Zero Lives Left – Skyrim: Dawnguard DLC

Game: Skyrim – Dawnguard DLC
Released: 2012
Available On: Xbox 360 (Review), PC
Genre: Role Playing

Here we are again standing at the precipice of Skyrim, looking down below over all of its glory, whether that be the glory of immersion or the infamy of glitches– that is up to you to decide. My old Skyrim review can be found here. Give that a read if you want a review about Skyrim because I’m not going into specifics here. In fact, I want to try and say Skyrim as little as possible in this review. Henceforth Skyrim will be known as Project Extreme.

On today’s Zero Lives Left I will be reviewing Project Extreme’s DLC Dawnguard. It came out last summer, so I’m keeping with my tradition of being a little bit late to the ball when it comes to reviews. You don’t come to Zero Lives Left for up to date reviews after all, no, you come for the women and the booze.

Let’s get to Dawnguard, shall we?

“Yes! We all want to talk about Dawnguard.”

The story is a simple one, but it is engaging enough to keep you going as you plod along with the missions. You are told soon after you start your game that there is a new faction out there called the Dawnguard and they really have a big ol’ boner for killing vampires. You join them for one mission and from there you can choose to split off from them to side with evil vampire Lord Harkon or to stay with them and get a big ol’ boner for killing vampires yourself. You meet Harkon’s daughter Serana early on and she becomes a follower throughout the rest of the campaign. I sided with Harkon, the story had me searching high and low for Elder Scrolls for him and ultimately ended with me finding a magic bow that would decide the fate of vampires forever.

(Imagine the italics with a booming echoing voice of pure seriousness and anticipation.)

As I said, this isn’t really anything unique or life changing but it has some cool characters in some cool environments. Harkon is a badass and Serana is a great character that I actually enjoyed to have following me around. I’m not even a big fan of using followers in Project Extreme, but when I finished up the main quest line of Dawnguard and she asked to join me on further adventures I just couldn’t find myself saying no to her. I suppose that is a good sign, anything that breaks me out of my stubborn ways has to be a positive thing.

Atmosphere/Art Direction
You’d think that everything you see in Dawnguard you would’ve found before in Project Extreme. With all the time I spent playing around through the quests in the base game, I thought that I saw every rendered bush and lighting effect that Bethesda had to offer me. I am delighted to say that I was absolutely wrong, the set pieces they have in this game are absolutely incredible with the climactic final missions being set in some of the most breathtaking places I’ve played in gaming.

A simple but elegant one is Lord Harkon’s castle. The moment when you first approach it, an ominous and foreboding shadow on the horizon, is great and it only gets better as you get closer and see the gothic touches in its design. Gargoyles line the walls and the bridge up to it, watching you as you walk into this place that is obviously not filled with happy things. The aforementioned amazing set piece of the final missions takes place inside of a large ice cavern as you fight your way through hordes of Falmer, attempting to climb up their makeshift walkways to the top of the cavern. When you reach the top you find a temple of the Snow Elves, long forgotten, filled with terrifying memories and mementos of their defeat and culture’s extinction.

It’s surprisingly wonderful.

This is one of the two big new areas you enter in the game.

If you want a critique on the gameplay of Project Extreme go read the original review of it here. I’ll be using this section to talk about the new editions that Dawnguard has to offer.

A big hook of this DLC was the tech tree for the werewolf, enticing those who liked playing the werewolf with a bit more of meaty choices to that play style. There was also the new transformation of Vampire Lord, which also had a tech tree of its own. The werewolf tech tree adds a little bit of flavour to the play style but not enough to intrigue me to try playing further with it but the Vampire Lord transformation was definitely a lot more fun to play.

There are two ways to play the Vampire Lord, one is floating off the ground with magic and the other is running around with your claws tearing shit up. The spells are neat, an amusing one involves you force pulling enemies near you, making them hover in front of you until you get bored of them and rocket them across the room. You also get the abilities to summon gargoyles to help you kick ass and one where you’re surrounded in an army of bats that do damage to anybody in melee range. The play style is simple, fun and you look pretty damn cool flying around as a vampire beating up Bandits and sucking their blood to further your life essence. 

Another addition I want to bring up quickly is the new weapon– the crossbow. It basically plays exactly like a bow except it has a satisfying kachunk noise when you fire it and it takes a little bit longer to reload. It does nice damage and there’s something cool about weaving around your enemy in combat while shooting at him with a crossbow. So a plus for that!

When I first downloaded this DLC ages ago most of the things I’ve read online bitched about the length of the game. I was expecting a short DLC campaign with a few piddling side quests ultimately totalling in maybe 4 hours of content. I didn’t rush through it, but I didn’t take forever, and the entire DLC, getting all achievements, clocked in at about 10 hours of time for me. For the price, 20 bucks, that is awesome. Considering that most game releases have a campaign that takes about 6 hours to complete I think that Dawnguard has the perfect bang for your buck. Maybe other people expect their DLC to take FOREVER to complete, but I found the main campaign meaty enough and there’s one side quest that took me about an hour alone to complete. Length isn’t an issue for Dawnguard.

The final thing I want to talk about surprised the hell out of me. When I hear ‘Elder Scrolls’ or ‘Project Extreme’ I don’t necessarily think of ‘good boss fights’. No, normally I think of the boss fights in this series as just a powered up version of a normal enemy. I mean Alduin in the main campaign was a push over I defeated without even blinking. It was pitiful, especially with someone who has the nickname of World Eater. An epic name, wasted. Dawnguard had three amazing moments of awesome boss fights, all pretty much one after the other which made the climax even better.

The first was a battle against two dragons at the same time in what is probably one of my favorite locations in the Skyrim game. I was walking along a giant frozen body of water just thinking to myself: ‘man, this would be a great location for an epic boss fight’ when all of a sudden BAM, two dragons showed up. I don’t want to spoil how they showed up, but it scared the hell out of me and made the boss fight THAT much better. The second boss is a big spoiler that I don’t want to give away here because I actually enjoyed the whole situation with him. The final boss, no big surprise here, is against Lord Harkon and the music, environment and trying to chase him down in his vampire form was awesome.

Colour me surprised Elder Scrolls, you actually floored me three times in succession just as I was trying to convince myself this couldn’t get any better.

Story: 1/2
Gameplay: 3/4
Bonus: 2/2

TLDR: Dawnguard is a fantastic DLC for a great game. I enjoyed Dawnguard more than the majority of the quests in its original. The final missions are awesome, they hit hard with amazing set pieces, great story moments and surprisingly engaging boss battles.

Dawnguard DLC: 8/10

One day I’ll get to the Dragonborn DLC; hopefully not too late. I won’t be reviewing the Hearthfire DLC, if that bothers you then here is a quick review: ‘Build houses, adopt kids, YOLO’.



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