Review by BigReed

"DLC well worth the asking price dispite a few bugs"

After a November 2011 release, Bethesda has finally released the first expansion DLC for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. As of this writing, Dawnguard is an Xbox 360 timed exclusive that is available for download for 1600 msp, or twenty dollars. The theme of the expansion is centered on Vampires, and the player is afforded the choice of becoming a vampire lord or forgoing the transformation and fighting alongside the vampire slaying Dawnguard.

There has been some debate going on around the internet on whether Dawnguard is too expensive for what it offers, but personally I had a blast with the content. New characters, quests, weapons, gear, and followers all are seamlessly added into the main game. In the past, Bethesda DLC has not felt like it was truly part of the original bulk of the game. I owned and played through ever Fallout 3 DLC and all of those expansions had a single point that transported you to the DLC, rather than creating an area that is a part of the main map.

Well good news, the Skyrim DLC actually feels like an extension of the main game and Dawnguard doesn't take your powerful character and then remove all of your gear and weapons for the new areas. One thing I was never fond of in past releases of DLC by Bethesda was that they were quick to remove everything that made your character who he or she was, because they knew you were going to be powerful.

If you stumbled into this review, you have most likely poured a ton of hours into the main game of Skyrim already, so I won't be spending too much time talking about the basics of the seven month old game. Dawnguard does add a new bow type for the sneaky, ranged combat lovers. The cross bow is a welcome addition to the hunting arsenal, and is a weapon that is as old as the vampire legend. The basic crossbow you are given is quite powerful when upgraded, but has a pretty slow reload time.

Dawnguard opens up new areas and quests for that you can explore and complete, and also adds a new set of achievement. This encourages players to grind into the 70's however, which might hinder their next expansion unless they release a new set of perks or something. Another interesting thing that Dawnguard adds is followers like armored trolls and the new husky dogs. So rather than having a named follower, you can pay to have a troll tank for you ask you clear out caves.

Bugs and glitches are infamous as far as Bethesda games go, and sadly Dawnguard actually adds bugs to what was for me, a bug free 100 hours of Skyrim. Some of these bugs include lag, drastically reduced framerate, sound and graphical hiccups, and the deaths of some NPCs if you choose to fast travel. Upon fast traveling to Solitude, I looked over and noticed that a master vampire had apparently traveled with me. He began attacking and killing NPCs. After it was all said and done, I lost 3 NPCs and two quests. This was by far the worst glitch or bug I encountered.

Dawnguard tells the story of a vampiric prophecy where the sun will be stamped out and vampires will take over the day. You'll speak to the Dawnguard, a group of vampire hunters, about the growing vampire threat, and you'll set off to discover what exactly the vampires were searching for. You'll eventually dig up the daughter of the crazy vampire lord and sure enough she is carrying an Elder Scroll on her back.

She eventually tells you that her memory is a bit foggy and that the best bet is to head back to her castle her family used to live in all together. Upon doing so the game offers you a split: Side with the dawnguard and continue to hunt, or take the blood of a vampire lord and forever prefer the night. I'll keep the story section short and sweet, but I enjoyed the main quest line for the expansion. I just wish it either kept going or it didn't end so abruptly. There are many welcome additions to the story and a new area amongst the lost souls that ended up being one of my favorite levels of the entire game.

Aside from some minor glitches to both the graphics and sounds, Dawnguard looks and sounds identical to the main game. This is part of the reason why I see this as one of Bethesda's best expansions. It adds to the main game, but feels like it belongs. But it is pretty obvious that the beta that was conducted for the Xbox 360 should have gone on longer. I understand fans of Skyrim being impatient, but the expansion could have used a little bit more quality control.

Play Time/Replayability
When I first downloaded Dawnguard I had around 104 hours on my main Skyrim save. Currently I have 125 hours after playing through the expansion. Not all of this time was directly put only into Dawnguard, but as I stated above the DLC does such a good job of blending in with the main game that the player isn't forced to stay in the DLC area for the entire time. The player is able to go and complete whatever else they want so they can play the expansion at their own rate.

I still have another new weapon to find, a new shout, a legendary dragon to fight, and a few more quests to do before all the Dawnguard DLC is completed. The expansion will add another 15-20 hours of playtime.

Final Recommendation
Most likely if you are reading this you already own Skyrim, and you've already put a ton of time into it. If you like Skyrim then I highly suggest buying the expansion Dawnguard. This is one of the few times where the DLC is worth the price it asks for. Dawnguard does a great job of blending new content with the main game and offers players plenty of new things to extend and already great game.

Reviewer's Rating:   4.5 - Outstanding

Originally Posted: 07/17/12

Game Release: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dawnguard (US, 06/26/12)

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