Let’s face it: Skyrim was one of the better games of 2011, perhaps even one of the best. Killing dragons, slaying ogres, felling giants with magic, hunting bad guys with a bow and arrow–it’s every medieval boy’s fantasy. But once you’ve completed your final quest and maxed out your skills to such an extent that it’s possible to kill a giant with two or three swings of your Daedric greatsword, there remains little in the vast planes of Skyrim to hold your interest. Well, fear no longer, as Bethesda has given us another nugget of dragon-slaying goodness in the form of their first DLC release, Dawnguard. And this time, there’s vampires.
One of the more interesting aspects of this Elder Scrolls title was Bethesda’s choice to move away from vampires and towards werewolves. Their choice was perhaps influenced by the success of ‘Team Jacob’ and the recent stigma that has become attached to some vampires thanks to the Twilight series. This was a welcome change for most (giving the player the ability to morph into a ravenous beast is rarely something that gamers complain about), but it still felt like something was missing. Thankfully, Dawnguard brings back the option to become everyone’s favourite blood-sucker, the vampire. However, it must be stressed that this is only one option – you won’t have to become a vampire in the new expansion if you don’t want to. Whether you follow the path of the undead blood-suckers or choose to fight against them with the newly formed Dawnguard, this expansion has a lot to offer.
Dawnguard gives your Skyrim playthrough an extra few hours–perhaps five to six for the most experienced Dragonborn, but an average of ten to twelve for those less dedicated dragon-slayers. Alongside the extra playing time, you will be introduced to new characters (both living and undead), new weapons (including the Dawnguard’s fantastic new contraption, the ‘crossbow’), and some Dawnguard-issue armour. Choosing to side with the living is a rewarding experience in some respects, as there are some interesting battle scenes when you face the usual enemies doing some unusual things. Fight a couple of swan-diving ice dragons and you have yourself an exhilarating boss battle. But the real fun comes from fighting alongside the vampires. Becoming a vampire gives the player some interesting new abilities, including the chance to morph into a winged vampire lord and float around Skyrim, as well as turn into a cloud of bats. Playing as a vampire also opens up an entirely new vampiric skill tree, giving you the ability to max out your new lifestyle. Bethesda used this opportunity to really develop the path of the vampire from their previous Elder Scrolls titles, and it really is something that shouldn’t be missed.
The expansion contains the usual bugs, such as a slightly laggy frame rate in the larger battles, the occasional gravity-defying enemy, and strange waypoint spawning, but these won’t ruin your playthrough. If you’re looking for a comparison to previous Bethesda DLC packs, Dawnguard is more of a Knights of the Nine than a Shivering Isles. You’ll be introduced to one or two new caves, castles, dungeons, weapons, and armors, but nothing overly impressive in the scheme of things. It’s not that the expansion feels rushed, it’s just that it could do with a little more content. Perhaps a few more weapons or a new type of enemy wouldn’t go amiss. However, Bethesda has a habit of saving the best for last, and if the final Oblivion expansion, Shivering Isles, is anything to go by, Dawnguard should keep you more than interested whilst we wait for the real treat.
This review is based on a retail copy of the XBOX 360 version of Skyrim: Dawnguard, developed by Bethesda Game Studios and published by Bethesda Softworks.
- Lots of New Content to Play With
- Interesting Story Elements
- Laggy Frame Rate
- Strange Waypoint Spawning