It’s still very early in my journey with the latest downloadable content for The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Dragonborn, but I thought it would be a good time to sit back and try to process everything I’ve encountered so far, and compare it to how I felt during my first few hours in Dawnguard. This could also serve as an aid for any PS3 players out there who may be needing to pick and choose their Skyrim DLC (it’s finally coming! This month!) due to financial concerns (but don’t forget, each DLC is on sale for 50% for ONLY the first week after becoming available, so don’t wait long). And just so there’s no surprises later on, please be aware that this WILL contain some minor spoilers. Fair warning, in case you want to experience everything all on your own.
For the record, I really enjoyed Skyrim’s first DLC, but considering I’m not really a big fan of vampire-themed stuff, it left me a little underwhelmed. From the moment the first preview dropped, I’ve been itching to get into Dragonborn, so needless to say, I have some pretty high hopes for this expansion.
Let’s start with how you begin the expansion content. In Dawnguard, the first hurdle is that you must reach level 10 (although you can seek out Fort Dawnguard at any level on your own if you want, but if you’re level 10 you’ll be approached by someone or you can talk to a guard for a tip on how to get there). This wasn’t a problem for me the first time around because I was already in my 40’s. But for Dragonborn I decided to start a new character, and was fully expecting to need to level up first. I resigned myself to the thought that I probably wouldn’t even be getting into the Dragonborn content for a couple nights. So I was pleasantly surprised when I talked to a boat captain at the docks of Windhelm and was able to jump right into the expansion (although it’s entirely possible if I was level 10 I would have been approached by someone, just like in Dawnguard). The only problem was that I needed to have 250 gold, and since I was brand new, I only had a few coins rattling around in my pocket.
But once I’d raised the funds for a ticket to Solstheim, the adventure was on, and to the island we went. But this is where my first frustration with the content began. It’s my own fault, but I didn’t even think about needing to be at a certain point in the main story to have the new content open up to you. I just assumed that since the boat captain was willing to take me to the island, I was good to go. But as I got to the island and began exploring, I realized that I wasn’t really getting any new quests. Oh sure I encountered a few, but none of them were related to the Dragonborn story specifically.
Eventually I learned that in order to begin the new content, you have to at least have started the quest, “The Horn of Jurgen Windcaller.” Considering my character was level 1, this was not the case. So before we get into my analysis of my first few hours in-game, I just wanted to point that out. If you want to start a new character for Dragonborn, be aware you need to progress through the story a little bit.
Now, feeling full embarrassed, I am ready to dive in.
Let’s talk about the beginnings of the DLCs and how they feel. I can tell you that upon starting the Dawnguard questline, it didn’t feel nearly as epic as Dragonborn does. In the first DLC, a brute approached me in town and told me about the Dawnguard and where to go to learn more. Oh, and I pick-pocketed him of his crossbow, completely eliminating the excitement of earning it through the storyline later on (but that’s my own fault). My point is that it didn’t FEEL like an expansion, it just felt like another quest, and the fact of the matter is Dawnguard isn’t really an expansion (in my mind). Sure it was a nicely done, nice sized game add-on – and it was a lot of fun – but that’s really all it was for me. Some new territory was added, and obviously some new dungeons (die Soul Cairn, die!), and of course……. Serana… But it didn’t give me that excited, nerve tingling feeling I got upon heading to Solstheim.
For Dragonborn, once you get on the boat, you’re treated to a small “cinematic” of sorts. It’s not truly a cinematic, but your view is locked, you can’t move, and you’re given a moment to simply watched the beauty of the island get closer. In my case, I was arriving as the sun was setting, which created a beautiful, picturesque backdrop for my arrival into this epic DLC. This was WAY more exciting than running all the way down the map until I found a bit of new territory, which was then just another strip of land I had to run across to reach Fort Dawnguard.
So one point for Dragonborn.
Next I want to talk about the size of the initial starting areas for the DLCs, and my impressions for each. First of all, like I just mentioned, the new content you initially discover in Dawnguard is just an isolated strip of land that is nothing more than a pathway to the Fort. There’s really nothing else to see here. However, I have to give the DLC credit, because upon first exploring this area, it felt much more exciting than just that. It felt like a new chunk of the map, and I simply couldn’t wait to see it all. In fact, it probably took me a good three or four visits to the area to realize that there really wasn’t a lot there.
In comparison, Dragonborn feels massive. Without even entering any sort of dungeon, just looking at the map of the island of Solstheim is enough to get me excited. I may not be as much of an explorer as Shank, but I do like to explore, and I’m excited to see it all. Comparing Solstheim to the map of the Dawnguard starting area is no contest. It’s true that Dawnguard opens up a lot more eventually, including Castle Volkihar and the Soul Cairn, but again, going purely on initial impressions, Dragonborn can’t be beat here. And I don’t even know what else the island has to offer in terms of dungeons, so when it’s all said and done, there’s a very good possibility that the Dawnguard content will look like a tiny village on the map compared to Dragonborn.
