Live impressions: Skyrim Dragonborn
6th Dec 2012 | 17:00
Skyrim's latest DLC add-on, Dragonborn, is out this week priced at 1600 MSP - and we've been reviewing it live right here on this page.
The expansion, which will be released for PS3 and PC early next year, introduces dragon mounting and a return to Solstheim, the setting for The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind's Bloodmoon expansion.
We've had the best
Posted at 17.00 on 6th December
Our verdict on Dragonborn
After spending the last few days working our way through the latest Skyrim DLC, this is our verdict on what we've seen.
The most notable thing that's stood out for us is the size of the map area added with this expansion. Although the Dawnguard DLC provided a couple of new locations, most of the related quests took place in territory we were already familiar with. With the addition of Solstheim we have a whole new distinctive map to explore, and after around 15 hours it feels like we've only scratched the surface with plenty more locations and side quests still to discover.
We found the main questline enjoyable with an intriguing storyline that kept our interest for the duration. There were a number of puzzles to navigate along the way, and although they were not particularly difficult to solve they did a good job of breaking up the dungeon crawling. The sections set in Apocrypha also felt quite different to anything we've experienced in Skyrim before, with their moving platforms and disorienting contracting/expanding corridors.
The new enemies we faced, especially Lurkers and Ash Spawn, proved to be tough and challenging opponents. As a Level 25 character we struggled during some of the combat sections, so we'd recommend levelling up and investing in a decent set of armour and weapons before taking on the trickier quests.
Additional crafting materials add new possibilities for weapon and armour creation, though you will need to complete some side missions first to track down all of the sources. There are also plenty of new shouts, powers and active effects to unlock, which means that even long time players can still considerably expand their arsenal.
The dragon riding, which we were expecting to be one of the best parts of the DLC, disappointingly turned out to be a bit restrictive in the end, but then the alternative of giving players the ability of flying anywhere they wanted would no doubt have brought the physics engine crashing to its knees. There's still fun to be had while soaring through the skies, though after the initial novelty wears off you may find yourself questioning the practical use of this ability.
In summary then, the Dragonborn DLC brings a number of new ideas to Skyrim's already brimming table and executes them well, adding enough new content and variety in the process to please even the most seasoned of adventurers.
Posted at 11.37 on 6th December
Time played: 14 hours
We'll be posting our overall verdict on the Dragonborn DLC this afternoon, but for now here's a summary of what we've done since completing the main questline.
Now that we've destroyed Miraak's control over the stones dotted around Solstheim, we can approach and activate them to receive new powers. These powers are initiated in the same way as shouts but can only be used once before needing to be reacquired from the same stone.
TIP: The following powers can be acquired from Solstheim stones:
- Earth Stone - Bones of the Earth [Ignore 80% physical damage for 30 seconds]
- Beast Stone - Conjure Werebear [Summon a Werebear for 60 seconds]
- Wind Stone - North Wind [Causes 20 points of frost damage for 10 seconds]
- Tree Stone - Root of Power [Spellcasting costs 75% less for 60 seconds]
- Sun Stone - Sun Flare [Creates a 100 point fiery explosion]
- Water Stone - Waters of Life [Heals everyone nearby 200 points]
Heading up into the mountains we encounter a camp with a group of Rieklings, including one riding on the back of a Bristleback boar. The spears they throw cause plenty of damage, but after unleashing our new power to conjure a Werebear they are quickly eliminated.
Elsewhere we defeat a group of Thalmor soldiers and free a smith from Skaal Village who they were holding captive, continuing another sidequest which should ultimately lead to us discovering a new crafting material called Stalhrim. We also find a group of hunters, who become hostile before turning into werewolves and giving us another battle to fight.
Looking for a change of scenery and wanting to try out our new dragon riding ability, we return to Skyrim using the handy fast travel marker on the map and make our way to a dragon lair. As soon as the dragon appears we use Bend Will to tame it then hop onto its back to go for a flight.
Once airborne it soon becomes clear we don't have much control over where the dragon flies, instead circling around above the area in a fixed pattern. By using fast travel we can fly to other locations, so we head to a hideout to see if we can clear it out from the air.
