"Dawnguard is More of the Exact Same Skyrim Fixin's."

I decided to write a quick review for the Skyrim player balking at the 20 dollar price tag. If you don't love Skyrim enough to automatically spring for the expansion, then you likely need to understand one thing; Dawnguard is 20 dollars of additional Skyrim. It makes Skyrim plus-size. Still the same, just bigger.

Storywise, Dawnguard is unimpressive. The plot and characters are arguably better than what is found in any other faction quest, but they are still not great. Your two new factions are even more disconnected from the world at large, with one being brand new and weak, and the other being ancient, powerful, and a bunch of shut-ins who have almost no interaction with the world. Almost immediately, you find yourself knee-deep in problems, and of course, you are the only one who can do anything about it, everyone else being too busy standing around doing nothing. You are given the option to join the vampires or stick with the vampire hunters, but the plot is almost exactly the same either way, with the same exact follower helping you out. For either side, your primary goal and enemy is the same. None of the new characters have much depth (although the new follower is a little better than most of the NPCs you meet in Skyrim), the plot is pretty cut-and-dry, and the cool premise doesn't really deliver. You also can do several repeating radiant quests for no benefit, if you want.

Gameplay wise, a number of things have changed. First, there are a few general changes, unrelated to the quests. Werewolves now have perks they unlock by feeding on enemies. The downsides of being a vampire have been notably reduced, making it a less irksome option. You now have the ability to forge arrows, and Dragonbone weapons. Some new shouts are added. Anytime you enter a town at night, there is a chance a vampire attack will occur, where a master vampire and a few of his thralls will get down by the guards, but probably not before killing one or two other NPCs. You will learn to hate these as shopkeepers and the like are killed for no reason. Smaller changes, like new random encounters, also abound. The plot-related changes are arguably bigger. Crossbows are introduced, and sticking with the Dawnguard can get you better crossbows and better crossbow bolts. Also, new spells and equipment are introduced that specifically damage the undead/vampires, respectively. You can also buy an armored troll for a follower, which is kinda fun. Joining the vampires unlocks the Vampire Lord form; normally, you will be just a typical vampire, but at any point (and as often as you wish), you can transform into a Vampire Lord. In this form, you can either fight much like a werewolf with your big claws, or use special magic and abilities you unlock by killing enemies with your drain attack, or directly sucking the life out of them. You cannot, however, go through many doors, open chests, loot bodies, etc, and basically every NPC will go hostile when they see you. You will have the option to find special equipment that enhances the Vampire Lord form as sidequests from your undead friends.

The main problem with all of the above paragraph is how little it matters. The werewolf form is still weak. The Vampire Lord form is also not that strong. Nearly all of the new equipment ranges from weak to average. Same for the new spells. You will find most of these additions to be things you have to MAKE yourself use. To keep anything from being abusable, they've made everything underwhelming. The only additions that are really useful are Dragonbone equipment, the ability to make your own arrows, the Aetherial Crown, and a few other bits and pieces.

In the end, you have to really, really love Skyrim everything to feel like Dawnguard is worth the money. The factions and characters are all cool in theory but boring in execution. Most of the other additions are average at best. Only a handful of stuff is really good, and frankly, these almost feel like things that should have been in the game to begin with but weren't. For those who like to make their own fun, whether it's role-playing or just like running around doing whatever they feel like and trying every different playstyle, the expansion is good. For those who might have liked Skyrim, but wanted more variety in GOOD equipment, or depth in plot and characters, or completely new ways to play through the game, don't bother. For better or for worse, Dawnguard is more of the exact same everything you already have in Skyrim.

Reviewer's Rating:   3.0 - Fair

Originally Posted: 08/06/12

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

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