Despite being blood sucking killing machines, vampires have always had a natural mystique to them. While they have always maintained a presence in popular culture, series like Twilight and True Blood have permeated the elegant creatures of the night to all corners of popular culture. And now they have come to the realm of Skyrim via Dawnguard, the first fully featured paid content expansion for The Elders Scrolls V: Skyrim.
I must say, that despite thinking Skyrim was an amazing game, I was somewhat burned out on it due to the massive amount of content the game offered, all of which, I will admit, I did not fully experience. The lure of a vampire themed quest was enough to ensnare my interest though and get me to return to the northern province of Tamriel.
Due to Skyrim’s radiant storytelling mechanic, the Dawnguard content fits itself seamlessly into the main game. Just like many other sidequests in the game, Dawnguard is accessed via non player character interaction where players may overhear rumors of vampire attacks and the Dawnguard gearing up to fight them, piquing their interest, or they may be singled out via a conversation that will point them directly towards the Dawngaurd. Either way it ends up with the player choosing to seek out the Dawnguard, a faction of warriors intent on eradicating the growing vampire menace.
Joining the Dawngaurd sets players on a quest to investigate a ruin where vampires have been poking around. At this ruin a vampire named Serana has been entombed and she asks your help in escorting her back to her family home, an island near Solitude. Once there the content kicks into high gear, granting you a choice of either continuing your quest as a vampire hunter or forsaking the Dawnguard and becoming a vampire lord.
Both choices offer a lengthy story driven quest with plenty of new locations to explore and experience. The writing for the two divergent quests is some of the best the game has offered. However choosing to become a vampire lord, grants players a slightly different approach to playing the game, which might appeal more to those looking for something more. Unlike the werewolf curse in the core game, which is only accessible once per day, becoming a vampire lord is an at-will ability albeit with its own set of caveats.
Instead of following the traditionally accepted lore for vampires, Dawnguard establishes its own vampiric conventions. As such sunlight not killing vampires, although it does weaken them, allowing the vampire form to be a functional gameplay choice for players. Choosing to be a vampire grants access to an entirely new skill tree, which is leveled up by performing actions in that form. Similarly, the previously mentioned werewolf curse has been given a skill tree making that beastly form somewhat more relevant as a gameplay choice.
Playing in vampire lord form is quite different from anything else the game has offered. While the vampire lord is strong up close, using its talons to inflict major damage, it is the unique combination of life drain and the special vampire powers that make using the form so much fun. Life drain, which is how vampires feed in Skyrim, is a ranged attack that, as the name implies, drains the life of its target which functions similarly to a spell. Alternately, the vampire form has special abilities, like brief teleportation via a colony of bats, granting new tactical combat options to the player. It all makes the combat, Skyrim’s major weakpoint, seem fresh and invigorating.
In addition to the new forms and expansive questline with new locales to explore, Dawnguard has a lot of other content simply placed in the core game world to be experienced. New characters, weapons, items, and dragons are all waiting to be found by players. And all of this together makes Dawnguard an impressive expansion to an already impressive game.
- Excellent writing in the two divergent quests.
- Tons of extra content to be found in the main game.
- Vampire form is fun to play as and freshens up combat.
- Content not directly tied to the Dawnguard quest may be difficult to find.