Is Skyrim's Dawnguard Expansion Worthwhile... If You Don't Care About the Vampire Lords?
Iris Ophelia's ongoing review of gaming and virtual world fashion
I've been writing a lot lately about preparing to play Dawnguard (here and here, if you missed out), but it may be a bit conspicuous that I haven't actually talked about Dawnguard itself yet. To be honest, I wasn't sure I wanted to, because the topic that garners the most Dawnguard hype, the Vampire Lord form, didn't really interest me that much. Maybe I'm a goody-goody or just boring, but I never really enjoyed any of the monstrous forms available in Skyrim already, either.
So many writers and players alike have been focusing on Vampire Lord mechanics and play, but not many people were answering the nagging question I had: Is Dawnguard worth the $20 pricetag if I don't give a crap about being a super vampire? No one had a good answer for me, but I have one for you.
First of all, there's a lot more to Dawnguard than just Vampire Lords. The Unofficial Elder Scrolls Pages has a great breakdown of all the new content in this expansion, from armor to ingredients to creatures to quests, so long as you don't mind skimming some potential spoilers to get a better look at what this DLC has to offer.
I was a little surprised to see just how much was added, and yet while playing I found myself wanting more. While there is a lot of new content, almost all of it is directly tied to the Dawnguard storyline. This shouldn't be terribly surprising, and they could have always done less and dressed the vampires in this expansion like the vampires in the rest of the game to give me a real reason to complain, but I suppose I'd been hoping for just a little bit more official content to filter into the rest of the world at large. When not playing the Dawnguard storyline, I found the rest of Skyrim more or less unchanged. This also made it a bit of a pain in the ass when it came to finding bolts for my brand new crossbow.
The crossbow is probably the most significant item addition in Dawnguard, and as an archer I was pretty excited to try one out. It's... exactly as you might expect, really. It wasn't surprising, but the heavily mechanical feeling of firing and reloading it was oddly more satisfying that the soft hisses and snaps of the bow that I'd gotten used to using. In spite of this interesting new addition, I was a little surprised that one of the wonderfully epic weapons available as you progress through the story is (spoiler alert) a fancy bow. It felt a little bit... confused, though I hate to complain about being given variety. It just feels like an epic crossbow might have been a more natural fit.
Getting Dawnguard for the new items may not be worthwhile, but what remains is a pretty strong quest line with new, interesting characters and a few unique locations. It's comparable in length and detail to the quest lines for other in-game factions like the Thieves Guild, the Dark Brotherhood, and the Companions, so there's a reasonable amount there to keep you busy for a couple evenings. This is how you really determine if Dawnguard is for you or not. In my case, I still don't really feel like I'm "done" with what Skyrim alone has to offer. I've barely scratched the surface of The Companions, and there are conspicuously uncharted areas on my map, even after 150+ hours of play. I didn't really feel like I needed more, not quite yet.
So my advice to you is this: If you're itching to kill some vampires (or become one yourself) or you feel like you've reached the limits of what Skyrim on its own can offer you, by all means pick up Dawnguard. However if, like me, you still feel like there's so much more still waiting for you to do and uncover, wait until it's on sale before you snap it up at a slightly more practical price.
Iris Ophelia (Janine Hawkins IRL) has been featured in the New York Times and has spoken about SL-based design at the Fashion Institute of Technology in Manhattan and with pop culture/fashion maven Johanna Blakley.