It's not surprising to see Bethesda maintaining its tradition of following up games filled to the brim with content with, well, even more content. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dawnguard isn’t a new game nine months after the release of the superb Skyrim; rather, the creators of the series thought it was apt to release the first expansion pack for the game almost a year later. The first thing you notice on firing up Dawnguard is how well-integrated the events of this quest line are with the rest of the game. Unlike the previous Elder Scrolls title, Oblivion, or even Fallout 3, where DLC and expansion packs would have their events taking place in confined, specially created locales, the scenarios you face here take place across the land of Skyrim.
You’ll be visiting a slew of both new and old places across the world map. Be it the cities of Markarth and Solitude you've already explored in the original Skyrim, or the inherent creepy residence of souls and the undead that is the Soul Cairn, you’ll find an interesting variety of places to visit.
Call upon the forces of darkness
Dawnguard’s main storyline has you right in the middle of an impending war between a powerful, ancient race of vampires and the Dawnguard – a group of highly-trained vampire hunters. As soon as you install it, you realise that the game’s wealth of non-playable characters start murmuring about an increase in deaths at the hands of vampires or the reformation of a legendary group of vampire killers. Before you know it, you’ll find vampires and their thralls attacking towns and the Dawnguard openly looking for recruits. It’s smartly done and does a great job of ensuring you deviate from your current adventure to check out what’s going on. Very early on, you’re forced to choose your allegiance between the two factions. On doing so, you’d expect two radically different chain of events to be put into motion. However, in our playthrough, we noticed that there were a lot of quests that were similar for both factions.
Speaking of quests, there’s nothing that you haven’t already played. From exploring long-forgotten ruins to fighting dragons, you’ve done all of it in the base game itself. There isn’t anything you have not already experienced, which makes this expansion feel a lot more familiar than it should.
Battle scenes still look good
The big draw is the fact that this expansion pack lets you play as a vampire lord. This character class is a heady mix of ferocious melee combat and sadistic spell casting. Well, at least in theory. In reality, when you decide to transform into a vampire lord, the camera decides to go into third person view. This becomes highly irritating, especially if you’ve burned in a hundred odd hours or so in Skyrim like some of us have. Furthermore, you cannot go through most corridors or doors, and neither can you open treasure chests, making this mode feel stunted in spite of morphing into an absolute, lumbering beast with monstrous capabilities. The end result is that it ends up feeling clunky, slow and not quite enjoyable as it should be.
You do get your hands on some interesting perks, though, such as being able to teleport, transform into the mist or summon gargoyles. Aside from this, the already-existing werewolf class gets some new skills as well, and while they’re nice to have, they don’t do much to take the experience farther.
This expansion feels a lot more familiar than it should
It's a good thing then you’re not forced into becoming a creature of the night. However, it’s not as if the alternative is any better. You see, playing the role of one of the elite Dawnguard only gives you access to the crossbow, which is just a souped up bow from the base game, besides being able to hire armoured trolls to do your bidding in the war against vampirism. Aside from these, there isn’t much else and there aren't many incentives in the way of perks or character classes to play as a vampire hunter. Having said that, joining the Dawnguard ensures an experience that’s as close to the base game you’ve already wasted lots of time on with nothing new or different. This makes it the less attractive option of the two.
Where this expansion shines, though, is in the loot. Throughout the main storyline, you’ll find yourself on the receiving end of some really fantastic treasure that should keep you playing till the very interesting finale. The most notable of the treasures is Auriel’s Bow, which lets you channel the power of the sun for each shot, letting you inflict intense fire damage with your arrows. Furthermore, you gain access to a rather swell follower in Serana, a vampire who ends up being one of the more endearing characters in the Elder Scrolls universe.
Events of this quest line are well-integrated with the rest of the game
At 1,600 MS Points via Xbox Live, $20 on Steam or the roughly translatable INR 1,100 that you would have to shell out to buy this expansion pack, it feels a tad expensive. Even while it does pack in a good 15-20 hours of gameplay, there’s nothing that you already haven’t played. This adventure follows the well-trodden path of fetch quests where you’ll find yourself hunting for items that give you access to other items so you can explore the bottom of a dank cave. This makes for an all-too-familiar scenario, especially after having spent a fair amount of time playing Skyrim. Throw in the fact that quests overlap between factions and you have a lot of fluff to wade through.
To borrow a few lines from the Dark Knight, Dawnguard is the expansion pack Bethesda wants us to have but not the expansion pack we need. It feels very similar to what we’ve already played. But if you’re one of those who absolutely cannot get enough of exploring and traversing through dark dungeons, then go ahead. For the rest of us, it would be wise to wait for it to go on sale.
Updated 22 May, 2013, 9:27 pm IST
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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dawnguard Review , The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dawnguard , The Elder Scrolls , Skyrim , PC Games , Xbox Games , Bethesda Studios , Xbox 360 Console , Dawnguard , The Elder Scrolls Skyrim
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