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
MSRP: $20.00

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.

Pros:

  • 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

Cons:

  • 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

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11 Comments on The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim – Dawnguard DLC Review

max

On July 9, 2012 at 8:44 pm

finally not a biaised review!

Mattuse

On July 10, 2012 at 8:28 am

seems like this reviewer is just bored of the game. Of course its been there done that, its an Elder Scrolls game after all which is just quest, quest, quest, find new gear gaze in wonder for awhile. For those who still enjoy Skyrim for what it is, this is a great DLC

Mark Burnham

On July 10, 2012 at 10:25 am

@Mattuse
“For those who still enjoy Skyrim for what it is, this is a great DLC.”

Mitch said almost exactly that ^^ in the review. Here’s the quote: “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.”

It’s also “been there, done that.” It can be both.

stylflink

On July 11, 2012 at 12:02 am

Hello everyone my taste this dlc is not bad but how you buy this DLC please

Picardo Markser

On July 11, 2012 at 2:51 am

Well look on the bright side, there’s something more to do in Skyrim and new weaponry I’m gonna love the new Crossbow mods that will come out on the Skyrim Nexus ^_^ so this DLC is a chain reaction of good things even though its has cons.

Gray

On July 13, 2012 at 6:07 pm

“your life stealing energy blast is already incredibly overpowered”
Bull.
I use one and it drops like 1/20 of their hp, unless it’s like a lvl 5 bandit or some crap like that. most enemies take at LEAST twenty hits with the damn thing.

“the bat teleport is completely useless”
Bull once again, this has saved my life MANY times.

“Very buggy. Freezes, clipping issues, progression breaks, you name it.”
Skyrim is just that way, sadly =/

“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.”
Overpowered, hell no. Annoying, yes. You can pull levers in vampire lord form, I hope you know.

“Pretty pricey for DLC”
Yes. But at least it isn’t horse armor.

“With the exception of one quest that has you exploring Oblivion, all of the quests feel very “been there, done that.””
Well…yeah. That’s sorta the point. This dlc seemed rushed, I just hope they actually WORK on the second one.

matt

On July 14, 2012 at 2:40 pm

great review guys thanks

josh

On July 16, 2012 at 6:20 am

I disagre because it never frezzes I don’t fall through the world but it can glitch when some people are not there

vtb

On July 18, 2012 at 7:01 am

i <3 tes! waiting for licence skyrim in my country)

James

On August 10, 2012 at 3:01 pm

the Vampire Lord have the same problem as Werewolf form…

Fun in normal difficulty, gets you killed in Master difficulty.

I am only half way done with Vampire Faction but IMHO it is not worth $20.

R.J.

On August 10, 2012 at 4:22 pm

I’m conflicted on this one. Generally, DLC for Bethesda games is worth it because there is a lot of content, but $20 is an awful lot to ask for DLC.