The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Hearthfire ReviewJoe Shaffer
One of my favorite activities in Skyrim involves amassing an impressive collection of specialty weaponry. Rather than sell these magnificent pieces, I prefer to put them on display in one of my many houses and come back to bask in their collective glory. The only problem is that there isn't a single house in the game that can hold all of the unique weapons. Thankfully, Bethesda realized that some of their audience is self-absorbed (like me), and thus created a helpful expansion pack called Hearthfire.
Unlike Skyrim's other DLC campaigns, Hearthfire doesn't provide additional quests or extra tasks. Instead, this plug-in offers various vacant lots to purchase and develop into impressive manors, each with customizable wings and constructable furniture. Among the many fixtures you can create to fill your home are various display cases, weapon racks, mannequins, and shield mounts for showing off your awesome prizes, not to mention rooms specially designed for showcasing your spoils. If that's not your bag, then there are also several other rooms you can develop, such a master bedroom, a trophy room, an alchemy lab, and an enchanter's tower. You can even deck these rooms out with a variety of decor, from dressers to chandeliers to wall-mounted saber cat heads.
Neat as these new features may sound, they're not without fault.
Hopefully you're not dead set on deep customization, as there's little of that involved in decorating your house. Crafting various areas of your home and the furniture used to fill them is a matter of gathering the proper materials and selecting what you desire from a menu. Once you've made a selection, your newly built room or piece of decor simply appears in a preset location. You aren't able to choose where a particular piece of furniture manifests, nor can you move it or modify it any further.
Honestly, this is a minor transgression. It would have been great to be able to position your goods where you want them, but not having that ability doesn't break Hearthfire. My main beef with the expansion's lack of customization is that the house you eventually create is not much different from any of the game's preconstructed houses. Building a house is basically like buying a preset one, except now you have to farm or purchase more materials, dump more cash into a domicile, and fuss with myriad menus. The end result is a house that, for the most part, still looks and feels manufactured.
I can still live with illusory customization, though. What truly gets my goat about the PS3 version of Hearthfire is the nasty bugs infesting it.
After fleshing out my own crib, I decided it was time to put my goods on display. I went all around my house, placing swords in display cases and mounting shields on walls (as well as putting crossed swords behind the shields). All was right with the universe until I came home from an adventure and found one of my blades sticking halfway out of its closed display case. That wasn't the only time I had an issue with an item that refused to remain in its display, either. Throughout my campaign, I found weapons jutting from their cases, laying on the floor when I had left them on racks, and even flat out gone, having vanished from their displays without a trace.
Possibly the most bizarre instance involved a sword that I had placed behind a shield. This sword never fell from its position or disappeared, but slowly ascended. Every time I returned home, I found that it had risen a few more inches. I didn't realize how serious this was until I found the sword's hilt protruding from the boards on the second floor. I actually found that particular moment comical, but my laughter died when I reached for one of my Daedric weapons and found I couldn't pluck it from the rack I had placed in it. The weapon didn't even register as being there, yet I could plainly see it. I could even place a weapon on top of it. It was as if the blade had become a permanent fixture of the rack.
I suppose I could go on about how awesome it is to be able to adopt children, hire a bard, and promote your housecarl to steward, but these feature don't make up for Hearthfire's weapon display glitches. I'm especially pissed off about the weapons that had disappeared. Honestly, I should have expected as much from Bethesda. The PS3 version of Skyrim in general is more riddled with bugs than a termite mound, so it shouldn't be any surprise that the game's DLC is also glitched to high hell.
Yet, I can't say I don't completely advise everyone against purchasing Hearthfire. Every player will have a different prerogative behind obtaining this DLC pack, and your ability to enjoy it may differ greatly from others who have experienced it. Unfortunately, if your expectation is to create a museum showcasing your awesomeness through displaying your arsenal, you're in for a rude awakening. The same goes for anyone pining over new quests or storylines. However, if all you want to do is build a house, adopt children, and listen to awful lyrics belted out by a spoony bard, then by all means tuck in.
Disclosure: We are provided copies of games from the game companies for some games that we review.