I am hoping this note will be an impartial view of the new DLC for Skyrim, released yesterday for the arm-and-a-leg of 1600 msp.
To justify any perceived impartiality that seeps through:
I have racked up hundreds of hours of playtime in Skyrim on the XBOX 360, the majority of such time being spent on a level 81 (Everything but restoration at 100 and balanced Health/Magicka/Stamina ratios) Altmer.
I’m also somewhat jaded when it comes to the previous DLC… I only played the SIMS expansion, Hearthfire, for the achievements and had more engagement in curing myself of vampirism after Dawnguard than with any of the Dawnguard plot.
Sure I enjoyed floating around as a Vampire Lord but I took a massive hit on stats in vampire form AND now have an achievement I will likely never gain… who in their right mind would want to be an elder scrolls werewolf?
Lycanthropy in Skyrim is like wandering around with a “Kick my, I’m stupid” sticker on your back and nerfs your stats even more than the Vampire Lord.
Fighting enemies that are levelled to a level 81 murder elf without armour, enchantments, weapons, spells or shouts isn’t a challenge it’s insanity.
Anyway, the aim is to detail my first experiences with Dragonborn without geting over-enthusiastic for the game I love and without getting too down over the previous DLC.
Like previous DLCs I didn’t get an “in” until I’d slept and wandered into Whiterun, where I was quest-spammed by cultists and an Ebony Knight – all at once.
This wasn’t a problem for the head of the Dark Brotherhood (Companions, Thieves Guild, Mage College – delete as applicable) and left me with a couple of choices:
- Travel to Solstheim? (Really Bethesda? 20 gamerscore for getting on a boat)
- Deal with a new quest closer to home? (And 0 gamerscore for dealing with that)
Now I’ve been burnt by Fallout 3 & New Vegas DLC that has forced me into areas of no return, with no equipment and no base of operation; so I opted for the quest closer to home (having already emptied my inventory except for essentials prior to downloading the new DLC).
In dealing with that new quest I encountered the toughest fight in Skyrim since facing the dragon priest Krosis, whilst level 10, at Shearpoint. I had to return at level 17 with a Storm Atronach to beat Krosis. No such level up option for me now.
Several attempts later, I’ve beaten the bad guy and I’m feeling a lot better about the new DLC – as slow to start as it seemed.
The DLC feels levelled to my abilities, even fighting Netches and Ash Spawn in Solstheim, I feel challenged and almost at risk. Granted, I haven’t used any of the healing potions that I spent a good 30 minutes brewing before setting off (the first quest taught me that I needed to be less cocky and carry more healing potions).
Solstheim also seems somewhat bigger than previous expansions; larger than the weird shadow realm of Dawnguard.
It’s a completely different map, accessed by boat from Windhelm – the boat is even consistent insofar as the dead stray dog I left on it months ago in Windhelm is still on it in Solstheim.
I’ve only given it a few hours so far, I’ve wandered the coast, completed a couple of quests and fought lots of Ash Spawn but there does seem quite a lot to explore with the promise of ruins, wrecks and forts on the horizon.
With new crafting options, alchemy reagents, ores, creatures and – allegedly – shouts, this certainly feels like a true “Expansion”. I’m not sure I hold stock in many of the tales of “rumoured new features” that have been bandying around. I’m yet to fly a dragon and I am still unable to cast spells or shout shouts from horseback.
I can well believe the rumoured 30 hours play time however!
In summary, I’d recommend it but a part of me wishes I’d waited until there was a “Gold members deal” that let me buy it for 1200 msp instead of 1600.
Now if only I could stop Skyrim from crashing at random like Morrowind started to do to me… it’s been doing that for months now.