Skyrim DLC: A Full Review of Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn

A town in Dragonborn add-on for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

Skyrim DLC: A Full Review of Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim is the fifth installment of the highly acclaimed Elder Scrolls series, an open-world fantasy role-playing game developed by Bethesda. Released in November 2011, the game’s vast world filled with rich lore, mythical creatures, and epic battles, quickly garnered a massive player base and became one of the most successful game titles in the world of fantasy role-playing. 

In the game, players assume the role of the Dragonborn, a hero prophesied to save the world of Tamriel from dragons. Rumors of dragons once again rising are everywhere, and one of the first witnesses is the player themselves. As the Dragonborn, players can explore the expansive open world of Skyrim, forge their own path, join factions, complete quests, interact with NPCs, and much more.

After its immensely successful launch, Bethesda released several DLC packs that further expanded the world of Skyrim and introduced new game mechanics, quests, and features. Included in these DLCs are Dawnguard, Hearthfire, and Dragonborn. Dawnguard adds a new questline involving a conflict between vampire hunters and vampires. Hearthfire focuses on a homestead-building feature, allowing players to construct and customize their own homes. Dragonborn introduces the island of Solstheim and a new main antagonist, Miraak, the first Dragonborn.

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The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard

Undead warrior in Dawnguard add-on for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

The Elder Scrolls V: Dawnguard is the first official add-on for the highly acclaimed role-playing game The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim. It was first released for the Xbox 360 in June of 2012, followed by a PC release soon after. The Dawnguard expansion revolves around an ancient prophecy foretold by an Elder Scroll, which predicts the eternal dimming of the sun. To begin this event, a ritual involving a mythic bow and a special blood sacrifice is required.

The expansion introduces a faction of vampires, known as the Volkihar Clan, led by Lord Harkon. They seeks to enact the prophecy by performing the ritual and turn the world into a pitch-black plane of eternal night. The Dawnguard, a group of vampire hunters equipped with crossbows, opposes the faction and aims to prevent the prophecy. The player, assuming the role of Dragonborn, must choose whether to join the Dawnguard and fight the vampires and their wicked plan, or to side with the Volkihar Clan and aid them in their quest for everlasting darkness.

The Dawnguard add-on features two new skill trees, one for vampires and another for werewolves. These unique skill trees offer players new abilities and powers based on their chosen path. The expansion also introduces various new quests, a dozen of which belong to the main questline. Several optional side quests and repeatable radiant quests are available as well. Players choose to support either the Volkihar Clan or the Dawnguard. This choice can’t be changed and affects the rest of the narrative.

Riding a horse in Dawnguard add-on for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
The Dawnguard are hunters of vampires.

In terms of combat, Dawnguard introduces several new additions for both ranged and melee fighters. The expansion adds dragonbone weapons, which are stronger than the previous top-tier Daedric Weapons. Crossbows also make their debut, providing a quick initial shot with a slower reload time compared to bows. Crossbows come with the added benefit of a chance to stagger opponents with each shot. Players can also craft crossbow bolts with various enchantments, such as fire and frost damage. The Dragonborn can also use the newly introduced Soul Tear shout to steal the soul of a defeated enemy and raise it as an undead minion.

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The Dawnguard expansion offers a rich storyline, new gameplay elements, and the opportunity for players to shape the world of Skyrim based on their choices. As the Dragonborn, players must weigh the consequences of their actions and decide whether to embrace the darkness or fight against it.

The Elder Scrolls V: Hearthfire

Building a house in Hearthfire add-on for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

The Elder Scrolls V: Hearthfire is the second official add-on for Skyrim. This add-on allows players to purchase land, design, build, and maintain a homestead. Players can hire stewards, carriage drivers, and personal bards for their property. With five pre-built houses available for purchase in Skyrim, players can now own property in every hold except Winterhold.

Hearthfire introduces an adoption mechanic, enabling players to take care of homeless children. Players can raise them in their newly built homes, as long as there is enough room. Existing homes can be modified to include a children’s bedroom. Building a homestead starts by purchasing one of the three available plots of land and getting a title deed from the local Jarl or steward. Players can buy multiple plots and build a house on each if they so choose.

Homestead locations are Heljarchen Hall in The Pale’s snowy tundras, Lakeview Manor in Falkreath’s dense forests, and Windstad Manor near Hjaalmarch’s salt marshes. After purchasing a plot, the drafting table is used to plan structures, and the carpenter’s workbench is used for building. The building materials include quarried stone, clay, and sawn logs.

Furnishings in Hearthfire add-on for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.
The add-on brings along tons of different types of furnishings.

After constructing a building or wing, you can use an interior workbench to furnish each room. You can buy furnishings from a steward or craft them using various items. The furnishings vary for each building addition. These include alchemy labs, arcane enchanters, armor and weapon racks, divine shrines, display cases, and smithing stations. Additionally, players can even add taxidermied or mounted creatures.

Players can also hire several types of servants to perform different tasks around the homestead. A steward can buy raw materials and equip the house with furnishings. You can turn followers into stewards, and hire any housecarl from the various holds as a steward. Stewards can purchase bards, carriage drivers, cows, chickens, and horses. Players can also hire a carriage driver for transportation and a personal bard for entertainment.

Family life in Hearthfire allows players to move in with a spouse or adopt a child once the house is complete. Additional options are available for adopted children, such as giving gifts, playing games, or instructing them to do chores. Children can also be allowed to keep pets. Players also need to keep their eye on the houses, as occasionally, they may face threats. These include the likes of skeever infestations, bandits, kidnappers, wolves, and many other unwelcome guests.

The Elder Scrolls V: Dragonborn 

A dragon in Dragonborn add-on for Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

The Elder Scrolls V: Dragonborn is the third and final official add-on for Skyrim. This expansion takes players to Solstheim, where they confront a former dragon priest, Miraak. Like the last Dragonborn, Miraak has the unique ability to absorb dragon souls. In fact, Miraak is the first Dragonborn. He once was the ruler of the island of Solstheim and served the dragons but eventually turned against them, rebelling against their rule.

The storyline of Dragonborn revolves around a quest to uncover the motives of Miraak and prevent him from returning to power. In this quest line, players will explore the realm of Apocrypha. This is the home to Hermaeus Mora, the Daedric Prince of forbidden knowledge. Players must recover the Black Books within this realm to gain new powers and stop Miraak. The add-on introduces new dragon shouts, weapons, armor, and quests, and the ability to tame and ride dragons.

Solstheim, the primary setting of the Dragonborn add-on, is an island in the northeast of Skyrim. It has a geography that has similarities to both Vvardenfell and Skyrim. The northern part of the island features a colder climate, much like Winterhold. However, traveling to the south will change the scenery completely. Players will also visit the plane of Oblivion known as Apocrypha, a dark citadel filled with dangerous creatures such as Seekers and Lurkers.

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