If you've played Skyrim to death, Dawnguard may be a little underwhelming. The new dungeons, although well designed, are mostly made up of existing assets. The quests, although well written, don't feel vastly different from those in the main game. It's just more Skyrim - for better or worse.
There are some standout moments, though. One quest sees you visiting an illegal drug den and sampling the local Skooma. In another you awaken a vampire from a thousand year slumber and recruit her as a companion. The new legendary dragons are an impressive sight too, especially the one you fight in the Soul Cairn - who you can later recruit as an ally.
The crossbow is a new addition, and it's brilliant - especially if you like playing as a stealthy character. It's the preferred weapon of the Dawnguard, but vampires can use it too. It makes a satisfying mechanical creak as you load it, then unleashes its bolt silently at immense speeds and burrows gruesomely into an enemy's head. It's faster and more powerful than most bows, especially if you craft some enchanted bolts for it.
They've thrown in some new enemies too. Vampires are almost always accompanied by death hounds: rabid, fiery-eyed dogs that chew your health away with their razor sharp teeth. Immense gothic gargoyles will come to life and pummel you with their stone fists. The Soul Cairn is full of evil Daedric spirits. There are plenty of interesting targets for your shiny new crossbow.
Did Skyrim really need more content? There are people in the CVG office who've played the game for over 100 hours, yet haven't even touched the Dark Brotherhood or Civil War questlines. But for those of you who've bled the game dry, Dawnguard is a compelling reason to come back.
We're glad Bethesda chose to take their time and release something consierable in size, rather than drip feed us content. The asking price is fairly steep (1600MSP on Xbox 360, £14 on PS3), but we did manage to squeeze over 20 hours out of it.
While Oblivion's Shivering Isles DLC was a memorable departure from the main game, Dawnguard plays it relatively safe. The quality of the quests is on par with the rest of Skyrim, but it might not be enough to suck you back in if you've already exhausted every quest the regular game has to offer.
A worthy chunk of DLC that fills Skyrim's already packed world map with new gear, enemies, and quests.
- Over 20 hours of gameplay
- Expanded vampire powers
- New weapons to craft
- Reused dungeon assets
- Vampire Lord controls need work
- Dawnguard quest not as fun