Skyrim has become one of those “legendary epics” in video games. Much like Oblivion and the rest of the Elder Scrolls games that have come before it. Although its shelf-life on the Xbox 360 console has slowed and faded as the next generation of consoles has been ushered in, the PC version is a safe haven for players who are interested in modding and creating new and exciting content. I have reviewed a couple previous dedicated DLCs for Skyrim from Bethesda studios in the past, so it’s only fitting to review the last incarnation of fun and mystery.
DLC, or Down Loadable Content, seems to be the hip new thing with the video game industry lately. Well, either that or the poison tipped “freemium” business model. Have you already payed full price for a game? Want to pay up to 2/3rds the price for content that probably should have been available at the game’s launch? Any more now, many game companies are trying to figure out just how can they squeeze more blood out of the market’s stone. Just that little extra “can’t live without” something that would render the more money out of consumer’s pockets.
Now, some games handle DLC a little bit better than others. Some games, like World of Warcraft and Guildwars 2, sell cosmetic items and account management items on the side that don’t have massive negative impacts on gameplay, only changing looks or adding fun little new flavors (like new mounts to ride or a fancy top-hat to wear) or even administrative character management (like migrating servers or changing appearance/race options or adding more character slots). These tidbits of DLC are always welcome and interesting in games. Sometimes good DLC can come with a story expansion that adds new depth to the story and something meaningful to the characters (which is the case in Borderland 2‘s new DLC “Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep“).
The worst DLC games charge you money for a) a small handful of poorly designed and rushed maps that get repetitive after the first few play throughs b) items that you can already get by playing, and/or c) prevent all progress and game play until you pay up. A sort of “carrot and stick” method if you will…here’s looking at you EA Games.
Not all DLC is bad. Sometimes DLC can add more to a game. In Borderlands 2, for example, there’s some pretty spectacular stories added to the main drag, and I am looking forward to diving into Tiny Tina’s Assault on Dragon Keep once I get a few friends to stop playing Magic 2014 long enough to breath. In the Mass Effect series, the DLC has always been greatly polished.
And now Skyrim…well, to be honest, Skyrim is kind of up and down with its DLC. All of Skyrim’s DLC can be purchased in one massive bundle called “Skyrim: Legendary Edition“. On my original, non-professional blog: Skyrim: Dawnguard was one of my first(ish) reviews. I didn’t bother to do a review on Hearthfire, as it wasn’t really adding anything to the story; rather it was more about adding to the game mechanics by giving the players the ability to build and create homesteads as well as increase the crafting options. I never did write a full Skyrim review, as my game was far too buggy to really give it a proper once over, so I decided to review the DLC that had contained a whole swath of fixes. Overall, there’s still a ton of bugs, but at least none of them are game breaking (“game breaking” meaning that a bug or glitch is so bad, the game can no longer function).
Unlike Dawnguard, Skyrim: Dragonborn adds a whole new island, realm, powers, armors, shouts, big-bads, secrets, crafting, and even new Cthulhu Mythos to play around with. The new monsters were kind of horrifying, as people made of volcanic ash and crazy super powered spiders tend be. There were floating creatures called “Netch”(s?) that look strikingly similar to the alien race named the “Hanar” from Mass Effect (I was always sad that you never got an option to get a Hanar as a crew member on your spaceship, I might add).
Now the added story content isn’t really that long, which is the usual trend from downloaded content, but what is there is pretty sweet. There is a new island to explore that expands that already pretty massive Skyrim sandbox. It boils down to this: A crazy cult appears that starts killing people in the name of the first dragonborn. Being a dragonborn yourself, you decide to follow them to their hideout on an island off the mainland of Marrowind (see what they did there?) to confront them and stop their treachery. Turns out there were dragonborn long before you, and there’s deeper powers involved than just crazy cult people killing everything.
SPOILERS–>>> I’m going to level with you here, I’m trying hard to not spoil anything major. And with DLC, it’s always hard not to. Especially DLC like this, where everything is so condensed, even the littlest detail could give away major plot points and fantastic settings. However, I love sharing this because I thought it was pretty funny. Something I cherish about videogames that are open and sandboxy like Skyrim, is that you can do odd and strange things that end in surprising and unusual results. Which brings me to this experience that I just have to share (later in the future, I plan on setting up a youtube and game-play recordings that I will be able to attach to these rants to prove my tinfoil hat is, in fact, the latest fashion trend).
So there is this cave near the middle of the map on the island. This cave is filled to the brim with giant albino spiders and a handful of mostly dead bandits. Turns out, the leaders of the bandits were scientists doing research and experiments on the albino cave spiders. GOOD NEWS EVERYBODY! The machine they were using to experiment on the spiders is left behind and is more than use-able.
So you dump your inventory and the remains of all the spiders you defeated that you can carry, push the button, and you get a squirming bag full of live and giant allied spiders. Even better, they are grande like objects with various effects depending on what objects you jammed into the machine that merged with the dead spider remains.
Needless to say, I thought grenade spiders were freaking boss. The design, execution, look, feel… I applaud the developers on this game design. So I spent a good chunk of time just running around the map, killing every spider I could find, collecting its loot, dropping that loot into the machine, and getting a sack full of grenade spiders. So I am left with a gigantic rucksack, overflowing with grenade spiders, all crawling around and waiting to be thrown into someone’s face.
Now here I am dragging this bag of spiders around everywhere I go, and suddenly I get to the final boss fight. I was expecting some sort of cinematic fight involving odd game mechanics and not much straight up one on one combat. Nope, he rushes me with a sword. So what do I do? I think to my self “Hmm, he’s got a sword…what do I have in this big weighted down haversack…how about….SPIDERS!” And I dumped that entire inventory of spiders right onto his face.
There were jumping fire exploding spiders, lighting zapping attacking spiders, landmine spiders, acid biting spiders, all sorts of elemental exploding, biting, shooting, spiders. And you know what? This big-bad had been trash talking all game long, about how he is the epitome of dragonborn and how you are worthless and weak and how he is the epic unbeatable master of the universe… and then he goes and dies to spiders, and he dies HARD. I was laughing so much.
When he gets back to Monster Isle (the Island where all monsters and villains come from as explained by the Power Puff Girls), the other villains in their “villain support group” will ask the first dragonborn “So…what did the player do to you? Fus Ro Dah to the face? A big sword jabbed into your back? Strong magics that broke your bones?” and he’ll sob, and in a whimper and reply “I was killed by spiders!” What imagination this game spurs! <<<—END SPOILERS
So yeah, I liked the Dragonborn DLC. If you are a fan of the Elder Scrolls games, and you liked Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, then Skyrim: Dragonborn is a wonderful addition. There’s some pretty cool new powers, some rather superb looking armor. Oh yes, lots to explore, dungeons to troll, NPC’s to do horrible things too, and yes, many many arrows in knees.
All in all, this DLC is well worth the play.