|System: Xbox 360|
|Release: December 4, 2012|
|Screen Resolution: 480p-1080p||Blood and Gore, Intense Violence, Sexual Themes, Use of Alcohol|
by Josh Wirtanen
Fans are a whiny bunch, aren’t they?
When The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim first came out, it gave us this massive world to explore and fight monsters on, endless amounts of side quests, and an almost disturbing amount of content to play around with. But even though the base game is big enough to easily consume several hundreds of hours of our time, the first things fans asked for was more content.
Now, even though there are several fairly game-breaking bugs in the base game, Bethesda felt obligated to appease the fans’ hunger for more stuff, first with the Dawnguard DLC, then with Hearthfire. (To be fair, Hearthfire only added a few things like the ability to build houses and adopt children. These are fine additions to the game, but Hearthfire never really pretended to be the big expansion that Dawnguard tried to be.)
But there are two things fans have been clamoring about since Skyrim launched: They wanted to return to Morrowind, and they wanted to ride dragons. The newest content, Dragonborn, addresses both of these things. Sort of.
See, Dragonborn lets you return to the island of Solstheim, which longtime fans will undoubtedly remember from Morrowind’s Bloodmoon expansion. It’s not Morrowind, per se, but, at this point in time, its whole vibe is sort of this hybrid between Skyrim and Morrowind. Parts of the island will feel completely familiar to Skyrimmers, though there is a portion that’s covered in the ashy fallout of Red Mountain’s big eruption. This section of the island tends to be more Morriwind-ish in appearance, and you’ll get to collect herbs and things that you weren’t able to find in Skyrim. In fact, you’ll even stumble upon some mushroom buildings, a type of architecture you simply didn’t see in Skyrim proper.
As for riding dragons, yes, you’ll learn a new Word of Power that allows you to tame a dragon, climb onto its back, and ride around. Here’s the thing, though: You don’t actually control the dragon’s flight path. You’re just kind of along for the ride (though you can command it to attack enemies below or swift travel to various locations across the map.) Again, this is a cool new addition to the game, but it might not be exactly what we were all hoping for.
So, like I said, Dragonborn sort of gives fans what they’ve been asking for, but not really.
Still, Solstheim is a decent-sized chunk of land, and there is a ton of stuff to explore here, even when you’ve finished the main Dragonborn storyline. And that’s good, because the new quest line is pretty short. I breezed through it in about six hours, and that included a lot of time just wandering around Solstheim to see what I could find.
The story itself is excellent. You basically must use magical Black Books to travel to an alternate dimension called Apocrypha (which seems to me like a strange cross between Oblivion and a demonic library) to bring down the original Dragonborn. Here’s the kicker, though: If he kills you, he’ll absorb your dragon souls and become even more powerful than he already is. So there’s a lot at stake here.
Like I said, this quest line is pretty short, but even so, it feels artificially padded at times. Some of the sections of Apocrypha feel too long; you’ll spend a lot of time walking down long hallways that don’t seem to really take you anywhere. Even though the atmosphere of the whole place is super creepy and weird, I was ready to be done with it long before I actually was. Also, and this is admittedly a weird complaint: You’ll encounter the Daedric prince Hermaeus Mora, who plays a fairly important role in the Dragonborn storyline, and he talks excruciatingly slow. Seriously, it was painful to listen to him talk sometimes. It almost felt like Bethesda stopped and said, “Hey, our main quest line is way too short. How much longer could we make it if we slowed down Hermaeus Mora’s dialogue by about twenty percent?”
Of course, all of this fresh content comes with a heaping side order of bugs. (Is anyone really surprised?) For example, there’s one part toward the end of the main quest line where you are supposed to use your new Dragon Shout to tame a named dragon and ride it. A lot of players are having problems with the dragon not responding to the shout.