So I didn't expect that I would have to do a two part review for Dawnguard, the first downloadable content for Skyrim, it's because the whole DLC is so big that it would require a two part review. Not that I haven't completed Dawnguard its just that the game offers two choices to the player and based on those choices the game offers completely different campaigns. And since I have completed one of them on my legitimate character I feel that I have only completed fifty percent of the DLC. My second part of the review will consist of the other choice.
The story of Dawnguard begins with the return of the Volikhar Clan and its vampire lord Harkon, who aims to end vampires fear of the sun. Harkon wants to use the power of the Elder Scrolls to achieve his aims while the return of an ancient order named Dawnguard vows to stop them. The Dragonborn has the option to join the Volikhar or the Dawnguard. Due to keeping my characters heroic awe and the fact that I love being a Werewolf I joined the Dawnguard and renamed my character Van Helsing (lol joking).
The adventure begins by talking with any guard in any village around Skyrim, they will tell you about Dawnguard Castle and where its located. But it truly begins when the Dawnguard leader, Isran, asks you to raid an ancient Vampire artefact when done you will meet Serana who is carrying an Elder Scroll. She is the daughter of Harkon and will ask you to return her to Castle Volikhar. From that point on you'll have to make a decision. Joining the Dawnguard will give you no real special abilities but will give you access to Castle Dawnguard and all its armour and weapons. One special weapon is the Crossbow the most notable of the latest selection of weapons in Dawnguard. It's a pretty powerful weapon more powerful then my usual Ebony Bow which does thirty odd damage, the Enhanced Crossbow which you get relatively early in the game is about forty odd damage. So a nice addition to all the bowmen out there. It's apparently slow at reloading but I never experienced a delay in the action as I have a good enough range level to reload faster. I found it immensely handy as the bow itself takes less of the players screen space and is far easier for targeting enemies with accuracy. The Dawnguard armour is pretty nice looking ranging from heavy to light respectively.
Overall the whole vibe Dawnguard gives is a lot similar to the movie Van Helsing, a gothic/medieval approach on the whole vampires vs mortals. Its pretty neat approach but doesn't get ahead of itself like a lot of these type of movies would. What I mean by this is that these movies usually go over the top with its vampires but Skyrim keeps to its own innovations which keeps to their lore. They make a nice addition with these vampire lords but there are not that many of them as you will see when playing.The Dawnguard are also not classic cliché vampire hunters, they don't use garlic, holy water, holy relics to kill vampires. They simply use the classic form of combat to kill vampires which is crossbows, swords and war hammer that add a special damage towards vampires. In total the aesthetic of Dawnguard is very tasteful and distinctive.
New environments are also present in Dawnguard and are particularly spectacular however discussing them will reveal spoilers so unfortunately I'd rather not discuss it. All I will say is that they're big, pretty freaking big.
The quest line I chose was really big. I think it was bigger than the main quest line in Skyrim without the side quests, its hard to tell but it took several hours to do. It stretched out quite well and was paced to a sustainable rate, the story twisted and turned in different directions to keep the interest level high and to maintain it at that level. What I found really admirable was just when I thought the game couldn't introduce more characters into the plot, it did. And quite interestingly so, you see the game becomes slightly bigger than just the vampires vs mortals war towards the end and awesomely I learned something about the world of Skyrim and how a certain race came to be. But you'll have to play the game yourself to find out what. As for characters yes, some of them were interesting but some of them became a blur as they re-used voice actors once again and it was hard to distinguish between them apart from using their names.The character Serena appealed to me because she stuck around enough for me to get to know her story, not only that she was also tolerable to have as a companion which I found was difficult to adjust to considering I never like having any followers in any RPG. I kept her around because she was pretty important to the story and she actually contributed to the narrative when I entered new environments. She was almost like a tour guide for the DLC and made adventuring around Skyrim pretty fun. As for Isran and the rest of the Dawnguard they did their job in terms of setting up the story and advancing it, but they didn't do a lot. What I mean by this was that their characters were not explored at all and even Isran's was pretty basic; he was a Vigilant of Stendarr but unhappy with the order he re-established the Dawnguard. Thankfully more characters get introduced to spice the story up. Overall the story was very satisfying and was built up really well, there weren't any blunders that I can think of and I learnt quite a bit of the world of the Elder Scrolls series.
The added gameplay perks that I enjoyed most was the addition of the Werewolf perks. To get these perks you simply eat people. Aweome right? Well yea if your a Werewolf not so much if you stupidly got rid of it. You see you might as well become a Werewolf if you choose the Dawnguard because you might as well enjoy the games added perks of becoming one. By becoming a Werewolf you get to join in the ancient battle of Werewolves vs Vampires. Though I'm not really sure who came up with this mash (do not say Stepheine Meyer) but it sure is an awesome one. Check out the Werewolf skill tree below;
Mind you the rest of the Dawnguard aren't Werewolves sadly, but they never said you can't be one and nor did they say they will hunt them. Its just vampires they hate.
So overall the DLC is just stunning its long enough to be worth 1600 Microsoft Points and its efficient enough to call it a worthy add on for Skyrim. But lets be honest, we'd all take any excuse to go back to playing Skyrim and I mean any.
"Long enough, awesome enough and bloody enough to be worth 1600 Microsoft Points. Nuff said..."
My next part will focus on the Volikhar choice in the quest line and will be shorter....hopefully.