It took me a little longer than usual to finish Skyrim‘s first official DLC, Dawnguard, because I was working through two save files. One file was with the Dawnguard & the other was with the vampires. I wanted to see how both factions felt before sticking with one for the rest of the game. After about the halfway point, I decided to stick with my non-vampire playthrough, but I feel I have enough experience with being a vampire to give an accurate opinion on both sides.
Plot: The Dragonborn hears from the rumor mill that a group of vampire hunters calling themselves the “Dawnguard” is recruiting. During their first mission for the Dawnguard, the Dragonborn meets the daughter of a powerful Vampire Lord. In thanks for saving his daughter, Lord Harkon offers to make the Dragonborn a Vampire Lord. Regardless of which side you choose, you’ll ultimately be working to stop Harkon from fulfilling a prophecy to blot out the sun forever.
- 2 factions, the Dawnguard & the Vampires
- Perk trees for both Vampire Lords & Werewolves
- 2 completely new Shouts; Soul Tear & Summon Durnehviir
- 12 story quests & 9 sidequests on each faction’s side
- 23 new locations
- New weapons, including dragonbone weapons, crossbows & the legendary Auriel’s Bow
- New armor, some of which are higher levels than any previous armors in the game, including Royal Vampire Armor, Falmer Armor & Ancient Falmer Armor
- Ability to change your character’s face (only available to non-vampires)
- Dog companions
- New summonable mount, Arvak the skeleton horse
- Dawnguard can hire armored trolls as followers
- 10 achievements; A New You (change face), Awakening , Beyond Death , Kindred Judgement, Lost to the Ages (all require completing quest of same name), Soul Tear (learn all three words of Soul Tear shout), Auriel’s Bow (use Auriel’s Bow), Werewolf Mastered (complete perk tree), Vampire Mastered (complete perk tree) & Legend (defeat Legendary Dragon, only available after level 70)
- Total gameplay time added: 10+ hours
Cost: 1600 MP or $20
Opinion: I think this DLC adds a lot of great content to Skyrim. I think the biggest draw is the addition of the Vampire Lord & Werewolf perk trees. The great thing about these perks is that they don’t level up like the rest of your skills. Instead of being based on your overall level, these perks increase as you feed on people, either with the Vampire Drain or by feeding on corpses. Each subsequent skill requires more enemies to feed on. This means even high-level characters can learn the skills. I haven’t played around much with the Werewolf perks yet, but the vampires get some cool skills. And even if you decide to side with the Dawnguard, you can become a vampire later by talking to Serena. I’m also glad that you don’t actually take damage when you go in the sun as a vampire. Instead, going in the sun stunts you regenerative abilities. The longer it’s been since you’ve feed, the worse these effects are, but the stronger your powers are. My only complaint with the vampires is that they do feel a bit overpowered. I was at level 48 & my Vampire Drain could take out most regular enemies in a single hit. Flying through tunnels can also be a pain.
The story itself is pretty interesting & takes you to some cool locations. You get to work with a Moth Priest, read some Elder Scrolls, meet the last of the Snow Elves & even engage in two proper boss fights. For me, the best locations were the Soul Cairn, as massive ghostly area, the Ancestor Glade & the Forgotten Valley. All are quite beautiful in their own way.
The new equipment is nice as well. Some of it is higher quality than the best equipment in regular Skyrim. The armor is well-balanced with something for light & heavy armor. The only downside is vampires seem to be lacking heavy armor. Crossbows are nice additions (can’t be a vampire hunter without them) & behave in ways that distinguish them from bows. I’m also glad Bethesda included Dragonbone weapons, which gives me something to do with all of bones I’ve been collecting. The new Shouts are also pretty powerful. Soul Tear lets you raise a vanquished enemy to fight for you, & you learn to summon another dragon. Each faction also has two canines you can have travel with you. Dawnguard gets two armored huskies while vampires get two death hounds. And does it say odd things about me that, even when I saw the death hounds, my first response was, “Puppies!”?
Overall, I think this DLC adds a lot of great content to an already great game. If you like Skyrim, I highly recommend this. Everything about it stands up to Bethesda’s usual quality. The equipment, locations and powers are a lot of fun to play around with & really enhance the overall experience.