With great power comes incredible irresponsibility.
With great power comes incredible irresponsibility. That is the most recent lesson I have learned in my 130+ hours of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. To make a long story short, I sort of can’t go to the city of Whiterun anymore. You see, I decided to see what would happen if I killed every guard (and several townsfolk) in that particular city. Afterward it occurred to me I could load a previous save, but I am so powered up in the game that I can kill just about anything in one melee strike. So, by that logic, I figured if anyone tried to arrest me I would just kill them and move along.
Basically, I had become bored. There were a few quest lines I wanted to wrap up, such as the Dark Brotherhood, which, incidentally, was not at all helpful in curbing my recent spree of murdering random people in cities for no particular reason. But other than that, I was about to throw in the towel and move on to the next game. But fortunately (?) my friends here at Digital Chumps had other plans for me. Since I was the only one still playing Skyrim at this point (and also not playing Diablo 3), I was given the opportunity to review Dawnguard, Bethesda’s first downloadable expansion for Skyrim. So, has my boredom been cured? Is Dawnguard worth it? For anyone who loved playing Skyrim as much as I did; yes, most definitely.
As most of you likely know, Dawnguard jumps onto the “Vampires=Money” bandwagon somewhat, but the way in which it chooses to do so is very satisfying. However, Bethesda marketing Dawnguard as an expansion is a bit of a misnomer. While you may spend 10-15+ hours with Dawnguard, your experience will not differ so much from anything you’ve done before. While some of the larger, new locations are beautiful (I found the Soul Cairn especially memorable), dungeon designs for Dawnguard's quest line feel much the same as those in Skyrim. There are several new enemies to contend with therein, such as Deathhounds, Gargoyles, and my personal favorite, Frost Giants (some hybridization of Frost Trolls and Giants, just go with it). There will also be a lot of the other enemies you’ve seen before though, with a lot of repeat fights with Skeletons, Draugr, and Falmer. However, the addition of a crossbow and the ability to smith weapons from dragon materials may offer a slightly different experience depending on how you choose to play.
Those cured of Lycanthropy may also be happy to hear that not only do you have another chance to become a werewolf, but you also have access to a new werewolf perk tree. But let’s face facts here; the biggest draw of Dawnguard is the ability to turn into a vampire lord. Being a person who avoided regular vampirism because I didn’t want to go to the trouble of curing myself later, this had immediate appeal to me. Going vampire lord has a variety of benefits, the main being your transformation power. When you transform to a full vampire lord, you are given two stances, one where you use magic to drain life or reanimate corpses to fight for you, the other just basically a melee stance with attacks somewhat similar to the werewolf.
This coupled with various vampire powers, such as the ability to turn into a swarm of bats, makes you feel pretty cool when changing forms. On the other hand, turning into a vampire lord has a lot of drawbacks. Much like turning into a werewolf, you are stuck in third person view while transformed. This can be annoying for many people like me who prefer to fight in first person view mode. What’s worse, while transformed you are unable to pick up any loot, access your menu, or your map. As a meticulous person who constantly checks my inventory and location, and a person who loots everything whether I need it or not, I found this is incredibly annoying. Further, assuming that you have already played Skyrim for a good amount of time, it is likely that your standard Dovahkiin would have be much more powerful. As a high level melee character, I could not help but feel substantially weakened when playing transformed. However, additional powers outside of transformation, such as the ability to “glamour” your opponents, vampire night vision, and a substantially long invisibility ability still make being a vampire lord worthwhile.
Vampirism aside, probably what really pulled me towards Dawnguard the most was the story. Once I finally had the time, I devoured its quest line. It was engrossing from beginning to end, comparable and possibly even better than some of the other beloved quests in Skyrim. Although the ending ultimately left me a bit unsatisfied, it was a fun ride getting there. Additionally, having some questions answered about a certain race of elves, whose de-evolution was shrouded in mystery, was a nice touch. If you are a huge fan of Skyrim and have been looking for a good reason to get back into it for a few hours, then look no further. Although it probably could have contained a bit more for its $20 price tag, most gamers who have dedicated months of their life to playing this game will not be disappointed with their purchase. For the time being, I’m hooked again, and that means I’m probably going to have to go pay off my ridiculously high bounty in Whiterun.
Note: This review of Dawnguard originally ran for the Xbox 360 version. Given Skyrim’s past issues on PlayStation 3, we played through the content again on Sony’s console to ensure it didn’t suffer an excess of game crashing bugs. Like Dragonborn, Dawnguard performed admirably and is safely recommend for hesitant PlayStation 3 Skyrim owners.