Although quite fiddly to use, we eventually manage to use the aim locking system to target and defeat all of the enemies in the hideout, before swooping down to land. As the dragon flies away and we collect the spoils of our efforts we can't help but feel this aspect of the DLC is more of a gimmick than anything else, and fun though it is riding around atop a scaly beast we're not sure if we want to do it that often once the novelty wears off...
Posted at 18.47 on 5th December
Time played: 12 hours
Back in Apocrypha via the Black Book: Epistolary Acumen we face more Lurkers, which we find are pretty tough to beat on our own so we're glad we have plenty of health potions on standby. This section of Apocrypha has moving platforms and corridors that we have to activate and navigate like an assault course, so at least it feels a bit different from previous visits.
Eventually we meet with Hermaeus Mora, Daedric Prince of Fate and Knowledge who is the gatekeeper of this strange library. He teaches us 'Mind', the second word of the Bend Will shout, and tells us that Miraak knows the final word. Hermaeus promises to teach us the word too, in exchange for the secrets of The Skaal.
Returning to Solstheim, we leave the Dwemer ruins and are immediately attacked by a dragon sent by Miraak. We defeat it, but clearly Miraak means business so we need to act fast. Back at Skaal Village we speak to the Shaman, who agrees to give up his peoples' secrets so we can take on Miraak.
Hermaeus Mora is summoned and after a messy ritual we learn 'Dragon', the final word of Bend Will which gives us the power to control dragons themselves! We read the Black Book: Waking Dreams and travel to Apocrypha to find Miraak's Temple. There are lots of Seeker enemies here but we find it easier to run past them to reach the next area rather than taking them all on.
TIP: In this section of Apocrypha there are many Skill Books and Spell Scolls to be read and collected, so check every table you pass for useful items.
During this long Apocrypha section we pick up four large tomes, and at the end we reach a room with four pedestals to receive them. We match up the image on the pedestal with the title of each book to unlock the final area, the Summit of Apocrypha.
TIP: Match up the tomes to pedestals as follows: Teeth / Gnashing Blades, Eye / Prying Orbs, Tentacles / Boneless Limbs, Claws / Delving Pincers.
At the summit we use our now complete Bend Will shout to tame one of Miraak's dragons and ride it - this is the moment we've been waiting for. While on the dragon's back we can lock onto enemies on the ground and target them with powerful attacks, although we don't have full control of where the dragon flies. The controls feel a bit unwieldy at first but we soon work out how to use the target lock and after defeating all our foes here we fly up to face Miraak himself.
After dismounting our dragon an epic battle ensues, which becomes a little drawn out in the end as Miraak keeps regenerating his health when we're close to beating him. Eventually he falls though, and his hold over the people of Solstheim is finally broken. Our main quest is complete.
Posted at 15.31 on 5th December
Time played: 10 hours
Neloth tells us he's located the next Black Book in Nchardak, a nearby Dwemer ruin, but it's currently sealed away. We follow the wizard as we trek over to the ruins, fighting Lurkers and Ash Spawn on the way, which makes us grateful that we have two characters fighting alongside us at the moment.
TIP: Always loot the bodies of defeated Lurkers as they contain plenty of gold, in addition to valuable rings and jewellery which provide stat boosts.
After dealing with a group of bandits outside the ruin and liberating a set of Nordic Carved Armour from their leader, Neloth unlocks the entrance with a special control cube he found on a previous visit and we head inside. We can see the Black Book in the reading room here but as it's sealed away we can't access it just yet.
Instead we head deeper into the ruins where it's revealed there are a number of other cubes to recover, and activating them with control pedestals opens doors and changes the water levels in flooded caverns below. This leads to several puzzle sections where we have to raise the water level to swim up to previously inaccessible areas and lower it to get through underwater doors.
These physics-based puzzles add an interesting twist to our exploration here, and make a welcome change from the usual dungeon exploring we're familiar with. By solving them all we achieve our objective of activating the boilers, to provide steam to the reading room so we can recover the latest Black Book.
With the mechanism activated and the Black Book released, we read it and are transported to Apocrypha once again...
