If vampires tend to feel a bit overused recently, it’s generally because they are. Thanks to certain major motion pictures, books and video games, they have become a popular topic for fiction. While overusing a theme is nothing new for the industry, in the case of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim‘s Dawnguard expansion, it fits the setting. Namely, it’s an aspect of Skyrim that wasn’t covered too much in the main game, save for a few side quests or nameless enemies suffering from vampirism. it isn’t covered in much depth aside from the fact that they exist.
Dawnguard itself is split between a 12-quest main story and a multitude of sidequests of varying depth and length. The main quest follows the story of a group of vampire hunters, known as the Dawnguard, which the Dragonborn may choose to ally with or against (choosing instead to align with the vampires being hunted). Regardless of the choice you make, the conclusion of the quest line will reward you with the use of a castle as a player home, which is far larger than any of the homes that are available in Skyrim.
Along with the main story of Dawnguard, the pack also includes many side quests, typically involving the new factions. While some of these are interesting, many of them are simply there to give you a reason to go somewhere, and involve fetching or killing a target in a nearby cave, much like many Skyrim sidequests. These quests serve their purpose in Skyrim: to guide players towards caves and areas which often contain other important things, such as Word Walls, however as many of us have explored most of Skyrim at this point, it feels a bit tedious to go off to some cave or other to collect or kill something yet again. Many of these quests are repeatable, and feel a bit less mundane than similar quests in the main game.
Dawnguard adds two more skill trees, Vampire Lord and Werewolf. Each is based around the ability to become their namesake, and works to make these major choices much more relevant to the development of a character. The transformation to a Werewolf is part of Skyrim itself, though the skill tree is new. While Skyrim did have vampirism, Dawnguard adds a new Vampire Lord transformation, which will replace the ability to become a Werewolf, should you already have it.
Either ability can be switched back and forth, by visiting the NPC who originally bestowed it. These transformations are interesting, though I did not use them much in Skyrim, preferring to just play in human form. One useful aspect of the Vampire Lord is the ability to turn it off at will, instead of having to wait for your character to revert from the Werewolf form.
Dawnguard is much longer than typical DLC. It is the longest piece Bethesda has created, with Oblivion‘s Shivering Isles content its only peer. It takes at least ten hours to do the main story, and probably over 20 to do absolutely everything, so it feels long enough to be worth its price. If you’re itching for more Skyrim, or have managed the herculean task of exploring everything, this is well worth looking for.
Pros: More Skyrim, interesting faction quests
Cons: sidequests feel a bit monotonous after a while