It’s been over 8 months since the world was introduced to one of the most fully realized in-game worlds ever created. With Skyrim, Bethesda took it’s beloved series’ open world look and feel to a whole new level and gamers found themselves spending countless hours lost in it. With the games first DLC Dawnguard they promised to bring a large “chunk” of content that would give us all a reason to return. After spending time with this vampire themed content I feel satisfied with the story yet a bit fatigued at the thought of playing more Skyrim.
Dawnguard begins for players by encountering a guard in any of the cities or villages across Skyrim who tips the player off to a band of vampire hunters known as the Dawnguard. After traveling to their castle for a brief history lesson on the group you are sent to a known vampires location. It is here that players are given the choice to side either with the Dawnguard to eradicate the vampires or team up with the vampires themselves. Choosing the vampires leads to some more interesting content and is the one that I recommend to get the most out of Dawnguards new additions to the game. Seeing the politics of the vampires helps give a bit more of an understanding of these Elder Scrolls veterans.
The DLC continues down the typical Skyrim quest path and feels a lot like many of the faction story arcs that initially shipped with the game. It should take about 10 hours to complete a play through without exploring a lot of the new side content you are given. The first half will have you traveling and fighting your way through areas that look similar to areas you’ve visited before. That’s because the game uses many of the previously existing assets. It isn’t until about halfway through that a shift in the story sees you heading to some rather unique areas. This change in the setting was much needed because it really brought my interest back into the game. Initially I felt like I was just going through the motions to play through the quest without really enjoying it.
One of the interesting pieces of the Vampire option is that you are given the choice of becoming a Vampire Lord. If chosen, you are given the ability to transform your character into a Vampire Lord that floats when moving and casts spells. This winged creature looks rather impressive but in terms of gameplay isn’t really that interesting to play. I transformed into the Lord a few times when I was first given the ability but found it to be not that useful. The awkward shape of the character model caused issues when traveling through some of the caves and paths of the setting. The game itself also stuttered and the frame rate dropped every time I shifted in or out of it. I spent most of my time as my character and found that to be fine and more effective.
Like many of the DLC content Bethesda produced for Oblivion and Fallout 3, one of the selling points of Dawnguard is to get some new equipment and abilities. With the Vampire Lord ability being the main advertised pieces, players also get a crossbow at the start. The crossbow handles much like a gun in the world of Skyrim. Shooting bolts like arrows, this lethal and fast reloading weapon is a blast to use. If a new weapon isn’t enough for you players also get a new Dragon summon and a flaming mount. A new companion is also given to players so you get more for your money then just quest content.
Fans of the game are no doubt going to enjoy the content provided. I personally enjoyed the story however more Skyrim was not necessarily what I needed. After spending a ridiculous amount of time with the original content, even 8 months didn’t seem like enough of a gap for this to not feel more of the same. This is not the fault of Bethesda but more the fault of a game that is nearly never ending and open. How do you create something that feels new and fresh in a world that is established and who’s limitations are known by its inhabitants? Bethesda attempted this by creating a few new areas and story pieces but in the end it wasn’t as fresh as I think many will want. At $20 it seems like a bit of a stretch for players to jump back in but when compared to other $60 games whose campaigns are only 5 to 6 hours, it may not seem so bad.
With new characters, a new faction, and merely 15 to 20 hours of added gameplay, Dawnguard is indeed a success for players wanting more out of the world of Skyrim. Though it does seem a bit slow in the beginning and with it’s Vampire Lord seeming more like a bumbling gargoyle, the conclusion of the story beats in the game had me feeling satisfied and enjoying my time with it. I wouldn’t say that this is something that players need to run out and buy but if you find yourself without something to play and think another stroll down a rocky path through a snowstorm headed towards an armored troll is what you need then Dawnguard may just be the thing for you.