Last year, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim won my, and several other publications’, Game of the Year award. The expansive world and the copious amount of dungeons and side quests continue to impress me even to this day. Bethesda Game Studios has always added content to their games post-launch with downloadable content that ranges from the very excellent to mediocre.
Skyrim: Dawnguard veered toward the latter end of the spectrum and Skyrim: Hearthfire was Bethesda’s take on The Sims, which didn’t really expand on much of The Elder Scrolls lore. The third downloadable pack Skyrim: Dragonborn will set you back $20 but it is the better of the three even with a few misses here and there.
Skyrim: Dragonborn begins when you enter the familiar city of Whiterun and a group of cultists come up to you and challenge your title of “Dragonborn.” From there, it’s a pretty straightforward jaunt to Solstheim – a land that combines the lands of Skyrim and Morrowind from The Elder Scrolls III – to find out who sent the cultists.
The landscape is not a case of, “Oh it looks nothing like Skyrim!” The areas that remind me of Morrowind are pockets of the map but it was nice to see a silt strider (basically giant bugs that transported the player around The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind) just for nostalgia sake.
The land in Skyrim: Dragonborn does a much better job at encouraging exploration than Dawnguard did including adding a wealth of sidequests that extend the time you’ll be spending in Solstheim. And there are new enemies to fight in Dragonborn.
Rieklings, which are Goblin-like in appearance, swarm the player in a wave of incomprehensible speech and stabbings. And, I’m not sure if this is a Firefly reference, but there is a group of bandits that call themselves Reavers. Kudos if it is. Also, there are Werebears. Were. Bears. Exactly.
It’s also worth mentioning that, after the initial boat ride to Solstheim, you are able to fast travel to and from Skyrim.
The rumors are true. There is in fact an ability that allows you to ride dragons. It is released to the player as the narrative progresses so it’s fairly straightforward and won’t require any elongated 20:00 minute long YouTube videos explaining how to ride dragons.
Regardless of how awesome the idea sounds of riding dragons in Skyrim is it is a missed opportunity. Once you return to Skyrim you’re thinking, “I’m going to ride a dragon from one end of the map to the other and burn any villagers along the way!” Not so. Dragons in Skyrim always run on predetermined paths meaning that they will circle areas looking for something to attack.
When you’ve commanded one and jump on the back of its neck, the dragon will return to circling the area until you tell it to land. It is one of the most disappointing aspects to Dragonborn.
Not atypical of Skyrim but there are moments of lag during combat and exploration that annoyed me a bit during my play-through. The main narrative to Skyrim: Dragonborn is give or take 4-5 hours but the side-quests elevate that number considerably. One more thing Bethesda Game Studios: No one uses spears (regardless of how small they are) as arrows.
Skyrim: Dragonborn is the best of the Skyrim downloadable add-ons released so far even with the disappointing dragon riding feature. If you compare this to the price vs. value of the Dawnguard DLC, it proudly stands heads and tails above it. Skyrim fans need not hesitate to apply.
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