The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dragonborn ReviewJoe Shaffer
I'm always skeptical towards DLC mission/quest packs, mainly because I've been burnt too many times. At the same time I usually feel obligated to purchase them, as was the case with Skyrim's add-ons. I sought to expand my Nordic realm as much as possible and get the most out of the game, regardless of the quality of the expansions involved. Thankfully, I can report that I'm quite pleased with Skyrim's DLC, but especially with the quest pack entitled Dragonborn.
Dragonborn seems to make it a point to outdo its fellow add-ons Hearthfire and Dawnguard. Not only does this game tack new locations onto the world map for starters, but even grants access to a new island separate from Skyrim itself called Solstheim. With this island comes a treasure trove of content, including unexplored dungeons, unresolved quests, a couple of new towns and a slew of farms to visit, and a menagerie of strange beasts. In particular, you'll often cross paths with ash spawns, humanoid creatures made almost entirely of ash. You'll also have to contend with other devious beings, such as the cricket-like ash hoppers and horrific netches. What is a "netch," you ask? Imagine if a turtle made sweet love to an octopus, resulting in a hovering, headless nightmare of a hybrid. Yeah, such an abomination would be a netch in a nutshell.
Of course, Dragonborn is not just a collection of arbitrary content. After all, it wouldn't make much sense for your character to travel all the way to Solstheim just to sightsee. Your reasons for being there are quite personal, actually. You see, there's another Dragonborn in the world named Miraak. As it turns out, Miraak hates you and wishes you were dead, and so sends a pair of weak cultist thugs to
laughably attempt to kill you, only to suffer a painful demise at your hands end your life. After disposing of their bodies, a quest begins and prompts you to head to Solstheim to gather intel on this peculiar new foe.
Miraak is pretty much what you expect from a Skyrim villain. Most of the character's details aren't outwardly given in the main quest, but can be uncovered as you inquire about him and study up on the character. It turns out the man was a Dragon Priest who betrayed the dragons and became Hermaeus Mora's champion. At one point in the franchise's history, the man disappeared without a trace and was believed to be dead. Now he's returned and would love nothing more than to have your head on a pike.
Dragonborn, in terms of quests, has its ups and downs. There are some quests that are quite entertaining, such as one that requires you to cleanse enchanted stones in an effort to prevent Miraak from controlling the minds of Solstheim's people. Of course you can't expect there to be no resistance when carrying out this task, as cultists and guards stand watch over each stone. Even after you've cleansed a stone, you'll still have some stiff competition to deal with in the form of massive demons called lurkers. Another quest, The Path of Knowledge, has you creeping through dwarven ruins to get your hands on a mythic black book, a wicked tome that bestows dark knowledge unto whoever reads it. Although I'm not usually a fan of dwarven ruins, I enjoyed the clever puzzles found throughout this dungeon, especially one that involved raising and lowering water levels to access various parts of a room in order to acquire a key.
If there's any unfortunate downside to Dragonborn's offered quests, it's that the side quests are mostly run of the mill. You might expect that out of a Skyrim add-on, since the game itself provided many such side quests. If you think about it, though, why should players expect ho-hum content? I'm okay with fetch quests and the like when they're presented as meager tasks (and many are), but some of the expansion's titled quests are nothing more than mere fetching, killing, or farming. It felt like Bethesda wanted to create the illusion that Dragonborn offered a wealth of quests, but instead padded out the content with mostly garden variety adventures. For instance, one titled quest called Briarheart Necropsy demands that you vanquish a Forsworn Briarheart (any one will do) and tear his heart from his chest, only to return to the quest giver for a meager reward. That's it. You pretty much kill a random target and fetch an item. There's nothing fleshed out or elaborate about that. For all intents and purposes, it could have been relegated to a nameless task.
Thankfully, though, Dragonborn succeeds where it counts most. The pack provides more worthwhile content than any of the other official Skyrim plug-ins, and is a genuine pleasure to play through. It's especially awesome that the add-on gives you a whole new region to explore, fresh monstrosities to battle, and even some new items and equipment to loot. If you're interested in picking up any of Skyrim's DLC packs, I recommend getting this one first and foremost.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.