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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dragonborn
Score: 90%
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Action/RPG


One does not simply play a Skyrim expansion. Even if you intend to just follow the new quest line, once you see the list of unfulfilled quests, the nagging "Just one more quest…" feeling takes hold, and you’re down another 20+ hours on top of how long it takes to knock out the new content.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dragonborn is no different.

Dragonborn begins with cultists attacking your character, claiming you are the "False Dragonborn." Your investigation brings you to the ash-choked island of Solstheim, where you learn of a long-dead Dragon Priest, Miraak (the first Dragonborn). To stop Miraak, you need to access the forbidden knowledge stored in a series of Black Books.

Welcome to Australia…. Err, Solstheim:

With the exception of one or two side quests, all of Dragonborn takes place on the island of Solstheim, with a couple of quick jaunts into Apocrypha, the realm of Hermaeus Mora, the Daedric Prince of Forbidden Knowledge. I like having a self-contained adventure, as opposed to Dawnguard, which was integrated into the main continent. Dawnguard’s approach wasn’t necessarily bad, but sometimes it is nice to start with a clean map. One of my absolute favorite parts of Elder Scrolls games is exploration, so an entire island full of new locales was a great experience.

Solstheim is the Australia of Tamriel – a big island full of things that just want to kill you. Every dungeon is filled with Draugr, though they are actually on the low end of the spectrum. Ash Spawns are my new most-hated enemy. Imagine Draugr, but with the added "perk" of tossing fireballs. They’re not hard to kill, but they’re definitely dangerous and annoying. You’ll also run into new varieties of spiders, including a few kamikaze spiders imbued with fire and ice spells. In one dungeon, I ran into a pack consisting of exploding fire spiders and ones that released flammable materials on death. Not a good combination. The list is rounded out by a group of Dragon Priests and Elder Dragons galore.

Continuing with the theme of everything wanting to kill you, Apocrypha houses its own collection of monsters, though you can usually run past them. Compared to other dungeons, Apocrypha is a straightforward shot. There are times where you need to find books to solve small puzzles, but none are really hard except for a few where you need to run between moving light sources to avoid health-draining darkness.

I may be applying a bit of hyperbole when I say everything wants to kill you, though it does feel that way sometimes. As much as I like Dragonborn, it is still saddled with Skyrim’s clumsy combat system. On top of that, Dragonborn is horrible about placing hard enemies in rooms with really hard enemies, so some deaths feel a bit too cheap and require equally cheap tactics (and LOTS of health potions) to survive.

How to Train Your Dragonborn:

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dragonborn adds several new character upgrades, including a few new shouts and some new Black Book powers.

A few of the Black Books are story-related, though you’ll come across others during side quests. Completing each book grants you a choice of special powers, though they sound like a bigger deal than they really are. A few are useful – such as a demon butler to carry your extra stuff or passive ability boosts – though I didn’t really use them much. This, however, is likely just because of how my character is built, since a few did seem useful for other builds.

I did, however, get a lot of use out of the new state boosting "Dragon Aspect" shout. It is a great equalizer when facing down Solstheim’s menagerie of death-dealing monsters, but off the island, I was a dominating force able to take out some of Skyrim’s nastier bosses in a few hits. Not as useful is "Bend Will," which is really only around for story purposes. Sure, it lets you tame and ride dragons, though riding dragons isn’t nearly as cool as it sounds. You have limited control, targeting and attacking is counter-intuitive… it is just not that much fun.

Compared to Dawnguard, Dragonborn offers a nice balance of new gear. There’s a new class of armor, Stalhrim, to craft and lots of legendary items to collect. Dragonborn seems really big on armor sets, which is great if you like how they look, but I would have preferred armor abilities that aren’t connected to equipping a full set. I do, however, like the pair of one-handed swords that work together to cast a rather powerful draining ability.


The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dragonborn’s main quest line adds another 10 – 12 hours worth of gameplay depending on your character’s level. You can begin the new content at anytime, though based on the number of dragons and other enemies you’ll encounter, I recommend a high level character. Most of the content was a challenge for my level 42 (now 45, post-DLC) character.

Players who have hit the level cap (81) can challenge the Ebony Warrior, a super powerful boss who can practically KO you with one "Unrelenting Force" shout, which is a nice perk for players who stuck with the game long enough to hit the cap.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dragonborn is a great addition to Skyrim and a easy purchase for anyone who enjoyed the main game. Dawnguard was a bit of a disappointment, but Dragonborn is a great reason to return to Skyrim.

-Starscream, GameVortex Communications
AKA Ricky Tucker

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