The word “vampire” just doesn’t have the same awesome ring to it anymore, thanks, in no small part, to a certain sparkly blood-sucker.Thankfully the word ‘Skyrim’ does have the effect of creating quite a bit of a hype, so putting the two together should balance things out, right ?
That was probably what the people at Bethesda were thinking when they came up with “Dawnguard”, the first expansion to everyone’s favorite RPG featuring Dragons, Vikings and a global epidemic of the infamously career-crippling disease, ‘Arrow-in-the-knee’.
So , what exactly does the new expansion bring to the fold? Lots of things really. Let us start with the thing that most people are probably hyped about : Vampires.
Now before we go into the gameplay mechanics involving our snobby, highly-cultured blood drinkers you should be happy to know that Skyrim vampires don’t glitter in the sun.In fact, Skyrim’s vampires decide to follow the age old, ‘boring’ mechanic of just getting roasted by that big yellow star us normal humans can’t go a day without. Understandably, the vampires are not too happy about this little drawback to their otherwise awesome power-set and thus the entire plot of “ending the tyranny of the sun” is kicked off. And, boy, they sure weren’t speaking metaphorically.
Contrary to what new comers might be thinking, vampirism isn’t something that’s new to either the Elder Scrolls franchise or Skyrim. In fact becoming a vampire was possible from the start , even if the process involved was rather difficult and luck based.However most people would get the werewolf power first, which was both easier to obtain and more awesome looking, making them immune to vampirism and missing out on some rather unique and awesome gameplay mechanics.
The basic ‘vanilla’ Vampirism worked in stages. The longer the Dovahkiin went without ‘feeding’ on live prey the more ‘vampiric’ he became. The Dovahkiin gained access to more unique Vampiric spells and powers while the stat bonuses offered by becoming a vampire grew stronger.
At the same time the weaknesses associated with the transformation get more pronounced, including the plot important aversion to the sun. Even the writer’s level 81 Nord Vampire with health-regen enchanted Dragonplate armor found himself at the brink of death after deciding to take a ride through the beautiful Skyrim landscape despite neglecting to feed for the past few in-game days.
In order to balance out the not-quite-ancient vampires vs wereowlves issue, ‘Dawnguard’ adds the ability to transform into a mighty Vampire Lord to the Dovahkiin’s ample arsenal. Looking like something out of ‘The Legacy of Kain’ or ‘Underworld’, the Vampire Lord form provides access to a wide plethora of new vampiric spells. From turning into a swarm of bats to Force-choking the next unfortunate city-guard to complain about his life-changing knee injury, it is doubtless that the expansion just expanded the methods of cruelty available to the Dovahkiin’s vast skill list.
But the most interesting aspect of the Vampire Lord form comes from the ability to switch modes between a winged flying spell caster to a melee, werewolf-like bruiser.While primarily a spell caster the Vampire Lord’s claws are nothing to take lightly and at early levels before one gains access to more powerful vampiric spells, ripping people apart with claws might be the more practical solution.
Also , killing human opponents with either the Drain Life spell or Powered melee attack in vampire form adds ‘perk points’ to the all new Vampire skill tree, which is the only way to unlock awesome new vampire lord powers.
Dog-lovers, Team Jacob players and general werewolf aficionados have nothing to be sad about though, ‘Dawnguard’ also adds more abilities, bonuses and a similar perk-tree to the Lycantrophy tree so that your werewolf can continue being the big, furry, loveable killing machine that it has always been.
Opposing the vampires and their sun-killing agenda are a ragtag batch of Winchester wannabes who call themselves the Dawnguard . And while they aren’t nowhere near cool or good-looking enough to pose as serious a threat to the hordes of undead as Sam and Dean, they strive to make up for it with two words. ARMORED. TROLLS.
Vampire haters and Twihard haters are going to be pleased to know that you can actually buy these monstrosities and set them loose upon all those creepy night stalking freaks , and no I don’t mean pedophiles.
The Dawnguards are also the purveyors of the expansion’s new weapon type : crossbows. Though to be fair, it’s a lot easier simply pawning the stuff from dead dawnguards (deadguards ?) than bringing out the coin to pay for them. And if you are a ranged combat fanatic you are going to want these bad.
A basic crossbow does more damage than a DAEDRIC FREAKIN LONGBOW but is however, less powerful than a Dragonbone Longbow, which comes fresh with the expansion. Dawnguard players can actually upgrade their crossbows and make explosive crossbow bolts which do about as much damage as you’d expect a freakin dynamite on an arrow.
Ironically the armored trolls combined with the crossbows often make combat with the Dawnguard harder than fighting those weak, Vampire mages.
Mounted combat finally appears in an Elder Scrolls game and while it’s far from being easy it, nonetheless, makes game play a tad more realistic and makes getting rid of all those annoying wolves and bears much less troublesome. Skilled players can even try to use their crossbow from horseback – it takes quite a deal of skill to aim , but getting a kill this way will make anyone feel badass.
Saying that Skyrim lacked diversity revealed two things about the person saying it :
- He’s color blind
- He has a really REALLY bad graphics card.
But regardless of all that Bethesda decided to increase the already rich diversity of Skyrim by implementing two new locales : the dark, shadowy graveyard world of the Soul Cairn and the lush, beautiful, vibrant Forgotten Vale.
And don’t forget the exciting new quest line and all those innovative new side quests, some of which allow players to indulge in their long suppressed desires and massacre all those annoying townspeople – and get rewarded for it too !
A summonable undead horse, named Arvak, provides a new, easily accessible, low maintenance form of transport. Though he’s not as strong as the Dark Brotherhood’s Shadowmere, he can be resummoned as many times as needed if he’s killed. All the better for anyone who wants to horse-dive off the Throat of the world without losing their beloved pet.
Other neat additions include new weapons, new armor, new spells, new Dragon Shouts, an NPC that can change the way your Dovahkiin looks and a new companion – but by far the MOST interesting addition can only be found at the end of the main quest line.Revealing what it is would spoil the storyline, but rest assured that it is epic !
To summarize everything, Dawnguard is definitely an innovative expansion. Tons of new feature and gameplay mechanics make for happy gamer.
Some would argue that it’s a bit too short, but then again Skyrim’s main quest line wasn’t that long either.
At the end of the day however one must remember that it wasn’t the quest line or the story that kept the player engrossed in Skyrim. It was the beautifully immersive world – the land of Skyrim itself. ‘Dawnguard’ gives the player an excuse to return to that world and get immersed into it once again; to watch the beautifully rendered mist roll down the mountain sides ; to stand atop a mountain and watch the sun play hide and seek between the clouds and the peaks all around you; to ride through the valleys as an Ancient Dragon soars majestically over you.
And after a long hard day of getting your butt handed over to you in League of Legends just coz bot lane didn’t stop pushing , Dawnguard feels like just what the doctor ordered.
- Increased focus on Vampirism empowers a previously miss able, yet immensely entertaining way of playing.
- Greater control over Skyrim’s weather, especially through usage of the ‘secret’ you get at the end of the main questline.
- Stronger enemies and more varied enemies to challenge high level players.
- New spells, powers and combat mechanics open up brand new and entertaining ways of fighting.
- Too Short
- May render your game highly unstable due to a large collection of newly introduced bugs