DLC Review: Hearthfire

I know what you’re all probably thinking.  “GamerDame, you’re reviewing Skyrim‘s second DLC when you haven’t even gotten around to reviewing the first?”  I know, I know.  And I’m working on it.  But Hearthfire is a very different beast from Dawnguard, & easier to “finish.”  Truthfully, Hearthfire snuck up on me.  I didn’t even know about it until last week, & I figured there was no point in making a news post when the release was one week away.  But I spent most of yesterday playing around with it (after making some major strides towards finishing Driver: San Francisco), so I think it’s ready to be reviewed.

Go from a bare-bones shack…

Plot: Heartfire isn’t a story add-on, but it can be looked at as an ongoing quest.  Hearthfire allows the Dragonborn to build a homestead from the ground up.  There are three sites available — one slightly north of Whiterun, one in Falkreath overlooking a lake & one in the marshes northwest of Morthal.  Once you’ve purchased the land, the arduous process of building your homestead begins.  The DLC adds a drafting table & carpenter’s workbench, which will appear on your land.  The drafting table allows you to choose the blueprints for your house.  The carpenter’s workbench lets you construct the various parts of your home.  Once you’ve built a section, you can decorate it.  The DLC makes use of already existing materials as well as adding some new ones.  You can also turn any follower into a steward, who will buy resources, furnish your home, etc.  The DLC also includes the ability to adopt up to two children from the orphanage in Riften (you know, the one you murder the old lady in for the Dark Brotherhood?).

Adds:

  • 3 houses
  • New materials (includes sawn logs, clay & straw)
  • New crafting recipes (nails, locks, hinges & iron fittings)
  • 5 adoptable children
  • 3 Housecarls (for Falkrearth, the Pale & Hjaalmarch)
  • 3 hire-able bards
  • 3 coachmen
  • New radiant quests (house-related issues like skeever infestations)
  • 5 achievements; Proud Parent (adopt a child), Landowner (buy a plot of land), Architect (build three wings onto a house), Land Baron (buy three plots of land) & Master Architect (completely build three houses)
  • Total gameplay time added: infinite

Cost: 400 MP (currently only available on 360)

… to a beautiful manor.

Opinion: I absolutely love this DLC.  While building the houses takes a lot of time & money, it’s very satisfying to watch your home grow over time.  While the houses aren’t fully customizable, there are three options for each of the three wings of the house, allowing you to mix & match.  I’ve purchased all three plots, but made Heljarchen Hall my main residence, complete with an added bedroom, storage & armory (mainly because those three options give me a wrap-around balcony) but made Lakeview Manor my secluded sanctuary with a library, alchemy tower & greenhouse.  You can also add to the outside of your home, including a garden where you can plant any plant you want, a stable & animal coop.  Each of the three houses also had one unique outside feature.  Heljarchen has a mill, Lakeview has a beehive & Windstad has a fish hatchery.  I also really like that the DLC makes a lot of previous useless items useful.  Wolf pelts, antlers & corundum help build & decorate your home.

As I said before, building your home can take a lot of time &/or money.   On the bright side, the new resources needed are infinitely available at your site if you have the time to mine them.  Or you can pay your steward for them.  Hearthfire also makes working at the saw mills purposeful.  While you can buy lumber from the owners, you can also cut the logs yourself to save money.  I’ve done a bit of both, mainly because after working on the first house I didn’t want to take a lot of time on the second.  Plus, I’m practically sitting on Fort Knox.  At least the DLC also gives me something useful to spend money on.

I haven’t tested out every single part of this add-on yet, like adopting a child.  However, it’s supposed to add new actions, like playing with your child or giving them gifts.

The ability to taxiderm enemies in the trophy room is particularly cool

If I had any complaint about Hearthfire, it’s that there’s no way to remove furniture once you’ve added it.  The only room you can change is the starting house area into a main hall, which is useful as it gets rid of the bed.  You also don’t have a say in where the decorations go, but you can make only what you want, so I guess it balances out.  Oh, & make sure you ask the mill owners if you can cut the lumber yourself.  I found out the hard way that you can’t do that at every mill.  Check first, or you’ll waste time like I did cutting lumber & never receiving any.

I wanted to address what some people are calling a bug in the game: you can pay your steward to furnish your home for you if you don’t want to take the time to build everything from scratch.  Some people have mentioned that this is bugged because you pay the money but the items don’t appear.  I experienced this as well, but rather than being a bug, it seems that items get added over time.  Every time I fast travel & come back, a few more pieces have been added.

Overall, I highly recommend this DLC for anyone who wants to add to their Skyrim experience.  I think it really adds to the immersion of the world.  Even if you don’t have the resources to complete your home all at once, it’s very satisfying to watch your home grow a little at a time.

– GamerDame

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