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Live impressions: Skyrim Dragonborn

Journey with us as we play through the DLC

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.

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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 Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim coverage since day one. Check out our reviews for Skyrim, Dawnguard and Hearthfire, as well as our extensive tips coverage: 15 Essential Tips For Conquering Skyrim, 10 Things To Do In Skyrim Before You Die, 5 Things You Might Have Missed In Dawnguard, and 7 Essential Hearthfire Tips. Also, you should definitely catch up with Skyrim resident Olaf on his journey From Rags To Riches.


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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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