Posted at 12.26 on 5th December
Time played: 8.5 hours
After arriving at the Wind Stone and using our new Bend Will shout, the construction being built around the stone glows then erupts in an impressive explosion, unleashing a tough Lurker enemy for us to fight. Once it's defeated, we find the folk of Skaal Village are now free from Miraak's control and can head home.
Returning to Skaal Village and speaking to the Shamen, we're tasked with using our new shout to cleanse the remaining stones. There are six in total but one is protected within Miraak's new temple, leaving us four to deal with. The Shamen also tells us to speak with Dark Elf Neloth to learn more about the Black Books, starting another quest.
TIP: From this point on Frea can be recruited as a follower, by speaking to her in the Shamen's house in Skaal Village.
We make our way around Solstheim cleansing the stones, which are spread the length and breadth of the land and remind us of how big this new map is. Along the way we encounter dwarf-like Rieklings and Bristleback boars, both of which were originally seen in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.
We also defeat several dragons on our travels, receiving a Dragon Soul the first time but losing the second one to Miraak who appears and steals it again, suggesting this is going to be a recurring theme.
With all of the stones cleansed, we arrive at the organic mushroom-like tower where Dark Elf Neloth is based and look for information about the strange Black Books...
Posted at 10.32 on 5th December
Time played: 7 hours
After reaching the end of the Temple of Miraak and dealing with skeletons, a Deathlord and a large rockfall, we find another Black Book titled Waking Dreams. Activating this whisks us off to Apocrypha again where we find ourselves faced by Miraak himself. After revealing his plans to control Solstheim he climbs aboard a dragon and flies off - the first time we've seen dragon riding in Skyrim.
Back in Solstheim we head to Frea's home in Skaal Village where the last few citizens have raised a magic barrier to protect them from Miraak's power. The Elders of the village instruct us to find a word of power to destroy the effect of the nearby Wind Stone and free the people.
We make our way towards the Word Wall marker, noting the terrain on this side of Solstheim is much different to the scorched lands we've seen previously. Snow covers the ground here and waterfalls run through the area, giving it a peaceful feel.
At the Word Wall we find and kill a Blood Dragon, but at that point Miraak appears and steals the Dragon's Soul from us. This could prove a pain if it keeps happening as we need those souls to unlock our new shouts! Luckily we have a Dragon Soul in reserve and use it to unlock 'Earth', the first word of the Bend Will shout.
The description for this new shout says that when powerful enough we can use it to get dragons to do our bidding - whether this just means they'll fight on our side or will lead to us being able to ride dragons ourselves, only time will tell but it's exciting to have new powers to work with. For now, we're off to see what the first level of this Bend Will shout can do...
Posted at 17.28 on 4th December
Time played: 6 hours
Getting back onto the main quest, we head towards the map marker for the Temple of Miraak but are immediately attacked by a dragon, showing we're not safe from the flying menaces in this new location. After taking care of it we continue across Solstheim, finding that much of the landscape here is barren and scorched.
Arriving at the temple we find more citizens toiling away under Miraak's power, chanting the same mantra we heard earlier. A lady named Frea is here trying to rescue her people, but as we speak to her the temple entrance opens up and we are attacked by Cultists. With them dispatched we head down into the temple itself.
TIP: While progressing through the Temple of Miraak be vigilant for pressure pads on the floor, as there are many of them linked to dangerous traps.
As we move through the temple we face many other Cultists and Draugrs, before finally reaching a Word Wall and learning 'Armour', the second word of the new Dragon Aspect shout. Defeating a Gatekeeper here provides us with a Temple of Miraak key and allows us to proceed to a dining room, where we have to seek out a hidden passage to move on.
Still further we move into the temple passages, seeing more strange and twisted statues that resemble dragons. This is definitely one of the more expansive dungeons we've experienced in Skyrim, but so far there's been enough variety to keep us interested.
An eerie silence has now descended over us, but we expect that won't last long as we move through the next hidden doorway...
Posted at 15.42 on 4th December
Our impressions so far
We're approaching the 5 hour mark of our time with the Dragonborn DLC, and these are our initial impressions. The DLC introduces a lot more variety into the game world, as travelling out of Skyrim and into Morrowind allows for a complete change of scenery.
