Fans of Skyrim, you have my permission to rejoice! Skyrim, Bethesda’s supremely popular and time sucking RPG/action title has finally released its first highly anticipated DLC, Dawnguard, for the Xbox 360. If you’ve been living under a large rock these last 8 months and have no idea what a ‘Skyrim’ is then 1) you really shouldn’t be reading this article and 2) should go back under that large rock because this game can and will consume your life!
The Dawnguard DLC story involves the return of Harkon, a Volkihar vampire lord who seeks to put an end to our beloved sun and intends to use the power of the ancient Elder Scrolls to accomplish his evil goal. While Harkon threatens to put an end to the sun, an organization of vampire hunters known as the Dawnguard are looking to seek out, hunt down and destroy the vampire lord at all costs and this is where you, the Dragonborn, come in.
In what is basically an expansion add-on of the original hit game, the Dawnguard quest can be started after downloading the DLC, starting a previously saved game and then by asking any guard in Skyrim about a group of vampire hunters called the Dawnguard. I was actually approached by a member of the Dawnguard who initiated the conversation with me, but I’ve heard that you can begin the quest by talking to almost anybody in Skyrim after the download and activation of the DLC. After your conversation with the guard, Fort Dawnguard will be added to the world map and the add-on quest will begin.
**Please note that to even get any guards to mention the Dawnguard, you must be at least a level 10 or higher from any previous save to begin the Dawnguard quest!**
Once you make the trek across Skyrim (you can also Fast Travel, but I prefer the exercise) and reach Fort Dawnguard, you will immediately speak with Isran, the leader of the Dawnguard. Accepting his invitation to join him in the hunt will earn you the Dawnguard’s weapon of choice, the crossbow. Not only does this weapon have a cool look to it, but it sounds just as mean as you pull the string back and let a steel bolt fly at a enemy from a distance. When the weapon is given to you, you will be instructed to use this weapon on vampires from a distance, rather than letting your enemy get close to you. In all actuality, this is exactly how you will want to use this weapon in battle. While the crossbow has its benefits from afar, it is definitely more of a burden when in close quarter combat. I’d recommend switching out to your preferred weapon of choice when you get in to these situations, as the reload time is frustratingly slow and inaccurate when up close and personal. If I’d possibly put more time in to using bows during the regular Skyrim campaign it’d be a little easier to use the crossbow at this point, but I just enjoy hacking the hell out of something with my sword or frying them with a little magic.
Once you begin your quest of hunting down Harkon and his vampire horde, you are given the option to either join the Dawnguard and help in defeating Harkon or join forces with the Volkihar and quench your thirst for blood as you prepare to banish the sun. I did like how it gave me the option of choosing my fate here. Choose vampire and you’ll be gifted everlasting life. Choose to stick with the Dawnguard and you’ll be freed just this one time, but Harkon threatens your life should you meet again. For the more adventurous types that have nothing better to do than play Skyrim and want to experience both Vampire Lord and Dawnguard storylines, I’d suggest having a separate save file before deciding on which path you choose to take the first time around.
Aligning with the vampires to become a powerful Vampire Lord provides it’s own unique bonuses and skill tree. Some of the new abilities that come with being a creature of the night include switching from your former human form to your new Vampire Lord form that looks like something straight out of the vampire flicks From Dusk ‘til Dawn and Underworld. While this new power makes you a total blood sucking badass and looks very cool when you transform for the first couple of times, it forces you to watch this 5-10 second transformation from human to vampire form each and every time. Like I said, it’s cool to see a few times, but time after time. I wish they had put this animation in briefly and randomly like some of the random kill animations in the game.
As with Lycanthropy, townspeople and guards alike will immediately attack you on sight when in Vampire Lord form. Although, unlike werewolf transformations in the original game play, the vampire form can be exited at will. You will need to make good practice of this if you wish to not fry yourself in the sun or fear being attacked continuously when roaming around the world of Skyrim. Other vampire powers include a Darth Vader-like grip, which suspends an enemy in the air with telekinesis as their health is drained, and a quick transformation into a cloud of bats. In addition to the new powers, joining the vampire’s grants access to Castle Volkihar – an island stronghold that not only serves as a base for the vampires, but also grants bonuses to vampiric powers and gives blood potions, which heal and count towards vampiric feeding.
If you’re feeling a little more heroic and not as evil as I did, joining the Dawnguard will grant you access to Fort Dawnguard, a very large keep hidden somewhere in the southern region of Skyrim. As mentioned previously, joining the Dawnguard gives you access to unique new armor and weapons, including the crossbow, to fight the vampires. Also, Dawnguard members will have access to “hire” large armored trolls, which serve as temporary followers and will fight along your side in battle. The trolls are very slow in battle, but make up for their lack of speed with their massive amounts of power and armor.
Another new perk to the Dawnguard DLC is that it introduces two new perk trees to mess around with: Vampire Lord and Werewolf. Rather than spending points to add perks as you do in the regular game, new perks are gained by feeding on enemies. For vampire, consuming lifeblood through a power attack or a Drain Life spell causes new perks to be gained. For werewolves, new perks are gained by consuming the heart when feeding on dead corpses. This approach allows high or maximum level characters to obtain new perks that would otherwise be difficult or impossible to obtain otherwise.
While deciding to take the form of a Vampire Lord and play the bad guy on my first play through, I have not yet finished the DLC and cannot comment on how joining the Dawnguard portion of the DLC is. From what I’ve read and heard, it’s like playing the original game, only with new weapons, armor and some new enemies, such as Gargoyles and Death Hounds. The world of Skyrim is still very massive and I’ve heard that it can take up to 20 hours to complete a single play through of the DLC to begin with, so I will most likely play to fight for the Dawnguard…after I finish sucking the lifeblood from every single citizen of Skyrim! I know, I know. It’s a tough job, but some Vampire Lord has to do it.
If you’re new to the series or played the original game, liked it, but then got sidetracked with other new releases (or life), I’d recommend waiting for a price drop. It’s not that it’s a bad DLC, which it’s not, but it’s that you’ll more than likely have to spend some time leveling up just to get the DLC to start and by that time you’ll probably get distracted again with something else.
I’d say that if you’re a huge fan and have played through Skyrim more than once and have put in so many hours that you can’t remember anything but playing Skyrim, I’d recommend picking up the Dawnguard DLC as soon as you can. With the opportunity to be somebody’s boogeyman lurking in the shadows, new missions & weapons and new enemies, the 1600 Microsoft Points price point is definitely worth it.
Even though only currently available for Xbox gamers, current news reports that the release for the PC and PS3 systems will be staggered by at least 30 days.
A review code for the Dawnguard DLC for Xbox 360 was provided to us for this review by Bethesda.