Though Bethesda has always been dedicated to producing amazing bonus material for its Elder Scrolls series, Skyrim has pushed those limits even further. The two sets of DLC already available provide far more bang for your buck than your average extra content – can Dragonborn live up to the promise of its predecessors?
Skyrim’s latest add-on will be released on December 4 for 1600 Microsoft Points on the Xbox or $19.99 for the PC version (PS3 still to be announced) and not only promises to deliver even more content that you had no idea you needed until it was in your sticky fingers – and can’t possibly live without once you have it – but will also pander to the nostalgic by revisiting a snow-topped isle last seen in the good old days of Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. Possible spoilers ahead…
The False Dragonborn: A Brand New Storyline
The story of Dragonborn revolves around the sudden return of a mysterious Dragon Priest who at one time ruled the island of Solstheim and may have been the first person ever gifted with the dragon blood. Thousands of years ago, he ruled at the behest of the dragons… until he rebelled.
DLC content is, of course, all about the story. For those who’ve completed the main game, it’s an opportunity to spend a little more time in your beloved world. For those still trudging the snow-covered wastelands, it’s a chance to take a break from the central quest. For Elder Scrolls players, DLC is always a rich and unexpected departure and, if Dragonborn follows Bethesda’s usual trend, a storyline that will take many hours to unravel.
Unlike Dawnguard, which told the story of a group of vampire hunters and their counterpart Vampire Lords, Dragonborn’s story seems woven more closely into the premise of the game. Accused of being a false dragonborn, the player will travel to new climes – including a never-before-seen Daedric Realm – to presumably disabuse the Dragon Priest’s followers of that notion.
According to leaks and rumours, the main quest of Dragonborn takes at least 30 hours to complete (unless you’re cantering across Solstheim at breakneck speed) and is complemented by side quests that include chasing off a group of Thalmor, the sinister group of elves whose actions originally divided the Tamrielic empire.
New Places, Old Places
“Explore Beyond Skyrim – Leave the province of Skyrim and travel to the coastal island of Solstheim. Encounter the Dark Elven settlers of Raven Rock and the native Skaal, as you unravel the mystery of a Dragonborn’s return.”
Veterans of the Elder Scrolls series may have experienced flashbacks to Morrowind while watching the trailer for Dragonborn. Certain clues, such as Telvanni mushroom houses and tentacled Netch floating across the terrain, seemed to point to the add-on taking place on Morrowind’s dusty shores. Rumours flew around the web, supported by the efforts of some early PC-based Skyrim entrepreneurs who claimed to have broken through the map’s borders and discovered a Morrowind town.
The rumour was confirmed, but not quite as expected: Dragonborn will take the player to Solstheim, the location of one of Morrowind’s DLC packages. As a stand-alone island, it’s a shrewd choice. With the back story of the dark elves’ continent already established in the main game, it makes sense for the survivors of Red Mountain’s eruption to have gathered on the nearest inhabited island to escape the deadly ash clouds.
Dragonborn will bring back rieklings, ash spawn, seekers, werebears and many other creatures unique to Solstheim. One of the most prominent features of Morrowind, meanwhile, was its Great Houses: three overarching factions that controlled and ruled the continent. The player was able to join one of these Houses and, through its questline, build a house.
This was not, however, as advanced a project as Hearthfire’s homes and the completed abode was primitive and entirely lacking in features –not to mention storage containers. Dragonborn is rumoured to not only bring back the Great Houses and their traditional bickering, but to also include a player-ownable property in the form of the House Telvanni giant mushrooms.
Dawnguard will also visit a brand new Daedric Realm that may or may not be Hermaeus Mora’s Apocrypha; if those tinkering with the source files are to be believed. Skyrim excels at bringing more unusual locations to life; in Dawnguard it was the Soul Cairn, in the main game it’s the underground Dwemer capital city of Blackreach. Oblivion players will be more than familiar with the Daedric lands, having spent plenty of time in the titular dimensional plane that was home to Molag Bal. Each realm has its own, unique character, so Apocrypha should hold plenty of surprises.
Dress Up and Fight
Dragonborn’s wealth of new outfitting options and weaponry will also revisit the styles of the dark elves. Nods to Morrowind hinted at in the trailer include the older game’s customary fare of bonemold and chitin armor (updated to Skyrim’s more enticing visual standards) as well as Nordic and Stalhrim armour and weapons.
The rumour mill has also suggested that Telvanni robes, new Thieves Guild armour and unique scimitars will also be available – plenty of new looks to enjoy as you explore Solstheim.
Perks, Powers and the Joy of Shouting
“Become the Ultimate Dragonborn – Harness the power of the Voice as you face off against the first Dragonborn. Wield new shouts and spells including Dragon Aspect – allowing you to summon the inner power of a dragon to deliver colossal blows and strengthen other shouts.”
False Dovahkiin or not, the player has access to a myriad of dragon-granted powers in Skyrim, as well as the usual plethora of spells. Magicka is a visually exciting element and at the same time allows each player to carve his or her own style; if you prefer to hit an enemy with all you’ve got, the school of Destruction will be your go-to toolbox, while sneaky players can cast invisibility, muffle their sounds and take an adversary unawares.
Once you have your style perfected, of course, it can swiftly become a routine… and then a rut. That’s where DLC comes in: Dragonborn, like Dawnguard before it, will introduce new dragon shouts and spells to your repertoire, encouraging you to change up your methods and embrace some novelty.
The additions are rumoured to include waterwalking, a shell that encases enemies in ash and new summoning and rune spells. The new shouts, meanwhile, may allow the player to bend the will of a dragon or create a small tornado.
“New Powers – Discover dark powers as you journey into a new Daedric realm. Collect books of forbidden knowledge and choose new paths for your skills and abilities.”
Apocrypha will bring its own powers to the mix and may encourage players to indulge their dark sides. The wording of Bethesda’s official statement also implies that new branches will be added to the skill tree, possibly in a similar style to Dawnguard’s werewolf and vampire lord.
Perhaps the most anticipated addition, however, is the ability to ride dragons, the lack of which was loudly lamented in the vanilla game. Combat on dragonback is another rumoured perk, but has yet to be confirmed.
The Last Hurrah?
Bethesda has traditionally released two major DLC packages for each of its Elder Scrolls games, as well as a range of smaller, less story-driven additions. As the second big release, will Dragonborn bring an end to the journey of Skyrim? Or will Bethesda continue to ride its successes and keep the story unfolding until the next generation of consoles hit the shelves? If Dragonborn does live up to expectations, perhaps we can hope for the latter…