Dawnguard – Icing on the Cake

What do you get a game that’s already won Game of the Year? Skyrim’s first official DLC “Dawnguard” tops the cake – adding fresh dungeons, new factions and more of everything that made the base title so immersive.

Dawnguard is named for one of the new factions, a band of heroes sworn to fight the evil Vampire Lord Harkon’s plot to cast Skyrim into Darkness. The player will make choices that align them with one side or the other, and while the core story progresses much the same either way – the people at the heart of the story and myriad of smaller details make this one of the most enjoyable side stories in Skyrim yet. More significant than the plot itself are the locations and opportunities for players who wanted to play a vampire or werewolf; or to hunt them.

Previously there were not many options outside the Dark Brotherhood assassin’s guild for a player infected with vamprism (merely a disease, Harkon points out). Werewolves were much more socially accepted by comparison, but the novelty outside the Companion’s Guild storyline was limited. In Dawnguard both get new talent trees and powers, as well as ample opportunity to run wild.

Dawnguard’s best moments are in the delivering of the story and development of the many new characters and locations. The new dungeons are a huge improvement on the original well-worn layouts, with clever use of lighting, new puzzles and thoughtful level design. True to Elder Scroll’s style, much of the add-on content lay outside the central story, waiting to be stumbled upon. The new content is tightly integrated into the old. You may hear of a location from a guard, a wanderer, or in a dusty tome on a shelf in an unlikely location.

Finally, Bethesda gave players much needed bug fixes and gameplay tweaks. Mounted combat and improved “kill cams” for archery and spells are technically part of a patch and not the DLC itself, but were released around the same time and corrected a few progression-killing bugs that had existed since Skyrim’s release. New content *and* bug fixes? Please, you’ll spoil the fans. Seriously, two thumbs up.

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