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Bethesda’s Dragonborn DLC is a beautiful, nightmarish love letter to HP Lovecraft. While the mechanics are much the same, the aesthetics are radically different as the player contends with the demons of Apocrypha – a tentacled mass of swirling green atrocities in service of Hermaeus Mora. After downloading the ($20) DLC, the player character is attacked by cultist assassins, worshipers of the First Dragonborn. The George Washington of Dragon Slayers is back from the dead to raise trouble in the new setting of Solstheim, a Dunmer settlement bordering Skyrim. Personally, while I considered Skyrim a game of unparalleled majesty, I much prefer the alien landscape of Solstheim. Certainly the mountainous region of Skyrim was a feast for aesthetes, but Dragonborn’s dizzying emerald labyrinths and immense deserts of Red Mountain ash were so compelling because they were like nothing I’d ever seen. Essentially, Skyrim is a CG trip to Norwegian mountain ranges. The Dragonborn DLC fully embraces its own fantasy setting, and the land of Ashen Dark Elves is completely distinct visually from Skyrim, more compelling because its immersion comes from being lost in an nightmare.

But while the visuals are radically different, the gameplay is near identical. Use your skills to kill things until they are dead. The only change to gameplay comes from a brief sequence near the main questline’s end which introduces combat while riding a dragon. Unfortnately, this sequence is disappointingly dull and involves simply selecting targets and pressing the ‘X’ button while your dragon uses Ice or Fire breath. The Dragonborn himself can target creatures while riding, but shoddy targeting makes this an exercise in futility. However, this sequence is extremely brief and while purchasing the DLC unlocks this for the main game, its novelty wears quickly.

But when it comes to a game like Skyrim, more of the same isn’t bad at all. The dovaahkin will walk away with fancy new spells, killer new threads, and a new land to conquer. Gamers wanting new combat or exploration mechanics will be disappointed but those interested in a refreshing change of pace to visuals and the story will find the Dragonborn DLC a dream come true.

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One thought on “Skyrim: Dragonborn DLC (REVIEW)

  1. Interesting opinion. I don’t think we can expect Bethesda to make Skyrim into a (player’s) skill based game. Actual button mashing sequenced are replaced by a single action button. The idea of the single action button is that the players don’t have to learn complex key maps. A context sensitive action button is considered the height of user friendliness and (Do What I Mean) DWIM gameplay. Recently some gamers, and game deisgners are fighting back, players don’t want to game to easy. They want challenge. You know in Ultima 7 I actually had fun sorting through my backpack looking for items. (expect for keys, I once had to go back 6 hours of game-play because I unknowing lost the key to the final level!) Hardcore games scare away new customers.

    Skyrim is also a game where players have different playstyle options, though some seem weighted to be easier. My friends have said its easier just to hack and slash then it is to use the bow or the spells. Its true, these parts are Skyrim’s weakness.

    It seems like they threw the dragon game play together without thinking about the user interface. Skyrim is a game where MORE is better than QUALITY, the point is to explore a big open world, even if they didn’t have time to polish every cave that you end up falling through the floor in. Everyone in the studio is probably raving “ADD MORE ADD MORE”, and leave no time to polish or QA.

    Skyrim’s strength is in gameplay, one of my friends told me to stop playing the game so he could read the in game books. He found the books more interesting than the gameplay! My friend is a casual gameplay and couldn’t get his head around the third/first person camera. I started collecting all the books in the game so he could read them. He related the Humans intrusions into Skyrim and seizing the continent from the High Elves, as the Spanish expelling the Muslims from Spain.

    I’ve found the DLC and expansion packs of Bethesda weren’t up to the quality of the Original Game. I wonder how Skyrim will fare when the Elder Scroll’s online comes out.

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