Zero Lives Left – Skyrim: Dragonborn DLC

Game: Skyrim – Dragonborn DLC
Released: 2012
Available On: Xbox 360 (Review) – PS3 + PC Forthcoming
Genre: Role Playing

I’m proud of myself! It was only a few weeks ago that I reviewed Skyrim’s Dawnguard DLC. Sure, that review was very, very, very late, but I’m not doing so bad with my review of the Dragonborn DLC. This DLC came out on December 4th for the Xbox 360, but the PC and PS3 release dates are currently slated as just 2013. I’d wager it’d be February, but I’m probably wrong. Who knows.

I really liked Dawnguard, it had some marvellous set pieces and the last three sections of the game were some of the most fun I had with Skyrim itself. I’ll admit now that I’ll be doing a lot of comparison between these two downloadable releases. This will come up in terms of length, set pieces, new features and new additions. There are also going to be spoilers, nothing too specific but a bit about the main quest line and a certain Daedric plane that you’ll be visiting will be revealed in this review. If you don’t want to know those things, turn back now. If you don’t care, read on!

Story
So you’re just strolling along, minding your own business and just generally enjoying the fact that you’re the Dragonborn. Suddenly, out of nowhere, a group of mad cultists circle you and begin to try and kill you. Of course because you’re the player character you make short work of them and investigate their bodies. On one of the corpses you find a note telling the cultists to come and kill the ‘new’ Dragonborn to prepare for Miraak, the ‘old’ Dragonborn’s awakening. At this point it’s only reasonable to head into Solstheim and KICK THE CRAP OUT OF THAT NO GOOD ASSHOLE.

That’s the quick gist of the story, it gets a little bit more interesting after that point with a whole idea of digging down into the Earth, building up great monuments to Miraak and a series of evil black books. Even though stuff like this is all cool, I feel like there was a lot that wasn’t done with it, a lot of it was merely taking the idea at a face value. There was a lot of potential for the story in this, but I feel a lot of it was wasted. You meet Miraak for the first time in a particularly cool segment when you enter one of the black books and he paralyses you, taunts you and then flies away on his wicked serpentine dragon. About three bland missions later you’re battling him atop of his tower. You blink and it’s done, suddenly you’re at the climax of the DLC wondering why you feel so bummed about all the wasted opportunity.

Atmosphere/Art Direction
If there’s one really cool part of the Dragonborn DLC it’s the Daedric plane you enter. Every time you try to read one of the aforementioned books you are sucked into Apocrypha, the plane of Hermaeus Mora. Now I am a bit biased because Mora is my favourite of the Daerdric princes. A lot of this has to do with my obsession with Cthulu, large bodies of water and the mystery contained within them. I didn’t know you entered his plane until I read the first black book I found and suddenly a mass of eyes and tentacles was greeting me as his champion.

Apocrypha is a really sweet place, towers of black books form the walls and ground, and a tar like ocean stretches all around you. These Cthulu-esque monstrosities are floating around reading books and there’s a bunch of amphibian humanoid monsters lurk around every corner. The place can be a mindfuck too, with some hallways extending forever or closing in before you, pushing you back to the door you entered.

This atmosphere is great and there are moments back on Solstheim that are also neat, but I still feel like there is a lot lost that could’ve been. There is the one house on the map where you find a man’s journal obsessing about needing to dig down into the Earth. You see a little bit of what was calling him to dig down, but it stops almost as immediately as it starts. Maybe it’s just me, but I find that maddening obsession with attempting to search for the unknown in places you shouldn’t be looking so compelling. It’s the general idea of Hermaeus Mora and I just feel disappointed that there was all this set-up for potential that just went… nowhere.

Gameplay:
The game still plays like it did, so if you want a review for how Skyrim plays my review is here.

There are some new shouts added to this DLC, some new armour, weapons, crafting materials and other items too. Of course there is also Solstheim, the whole new island added to the game, and that place is pretty damn impressive. It’s a gorgeous place to walk around and a land that seems to be living in the ash of a volcanic eruption is just really cool. The quests there aren’t bad, but there wasn’t anything that I finished and thought ‘that was awesome’.

While the Dawnguard DLC added a whole new play style (Vampire Lord) and a skill tree for another (Werewolf) I was disappointed to find that there wasn’t that much of a huge addition to Dragonborn. There are quite a few shouts added, but I never really use shouts much in vanilla Skyrim anyway. The big new shout, Bend Will, is pretty cool because it makes the dragons side with you for a little bit allowing you to ride them. Now the riding of the dragons isn’t as exciting as it sounds. You have no control over where they fly, and when they attack it’s based on very finicky button prompts by you.

I will admit that sitting on the dragons and idly enjoying the Skyrim or Solstheim aesthetic as they fly around can be very relaxing. It’s a very pretty universe that this all takes place in, I can’t ignore that fact.

Bonus:
The length is definitely an issue for this downloadable content. Compared to Dawnguard this game took me no time at all. I can definitely admit my disappoint in that, but I suppose it kind of makes sense. Dawnguard was essentially a pure quest line added to the game, Dragonborn on the other hand had an entire new location to go with it. I’m sure if I take the time to do the entirety of Solstheim I’m sure I wouldn’t be complaining about length, instead I’d be begging for someone to help me find some sort of cure for the loading screens that have in fact invaded my life outside of Skyrim. I suppose I do have to give Dragonborn some credit for Solstheim, it is a really cool location and there is a lot to it. It’s also really fun to explore, which I usually enjoy way more than the main quest itself.

Miraak, he’s a cool guy, I just wish they did more with him. He’s an antagonist that doesn’t really do anything to antagonize you other than shake his fist and tell you all of the things he COULD do to you. It’s not really intimidating and it doesn’t even feel like he is a threat to you. This is something that is an issue with most Elder Scrolls enemies, but with when I played Dawnguard I was definitely intimidated by one certain SPOILERIFIC boss fight that takes place before Harkon. It’s possible for the bad guy to be a threat, but Miraak just failed in that, even with as damn cool as he was.

There was something neat he did where he’d occasionally show up and steal a Dragon’s soul from you as you tried to suck the soul from them. That was DAMN cool. His armour and mask was awesome too, he had the look of a good villain, but he didn’t have the good… urgency of fear that a villain should have.

I also love Hermaeus Mora.

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

TLDR: There wasn’t much weight to this downloadable content compared to the previous big release, although Solstheim is a great place and Apocrypha is wicked, the entire game feels like a big dose of blue balls. All build up– no climax.

Dragonborn DLC: 5/10

 

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