The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard DLC Review
On the surface, Skyrim’s first piece of downloadable content appears to be nearly everything DLC should be. There’s at least eight hours of new content in the form of a brand new main quest line, new sidequests, a branching storyline depending on which faction you side with, new weapons, new enemies, new gear, new shouts, and a brand new badass transformation into a vampire lord — complete with its own skill tree.
So why is it that I found myself struggling to finish Dawnguard? Well, because half a year after the initial release of Skyrim, I’m kind of over it and Dawnguard doesn’t do anything substantial enough to bring me back in.
The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard DLC: Xbox 360 (Reviewed), PC, PS3
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Released: June 29, 2012
Dawnguard’s new main quest becomes available to the player once he or she reaches level 10, and can be added to your quest log by visiting any inn keeper and asking them about rumors. From there you’ll be off to Fort Dawnguard, a fort manned by a group of vampire hunters who suspect that the bloodsuckers are up to no good.
Without going too much into spoiler territory, we’ll just say that the Dawnguard’s hunch was spot-on, and it’s up to the player to decide whether to align with the vampires or the vampire hunters. One disappointment is that ultimately, the goals of the two factions eventually become the same and you’ll be going through the same main quests regardless of whether you’re with the vampires or Dawnguard.
Still, there’s enough variation in the dialogue and the characters you interact with to make going through both factions worthwhile.
One potential draw for joining the vampire faction in the DLC is the ability to transform into a powerful vampire lord at will. Killing enemies while in the transformed state will level up the transformation, granting skill points to buy new abilities from a skill tree specifically made for the Vampire Lord.
For the first 20 or so minutes, being a Vampire Lord is awesome. You can blast enemies with your right hand, re-animate them with your left hand, fly faster than any enemy can chase you, transform into a cloud of bats to teleport, and then look at your skill tree and see a whole slew of abilities you’ll be able to use later.
But eventually, you realize that you don’t really need any new abilities because your life stealing energy blast is already incredibly overpowered; melee oriented enemies will never even be able to touch you as long as you have room to backpedal; and the bat teleport is completely useless.
To make matters worse, you can’t loot or examine anything while in Vampire Lord form. Every time you want to transform back you have to go through the annoying process of selecting the revert transformation power and going through an unskippable transformation animation. It’s fine the first few times, but it becomes very annoying very quickly when you just want to keep killing enemies as a Vampire Lord to level it up, but keep on having to revert and transform again just to pick up a key or pull a lever.
As far as the quests themselves, they’re mostly the standard Skyrim fare. With the exception of one quest that has you traversing the land of Oblivion, you’ll be exploring lots of familiar caves and ruins, defeating lots of familiar enemies, and solving very simple puzzles.
At least the new gear is pretty cool. Regardless of whether you side with the vampires or Dawnguard, at the very beginning of the DLC, you’ll obtain a decently powerful crossbow. Continuing to help Dawnguard also opens up another questline that will give you the opportunity to create an even more powerful crossbow and unique bolts for it as well.
The biggest problem with Dawnguard — and this is nothing new to Skyrim — is how buggy it is. In my multiple playthroughs I’ve experienced freezes, clipping issues that had me falling through the world, and critical NPCs not showing up for quests. In each case I’d have to either restart the console or reload an earlier save, which just shouldn’t happen in a AAA title.
All in all the actual content of Dawnguard is pretty good. If you’re the type that is still looking for new stuff to do in Skyrim, then by all means, Dawnguard comes highly recommended and is well worth even the steep $20 price tag. If however, you’re like me and already had your fill of Skyrim back in 2011, Dawnguard doesn’t do anything new or exciting for the game outside of the addition of the vampire lord transformation, and even that has its aforementioned problems.
- Lengthy and replayable main quest
- Interesting storyline with a couple of memorable new characters
- The new crossbow is awesome for those who specialize in archery
- Lots of sidequests that are unique to each faction
- Very buggy. Freezes, clipping issues, progression breaks, you name it.
- Vampire Lord is overpowered and kind of annoying to use due to the constant need to revert whenever you want to loot or interact with something.
- Pretty pricey for DLC
- With the exception of one quest that has you exploring Oblivion, all of the quests feel very “been there, done that.”
Final Score: 75/100