Skyrim Dragonborn DLC – First Look

Dragonborn DLCI 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.

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Skyrim

SkyrimI received The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim from Amazon, last Friday, the day of release.

I’d love to write about Skyrim but sadly, my spare time has been taken, this weekend, due to slogging through several quests other commitments.

If I had the time, I’d probably waffle on about how the game appears to have met the hype head-on.

I’d probably go onto mention how pleasing the graphics are, especially the models for many of the diverse peoples and creatures of Skyrim; I’d tie this eloquently into some reference or other to the smooth gameplay.

In fact, if I weren’t so busy elsewhere, I’d mention how many of my XBOX Live friends had managed to achieve a whole 36 hours progress by the time I started the game on Friday evening; possibly going on to mention how different their own individual experiences have been to my own and that Skyrim seems to reward players in very different ways, depending upon their gaming style.

I’d lament the inability to craft my own spells but applaud the improvements to the Alchemy and Smithing system – balancing both with comments on Enchanting.

It is most likley that I wouldn’t bother writing about the one and only crash whilst reloading for the umpteenth time after having my behind repeatedly handed to me by some sort of Gloomsayer.

I think I’d wrap up with some anecdote about LRP/Skyrim crossover dreams, and my inability to disarm anybody with a Shout at Lorien Trust LRP events due to the prevalence of the Immune to Fumble occupational skill.

Unfortunately, there’s some crazy dragon-speaker’s horn that I have to pick up and I think the Arch-Mage of the College of Winterhold may need my help… I’ll find time for writing again soon, I promise… just one more quest… one more and I might get my Sneak to 70…