Score another point for Dragonborn.
Now let’s look at early gameplay and story development, and which game seems to be offering a more exciting and engaging storyline. In Dawnguard, you’re directed to the Fort, where you begin learning about the fight to rid Skyrim of vampires. Eventually you’re given to ability to join with vampires instead, but either way, the content gets moving right away. Like I said, I snatched a crossbow off someone before I even left for the Fort, so I had a piece of the new content to play around with immediately. While I mentioned that this took some of the fun away later, it sure was a treat to test it out on my way there.
It’s here that I should probably admit that Shank may be rubbing off on me a bit. During my first Dawnguard playthrough, I was so excited to get to the new quests, that it’s entirely possible I rushed it. Starting up Dragonborn, I found myself pacing myself and going very slowly; very deliberately, not wanting to miss an inch of new content. Because of this, I feel like content is rolling out to me at a slower pace – not SLOW mind you, just slower than Dawnguard. And I’m not even sure that’s a bad thing, because like I said, I’m taking my time with this. I’m not going directly to quest markers, I’m taking a roundabout way to get there. I want to see every inch of the island before i finish the main quest.
I’ll be honest, I wrote this article up before I heard Thursday’s Elder Scrolls Off the Record, and once I did… I felt really dumb. Because I had this great anecdote about how I entered a particular residence on the island and robbed the place blind. I listened to the conversations going on in the house and was intrigued by what I was hearing, and I planned to come back at some point and deal my own brand of justice. I spent a good hour in there cleaning the place out and feeling like a boss. Then I learned from the guys that this house will become mine at some point. So basically I just stole from myself.
Regardless, my point with that story was that there is so much to do in this DLC already, without even needing to do quests, that I feel like this content will last much longer than Dawnguard. So as I’m comparing the two DLCs in terms of early content, I think I’m going to take the easy easy out and call this one a tie. Dawnguard happened quickly, but Dragonborn will move quickly if you let it. I’m more intrigued so far about what I’ve seen in Dragonborn, but I’m not sure I’m deep enough in yet to make a true comparison.
So that’s a tie.
So at this early juncture I’m going to give Dragonborn a bit of a lead in terms of which DLC has captivated me the most only a few hours in. But keep in mind, while I found Dawnguard to be more of an add-on, and not a full-fledged expansion, I really enjoyed the 20 hours or so I put into my first playthrough (other than dealing with Serana). It set the bar high in terms of story, gear, and a boss fight. Dragonborn will have to be really good to have a shot at being the superior DLC. But, in the early goings anyway, I am really impressed with what I’ve seen. It feels like Bethesda has been working on this expansion ever since Skyrim was released, and that Dawnguard was a quest line or guild they had to eliminate at launch because it just wasn’t quite ready.
But It’s Not Perfect
I DO want to bring up one more issue. When Dawnguard came out, a lot of people had bug issues. I never experienced any of these, so I feel like I was pretty lucky. However, in Dragonborn, no matter which character I’m using, I have not been able to steal any dragon’s souls after killing them. This is why I was a little vague above on my beginnings of the game. I was not able to bring my new character deep enough into the story, because upon killing my first dragon outside of Whiterun, I was not able to absorb his soul, so the quest would not advance. I tried rolling back saves, killing him differently, but still nothing worked. I switched to my main character, a level 47 archer, and even with her, I am not able to absorb dragon souls. I hope this is something that Bethesda is aware of, because it will make being able to play this game long-term very difficult if I can’t advance new characters.
One thing’s for sure, I’m excited to see what’s ahead for Dragonborn. I’ve been intentionally avoiding reviews or spoilers of this DLC because I wanted to experience as much of it as I could all on my own, so I truly don’t know what lies ahead (other than I get to show some punk who the real Dovahkiin is at some point, I’ll get to ride a dragon – though I don’t know to what extent, and apparently I just cleaned out my own house). If these things are even a fraction of how epic they sound, Dragonborn may not only be the best DLC, but perhaps the best quest line in the game.
[author] [author_image timthumb='on']http://mymiddleearth.com/wp-content/uploads/avatars/2330/209800074bd5c82316e83f77e0d73de4-bpthumb.jpg[/author_image] [author_info]SilentFury has such sticky fingers he can’t help stealing from himself. You can follow him on Twitter at silentfury007, or read all of his work with QGN @SilentFury007.[/author_info] [/author]