The main point to note is that the Morrowind map area is huge! We've barely scratched the surface at this point and aside from all the main quests to come there's bound to be additional locations to find and explore.
The characters we've met so far have been interesting and the storyline is immediately engaging, as we're keen to find out what strange power is controlling the people and what purpose is it trying to achieve.
We've already encountered a number of new enemy types, all of which have been tough to beat, so the DLC may prove challenging to new and lower level players. We recommend recruiting a decent follower to fight alongside you to give yourself a better change of survival.
Puzzles such as opening the Raven Rock Mine door with the Bloodskal Blade and elements like using the Black Books to travel to Apocrypha mean the quests we've been on so far have felt fresh and new, even after the number of hours we've already sunk into vanilla Skyrim and the previous DLC content.
We will continue to post updates with our impressions and useful tips as our quest continues.
Posted at 14.38 on 4th December
Time played: 4.5 hours
After looking around this cavern we're initially confused, as there doesn't seem to be any way out of there. Then we stumble across the body of Gratian, the great-grandfather we've been looking for, and find his journal along with a glowing sword called the Bloodskal Blade that emits an energy blast with power attacks.
From the journal entries we deduce that we need to fire these energy blasts at the glowing runes on the door, and activate them by matching the angle of the blasts with the direction of the rune. Initiating a power attack on its own creates a vertical blast and the first runes are horizontal, but after a short time we work out how to proceed.
TIP: When using the Bloodskal Blade, hold left or right on the movement stick then initiate a power attack to create a horizontal energy blast to activate the runes.
With the door opened, we have to navigate rows of swinging guillotine blades before entering a chamber and fighting a tough Dragon Priest named Zahkriisos, who yields a Heavy Armour mask when defeated. In this chamber we also find a Word Wall which gives us 'Strength', the first word of the new Dragon Aspect shout. When completed this shout can be used once a day to 'take on the mighty aspect of a dragon', giving us improved armour and more powerful attacks.
In the next area we find a new item on a pedestal, a Black Book: The Winds of Change, which is worth a whopping 2000 gold! When we try to read it, however, we are engulfed in a green light a teleported away to a strange place known as Apocrypha, made up of platforms and towers of books surrounded by murky waters full of snapping tentacles.
After making our way through this area and fighting off new enemies called Seekers we come up against a huge Lurker creature that dishes out massive damage. At first we struggle to stay alive during this fight, until we find a way to make things much easier for ourselves.
TIP: When fighting the Lurker in Black Book: The Winds of Change, retreat down the corridor you entered from and the Lurker will reach a point where it gets stuck, meaning you can safely pick it off with ranged and hit-and-run attacks.
After gathering up the large number of soul gems and scrolls in the area we interact with the book and return to Solstheim before fighting our way out through a bandit camp. We then return to Raven Rock and report back to our original quest-giver, who rewards us with 500 gold for our troubles. One quest down, many more to go...
Posted at 11.47 on 4th December
Time played: 3 hours
Moving away from the strange Earth Stone as fast as possible, it's time for us to explore the rest of Raven Rock. In the centre of town we head into The Retching Netch pub, where we find Teldryn Sero who claims to be "the best swordsman in all of Morrowind." We're short of a follower at the moment so we hand over 500 gold to secure his services.
Downstairs we find the owner Geldis Sadri who tells us an amusing anecdote about how The Retching Netch got its 'interesting' name, before handing over 10 samples of his famous Sujamma drink and asking us to distribute them to potential customers in the area, kicking off a small side quest.
Back outside we head to the other end of town and locate The Bulwark, which we discover after entering is the barracks for the local Redoran Guard. Inside it's pretty sparse, but on some shelves at the far end we spot a full set of Bonemold armour just waiting to be liberated. After checking the guards aren't watching us we swipe the lot and slip in on, giving us a small increase in our armour rating.
The last location to visit in this area is the Raven Rock mine, which we head into and meet with an arguing couple. By speaking to them we learn the mine is owned by the East Empire Company, the largest trading company in Tamriel, and the man's great-grandfather was investigating a strange discovery on their behalf when he went missing almost 200 years ago.
