REVIEW: Skyrim – Dragonborn DLC [PC]

But I thought I was special? You mean there's another Dragonborn?

Well, okay, this fight with Alduin really seems too big to handle on my own. Perhaps, if this other Dragonborn is not too busy, he could come help?

Oh, he's busy enslaving dragons and doing the nefarious bidding of a Daedric Prince on an island off the coast of Morrowind? I see. Someone should do something about that.

Yes, in Skyrim's latest DLC you can escape the mainland (and leave Alduin to wreak havoc) while you investigate the existence of a second Dragonborn. After said Dragonborn sends some of his crazy cultists to kill you. Rude!

Aside from the initial attack the events in the Dragonborn DLC all take place on the island of Solstheim. Nominally a Dunmer (Dark Elf) holding, the island also has a splinter group of Nords from Skyrim, separated from the mainland Nords many generations ago.

Since it's still the Skyrim engine, a lot of the landscape and architecture has the same feel as that of the mainland. Much of the island is blanketed in snow, too. The largest deviation from the base game is the southern section of the island which has been ravaged by the eruption of Red Mountain, the volcano at the heart of Morrowind.

Underground areas are a mix of the classic Skyrim caves with an occasional Morrowind-themed vaulted corridor filled dungeon to explore. If you've explored the mainland you'll feel right at home on Solstheim.

That all flies out the window once you hit a certain point in the main storyline of the expansion and find yourself drawn into the daedric realm. Without giving too much away, these vaguely-demonic, vaguely-godlike beings are again meddling in the affairs of humanity and you'll need to venture inside their realm a number of times before you're through.

The plane of existence the daedra inhabit is one rarely visited in the Elder Scrolls games, though interactions with the Daedric Princes and their minions are quite common. The landscape there is quite alien and the laws of physics don't always apply in quite the same way. This particular daedra favours endless plains of sickly greenish-black liquid with unexpectedly malleable structures built from ruined books and grotesque statues. And, of course, around every corner is another hideous creatures trying to eat you.

In terms of gameplay changes from the original Skyrim there's not a lot to tell. You do get some new dragon shouts to play with. One shout increases your strength and defense but you can only use it once per day, so it's saved almost exclusively for fights with dragons. Another shout allows you to control the minds of the living (boring and available as a spell) or bend a dragon to your will.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dragonborn

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dragonborn

Then you can ride a dragon around. The one time I did this was in the daedric realm, near the end of the storyline. The dragon was "on rails" while my character was dragged along for the ride; a ride that included multiple flights through the greenish-black goop due to some poor life decisions on the part of the dragon.

This "flying through water" issue had arisen earlier when fighting a dragon on a small island off the coast as it wheeled around to make another strafing run. Later I met some mostly naked men who were actually werebears. When they were in bear form they looked fine, but in human form their heads were missing and their arms were grossly misshapen. When chatting with a wise old Nord regarding a specific plot point his daughter came in behind and unceremoniously shoved my character out of the way. Which resulted in me sitting on the old Nord's head while continuing the conversation as if nothing was amiss.

None of this stuff is game breaking but it does reflect the typical Bethesda issues with polish. Given that the expansion has been out for two months on Xbox 360 it's particularly disappointing to see dragons merrily flying through water still.

Rounding out the additions to the game are some new creatures and equipment. Of the new critters the best are the Ash Spawn, vaguely humanoid beings with bodies formed of ash, clay and seams of angry looking lava. Some throw ashen fireballs, others come equipped with smoking swords or staves, making for some visually pleasing battles.

Equipment-wise the Dragonborn DLC adds new Bonemold (Heavy) and Chitin (Light) armours along with Stahlgrim (heavy) armour and Stahlgrim weaponry. Bonemold and Chitin are quite common to find and easily purchased off vendors. Stahlgrim is exceedingly rare on vendors in any form, but can be mined in the world and crafted into weapons and armour by players with enough smithing skill.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dragonborn

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dragonborn

Of course what it comes down to is whether the additional content justifies the $20 ($25 in Australia, grumble grumble) pricetag. If you enjoyed the original Skyrim and want even more things to see and do, Dragonborn is just that. The main storyline can be completed in around 10 hours (less if you're powerful and rush, more if you explore) and all your new gear and experience can be carried back to the mainland at any time, either to continue the struggle against Alduin or to aid in filling your house with cheese.

This is an expansion pack done like those of old. A really significant chunk of new content to explore that works wonderfully with and compliments the existing adventure. Bethesda still has issues when it comes to quality assurance but they are easy to overlook faults in an otherwise wonderful experience.

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Avid gamer, book reader and consumer of donuts.
Occasional writer of things.
Twitter: @mythor

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