The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dawnguard Review

I've been on quite a streak recently. For the past month or two, the string of games assigned to me for review have ranged from massively disappointing (Gravity Rush, PS Vita), to just OK (Inversion, PS3) to outright crimes against humanity (Resistance: Burning Skies, PS Vita). Just when it seemed I'd never see another quality game come across my desk, the first downloadable content (DLC) for The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim, called simply Dawnguard, stepped in and brightened my disposition. It had been awhile since I put my Skyrim obsession on hold and Dawnguard was the perfect excuse to pick up where I left off. It's funny; after a string of sucky titles, this vampire-themed DLC reinvigorated my positivity by actually requiring me to suck.

Dawnguard, named for a guild of vampire hunters you can join up with, is DLC done right. It feels like a completely natural extension of the main game and offers players new locales, new characters, new weapons, new decisions and new powers. Upon diving into the narrative, players can either join the vampire hunter's guild or become a vampire themselves, a decision that no longer cripples the game. Unlike the lycanthropy choice, being a vampire in Skyrim's main game wasn't fun or beneficial enough; Dawnguard changes all that. Characters infected with vampirism can now attain a vampire lord title, a distinction that comes with the power of flight (sorta, its more like levitating than flying) and, get this, the ability to turn into a cloud of bats. It's a reward well worth checking out by itself, and all the new stuff becomes icing on an already awesome cake.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dawnguard  screenshot 10

Should you choose to side with the Dawnguard, things are slightly less interesting. Both choices will take about 15 hours to complete, for a total of 30 hours of gameplay for about $20. Some entire games cost twice or three times that, and they don't come close to Dawnguard's total play time. Unfortunately, both choices are marred by tasks that feel very "fetch quest-like" for most of the time. It isn't until late in each respective quest line that things really get going, and you'll be very glad that you dealt with the early uninspired stuff to get there. Personally, I'd recommend going the vampire route; the new powers outshine the sometimes boring Dawnguard objectives.

Another jewel in Dawnguard's crown is the addition of a new weapon type: the crossbow. Its a very cool new weapon, with the only downside being that its only really useful to a sliver of Skyrim's faithful. A painfully slow reload animation can cause a lot of problems, making it more a novelty and lesser cousin to the actual bows. Still, the devs are to be applauded for introducing a new, completely different weapon set through DLC, further making good on promises to keep Skyrim content coming.

Dawnguard, in the simplest of terms, extends the play time of an already gargantuan game. As far as DLC goes, it doesn't quite reach the perfection of Arkham City: Harley Quinn's Revenge, but its the first such 2012 add-on to even come close. Forget Twilight, forget Buffy, forget True Blood; Dawnguard sets a new bar for vampiric storytelling with style. And perhaps best of all is its ability to not just drag me into even more Skyrim, while simultaneously breaking my bad game streak. Thanks, guys!

Final Rating: 85%. Dawnguard is DLC done right.


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