Skyrim is an odd game for me. I love it don’t get me wrong, and as far as I’m concerned its one of the best games of last year, but whenever I’m playing it I don’t get that same buzz that I do when playing other games. I guess its the same feeling I had when playing Fallout and Oblivion. Maybe its because its the unusual sensation that I am in control of my own path through the world, rather than being led from point to point by the game. This is great, but its not something I’m used to. It’s also one of the only RPG’s I’ve played where I’ve only got 1 character. I’ve only seen the intro once, and will probably never select the ‘New Game’ option from the menu.
Because of this, I haven’t played Skyrim since finishing every quest I could find, way back in January. Purchasing Dawnguard, the first of the add-ons for this already ridiculously huge game, has encouraged me to pick up where I left off, and due to the games excellent design it was if I had never left.
Dawnguard brings us a new quest line. that revolves around Vampires. There are two new factions on offer -Vampire Lords (Badass Vampires) and their enemies the Dawnguard, a group of Vampire Hunters. Team Vampire, who are fed up of living in a big castle, want to fulfil an ancient prophecy to end the ‘tyranny of the sun’. This involves finding an ancient bow used to darken the sun (which makes everything red for some reason) so that they can go to the local shops and will be able walk around freely without melting or something , whereas team DG, being generally opposed to vampires, want to stop them. You can pick either side in this quest, and because I’m a horrible person in Skyrim (and someone who spends a little time as possible in sunlight in real life), I went with the vampire option mainly because I was fed up with being a werewolf, and also because the Dawnguard castle was a tip – the vampire one had better interior designing and a pet undead dog thing.
The story is pretty good, and sets the scene for the game to take you to places in Skyrim you haven’t been to before, and meet some enemies (victims) that you haven’t killed before. The pacing is good and the script is solid. At first I thought that gameplay-wise it was identical to the main game, with no new additions to the fighting save for the limited stock of new weapons on offer, and the fact that you have a new companion for the whole game. My character is a stealth/tank type, who can sneak into and out of most places, but if backed into a fight can take loads of pain as well as dishing it out. But then I during one battle where I accidentally pressed rb, I became a Vampire Lord. WHICH IS AWESOME.
When in Vampire mode, which is 3rd person like when playing as a werewolf, you turn into a right ugly sod with wings who has two main combat styles. You can enter what I call hover mode – which is where you use magic to sap enemies health away, as well as gaining the ability to control the dead, and you’re hovering (sweet). When you run out of magicka you can drop to the ground and use you huge claws to swipe at your foes causing massive damage, and you also have all sorts of other powers, like a dash move and a stun move. Playing as a vampire was so cool that I just ended up doing it in every fight during the game.
For an expansion, there are a tonne of quests to do in the main story. which include the usual fetch or kill missions, but there were refreshing moments in the middle of quests where the fighting stopped and I was tasked with solving puzzles. This was touched upon in the main game’s quest line, but almost perfected in Dawnguard. The puzzles are challenging, and each one had me head scratching for a few moments. There are also loads of side quests, but I have to admit next to the seemingly urgent main quest I didn’t bother with them, as most of them were mundane ‘collect 20 of this thing’ tasks.
Graphically the visuals are still great, and surprisingly I didn’t notice any bugs or glitches, nice work Bethesda! I was a little worried at the start of the game, as the environments were all underground and dark, but the second half really opens up and offers some of the most beautiful and memorable areas in any RPG I’ve played. The only exception to that is one area called the ‘Soul Cairn’, which is just a big purple field with some glowy plant things and a few ruins dotted about. Audio isn’t ground breaking, but its up to scratch, with some of the new voice actors doing a decent job of delivering their possibly clichéd lines.
Dawnguard is one the best expansions Bethesda has made in years. I’d say its my favourite DLC pack since playing the ‘Broken Steel’ pack in Fallout 3, In fact I’d go as far to say its the best add-on I’ve played in any game since that. It’s a bit steep for DLC, being priced at 1600 MSP, but to be fair it offers A LOT of content, and kept me playing Skyrim for another 18 hours.
DLC – Review Score: 9.0/10
This review is based upon a release copy of the Xbox 360 version of the game.