Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dawnguard
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Release Date: Xbox 360 – 26 Jun 12 (PS3 and PC TBC)
Cost on Release: 1600 Microsoft Points
It’s worth noting that I played through both storylines of the Elder Scrolls: Skyrim: Dawnguard DLC starting with my Level 61 Khajiit Warrior/Thief. I had completed all achievements and visited almost everywhere on the map before starting Dawnguard. So anyone starting at a lower level, with a less populated fast travel map will have a much longer playtime.
Dawnguard is the first DLC for Bethesda Elder Scrolls Skyrim game. It is currently only available on Xbox 360, with the PC and PS3 release dates still TBC.
Dawnguard adds two new story streams (players have to choose the side of the Vampires or the vampire hunting Dawnguard), 10 new achievements, some new weapons and enemies, perk trees for both the Vampire Lord and Werewolf abilities and two new large areas to explore.
The story of the Dawnguard DLC revolves around the vampire lord Harkon, who intends to end the tyranny of the sun using some of the ancient Elder Scrolls. Players can begin Dawnguard after they reach level 10 by listening for rumours or talking to hold guards. After approaching the Dawnguard at Fort Dawnguard and some initial investigations, players will later be given the option of fighting the vampires with them or becoming a vampire and fighting for Lord Harkon.
A save in the right place will allow players to complete both stories, but like in the main Skyrim campaign, only one play-through is required to get all of the achievements. It’s also worth noting that even if you already have lycanthropy, you will still be given the option to join and fight for the vampires.
The story itself is interesting and the new areas (the Soul Cairn and Forgotten Vale) take a fair amount of time to explore fully. My first play-through came in at 15 hours with the Dawnguard (not getting any achievements outside of the main story) and my second play-through at 7 hours (having spent most of my time tearing through levels as a vampire lord). Completing all achievements, side-quests and exploring both of the new areas with their related quests will take considerably longer.
The main addition to weapons is the crossbow, which packs a fair punch (even more so if you take on one of the side quests to upgrade it), but I found I rarely used it in favour of faster bows. There are a couple of decent unique weapons later on in the expansion and I found myself using these over weapons I already had.
The skill tree for the werewolf ability allows you to become the shape changing terror it should always have been and the vampire lord ability is fantastic for tearing through dungeons, especially as you level the ability up. Unfortunately you can’t interact with items in either form, so changing back and forth can be a hindrance if searching every urn and chest is your thing and without a certain item, werewolves are limited to one change a day. It’s also worth noting that the shift from vampire lord back to your standard self suffers a delay from pressing the button and then a few seconds of animation while you change, during which time you can still take damage.
During either story, there are some truly epic moments and even my high-level character was challenged from time to time. After the first few introductory missions, there are some amazing background visuals, but the foreground stuff is the same as previously seen. Some of the larger battles do suffer from frame rate issues, but I hardly noticed.
Dawnguard will mean different things to different people, players with lower level characters will find some extremely useful weapons and abilities in which to take into the main campaign and it will offer a good challenge. Players of higher level characters will find some of the main missions quite cut and dry, but towards the end will enjoy some of the unique moments and even if they move quickly through the main story, will find the amount of time exploring the new areas and gaining achievements justifies the amount of Microsoft points the DLC costs.