Home is where the Hearthfire is.
Elder Scroll V: Skyrim has always been about exploring, looting, smithing, spells and hacking & slashing to a point to where some have spent hours, days, weeks and months exhausting and immersing themselves in the massive and beautiful world of Skyrim. With the recent releases of the new Skyrim DLC Dawnguard and now Hearthfire, Bethesda invites us back to explore just a bit more.
Where the first Dawngurad DLC let you hunt down vampires or even dabble in becoming one, the new Hearthfire DLC lets you, wait for it…build a house and customize it to your liking. That’s right, folks. Purchase your own piece of land from one of the Jarl’s in Falkreath, Morthal, or Dawnstar and build your own Skyrim home from the ground up. As you begin building and customizing a place you can call home, players can furnish their new humble abode with an armory, furniture, fire pits, alchemy labs, gardens and other useful items that you would want on your land and in your home. Really, the sky is the limit as you can build and create your home as you see fit…to an extent (I’ll discuss later). Once you feel that your home is complete, players can then move in with their spouse and even adopt children through the games adoption system. As in real life, home ownership and having a family comes with its own tasks and responsibilities as players will need to raise their children, supply and provide food for the family and protect the homestead from the occasional bandit, giant and dragon that decides to tread where they are not welcome.
As in the last Dawnguard DLC, you will want to make sure you meet a few requirements before downloading and taking on this latest DLC. In Dawnguard, you had to make sure you were at least a level 10 before even thinking about beginning your quest with the Dawnguard or as a blood-sucking vampire lord. In Hearthfire, you will want to make sure that you have at least 5,000 in gold before starting to purchase the deed to your land. If you don’t have the 5,000 gold, you best get to collecting, stealing, pillaging and selling the unwanted items in your inventory because there’s no way to start building the home of your dreams until you’ve met this prerequisite.
Once you’ve met the silly 5,000 gold prerequisite, I found it very plausible that someone could spend hours in Hearthfire, toying with the various room and furnishing options and customizing your own personal estate. For the first three to four hours, I will admit that I was totally immersed in the DLC and was having a blast outfitting my home in the woods with rooms, furniture, servants and everything a tired journeyman could ever want in a permanent home. After a while of building my home, though, the tasks involved of collecting the necessary items needed to build your home became very tedious and demanding. The add-on implements several new resources, in the form of building materials, like nails, locks, milled wood, panes of glass, and quarried stone. While it is obvious as to why these items are necessary to the DLC, all this manages to do is complicate things and ended up turning me off. For example, if you wanted to build a chest to store items in your home, it would require a milled log, nails, an iron fitting, hinges and a lock. All of this is fine and dandy, but a lock first requires some iron ingot and corundum ingot and then it must be smithed in order to create it. Once you’ve been put through all of this, don’t forget to save some of your iron ingots for the nails to put everything together or you’ll be in search of more raw materials just to make some extra nails. Maybe this it is just me, but I found all of this very annoying and very micro-managed when it came to me just wanting to build a darn house and items to go in it.
While there is a little freedom is choosing which rooms to build and what you can add, for a paid piece of content, it’s a little bit on the disappointing side and a little limiting. You will find that rooms you decide to build and add on to the home are always built in a fixed position and furniture can’t be moved, altered or customized in any way. Being limited to these types of things made my finished home feel rather boring and had a standard pre-built home feel of something you could easily find in any of the villages found throughout the game. I didn’t appreciate the fact that while the expansion was allowing me to build my own home, it was rather limiting, as there was no real opportunity to put my own stamp on the interior or exterior.
Skyrim’s second add-on sounded pretty awesome upon hearing about it, but after putting some time in trying my hand at home building, I ended up debating if it’s really worth paying for or if you should pass on this add-on. For those of you who have already put in the time and completed the game multiple times, I found that there’s really little reason to return this time around. The DLC is just one new side adventure that really adds no interesting new quests or locations and add nothing meaningful that adds to the world of Skyrim. Meanwhile, players who love to role-play may end up being let down a bit by the restrictive nature of the content. However, those of you that are curious about the latest add-on, Hearthfire is reasonably priced at 400 MSP and for the super Skyrim fans out there, it may be worth a purchase at only 5 measly bucks. I found that at its best, Hearthfire is a neat distraction and a welcome change of pace from all of the exploring, slaying and looting at first, but soon becomes a burden once you start building your home and trying to make it your own.
A review code for the Hearthfire DLC for Xbox 360 was provided to us for this review by Bethesda.