The Company claimed his great-grandfather was lost in a rock fall, but the man thinks something more sinister is at work as the section of mine in question has since been locked off. He found the key in his great-grandfather's possessions but doesn't know where the entrance is, so we take it and agree to investigate.
Heading down the mine we fight off a handful of Frostbite Spiders before reaching what seems to be a dead end, however after a few swings of our warhammer we discover that the planks of wood blocking the way ahead are loose and we break through to the other side. There's a gate here which our mine key unlocks, and we press on further into the mine.
Here we face off against a number of Draugrs, at which point our follower Teldryn uses flame magic and summons allies to help in the fight - clearly we made a good choice in hiring him! We also find a deposit of Stalhrim, a new material, in the area but apparently we need an Ancient Nordic Pickaxe to mine it so we have to leave it for now.
Continuing on we find some soul gems set on altars which blast us with shocks when we get close, and we have to grab them to stop their attacks before our health is completely drained. Then we pass through an iron door and encounter several Draugr Deathlords, who use shouts as well as ebony weapons to assault us and prove tough opponents.
With our foes defeated we press on, avoiding several spike and arrow traps along the way, before following a narrow rock passageway which eventually opens into an expansive cavern with a large door covered in strange glowing runes on the far side. With no steps down from the passageway on our side we're at the point of no return, so with a deep breath we step forward and drop off the ledge...
Posted at 09.23 on 4th December
Time played: 1 hour
With the new Dragonborn DLC downloaded and installed, we're off on another Skyrim adventure. After heading to the nearest city it's not long before a pair of Cultists wearing strange masks confront us, announcing that the 'true Dragonborn' has sent them to deal with our 'lies' before launching into an attack.
Once dispatched, we search their bodies and read the Cultists' Orders, which tell us they have sailed from Raven Rock to kill the False Dragonborn (us) before we can reach Solstheim in order to please someone (or something) named Miraak. The note reveals their ship landed in Windhelm, so we head to the docks there straight away.
After locating the vessel we speak to the captain Gjalund Salt-Sage, who initially refuses to sail back to Solstheim due his previous experiences there. However after telling him the Cultists he brought over tried to kill us, he is persuaded to take us there to figure out what's going on and we set sail immediately.
As we arrive at the docks we get our first look at the settlement of Raven Rock, and its domed, almost chitinous buildings look quite different to anything we've seen before. We are greeted as an 'Outlander' and informed that we are now in Morrowind, where Raven Rock is a Dunmer (or Dark Elves) settlement.
Heading into the town we encounter a Redoran Guard wearing Bonemold armour, a new form of heavy armour with a scaly appearance - perhaps we will be able to craft some of our own once we progress further. Straight ahead of us are some stairs leading up to a large Temple, so we make that our first port of call.
Inside we talk to the Elder who tells us they are unable to use the Ancestral Tombs below as they are infested with Ash Spawn - this sounds like a quest to us, so we offer our assistance and head into the tombs. Immediately we are attacked by these new enemies, who not only have weapons that engulf us in flames but also launch fireball spells at us!
We try to put up a valiant fight but there are so many of them that we're soon overwhelmed, and after a couple of defeats we decide to put that quest on hold and explore more of the town. We ask everyone we meet if they know who Miraak is, and although they seem to recognise the name no-one can give us a definitive answer. Instead they give vague responses, referring in some cases to memories of dreams and visions - something strange is going on.
We head towards a large glowing object we spot in the distance, which is revealed to be the Earth Stone when we get close. Workers who seem to be in a trance-like state, repeating the same mantra over and over again, are constructing something around it. We move in and interact with the Earth Stone, at which point we black out.
When we come to, we find ourselves toiling away on construction with the rest of the workers and hear a deep voice speaking the same mantra they are reciting. Could this be the voice of Miraak controlling us all? By moving away we are able to break free from this power but it's clear that the others are not so strong-willed.
What is this strange force that's controlling the people of Raven Rock? Who, or indeed what is Miraak, and what are they trying to accomplish? Hopefully we will start to uncover answers to these questions as our quest continues...