well, sort of new, because we already visited the place in one of the Morrowind expansions. So I was curious to see and explore the place again. Dragonborn introduces a lot more new gear and weapons, a lot more new side quests (Dawnguard only really had one) and some new enemy types. It gives us new shouts and new abilities. It also has some new and varied locations. Ultimately, the core quests aren’t all that interesting and once again, the final battle is all rather anticlimactic, but it was okay overall.
Compared to Hearthfire and Dawnguard, Dragonborn offers a lot more to see and do, and quite a bit of cool new stuff to explore. Like Dawnguard, it still suffers from the same old problems of Skyrim, but if you can still find enjoyment in what it offers, as I do, then Dragonborn is worth picking up.