Wot I Think: Skyrim – Dragonborn

By Alec Meer on February 8th, 2013 at 10:00 pm.

Dragonborn, the second major Skyrim expansion (third, if you count Hearthfire) arrived on PC this week, after an unfortunate two-month wait from the Xbox version. I’ve unearthed my old character and dragged him off to the island of Solsteheim for adventures anew. Was it worth it? Hearken to me now, traveller.

Ah, that’s the stuff. Previous Skyrim expansions have been focus on filling in gaps that didn’t especially need filling, not to mention largely doing it in an awkward, hamstrung way (i.e. flying vampire lords who can’t fly, houses that can only be built in pre-determined ways and places), but Dragonborn is a traditional landmass & adventures expansion, just like mother used to make.

Whereas Skyrim’s first expansion, Dawnguard, had me grimly point-to-pointing through a desultory campaign, in Dragonborn I found myself constantly fighting the urge to go off-piste. In other words, playing it like an Elder Scrolls game, which is exactly what I wanted. (The only reason I felt I should fight the urge, by the way, was because I was conscious that I should get to the bit where you get to ride a dragon for this write-up).

Set on Solstheim, a sizeable island between the provinces of Skyrim and Morrowind, Dragonborn thus offers a return to the setting of venerated Elder Scrolls III expansion, Bloodmoon. I’m not sure that it’s recognisable as such, as Skyrim seems too setup for rock and ice, but it’s certainly working hard to not simply be More Skyrim.

Fan service abounds, but in sweeping ways that will make Dragonborn visually exciting for new as well as lore-drunk veteran players. Mushroom forests, houses inside giant crustacean shells, even a lone (sadly static) Silt Strider: it’s like Morrowind’s greatest hits out there. Perhaps it’s a little more contrived and too evidently zoned, but it brings some of the much-needed weird back to Tamriel after two games with relatively homogeneous environments. It pleases me enormously, both as a fan of Morrowind and as a fan of seeing strange new worlds on my monitor.

The weird also makes itself known in a new Daedric realm, which the ‘main’ campaign in Dragonborn weaves in and out of. We’ve previously seen the hell-plane of Oblivion and we’ve had multiple visits to the dark prince of madness’s crazyland, but this time around we’re visiting the realm of the self-proclaimed lord of knowledge. Imagine if Cthulu ran a library, essentially. Squid-faced priest-horrors patrol impossible towers of books, while pages flutter in the air like malevolent pigeons, Giger-esque corridors rotate and contract, and gruesome tentacles swipe at you if you get too close to the slime pits all over the place. Progress through these areas is all but linear, but presented in maze-like, consciously confusing style, to the accompaniment of dramatically strange vistas. It’s very different to Skyrim as we know it, and its deeply sinister, mixed-motive ruler, Hermaeus Mora, also seems as though Bethesda’s artists have finally been allowed to takes the brakes off.

By comparison, Dragonborn’s posterboy baddie, rival Dovahkiin Meerak, is a right old damp squib. Initial encounters with this dragon-riding, soul-eating masked nemesis suggest you’re in for a titanic airborne battle against someone who can handily out-Shout you, but alas it winds up in a straightforward, highly game-y, grindy bossfight against a dude who can regenerate his health a bit. An anti-climax in what’s becoming an Elder Scrolls tradition of anti-climaxes, but at least there are big fat hints that the infinitely more interesting (and creepy) Hermaeus Mora might have more in store for us later on.

Presentation aside, the main quest is perfunctory stuff. Unlike Dawnguard, it’s but a mere fraction of a much larger offering though – a new, demi-world of new sidequests, secrets, craftable items and large-scale sights. I.e. more of what Skyrim did best. Solstheim isn’t particularly large, but crams enough in and under it (as well as having those Daedric nightmare-library alt-worlds) to offer a healthy amount of new adventures. Some are disappointing, like what appears to be a new Thieves Guild questline, only to grind to a halt moments later, but there’s enough that’s long running and more unpredictable.

The question, I suppose, is whether it’s enough to drag one back into Skyrim. For me, it was. In Dawnguard I felt like I was continuing because I had to, here I feel like I’m having a good time doing my own thing in a new place that hybridises Skyrim and Morrowind.

The much-ballyhooed Dragon riding is, I’m afraid, a huge let-down however. Gained in the late stages of the new main campaign, it looks, feels and handles like a rough-around-the-edges mod, and it’s all too clear that the game was never designed with it in mind. The dragon, with you perched on top of it like a He-Man figure sat stiffed-limbed on top of Battlecat, basically controls itself: all you can do is tell it what to attack, which it will only do for a few, miserably low-damage moments before wheeling away again.

A real let-down, but I can’t say I’m surprised: the game wasn’t designed with sky-battles in mind and no doubt re-engineering it now would be a colossal demand. I can’t help but think that Dragonborn would have been better off leaving dragon-riding well alone, instead of undermining the other stuff it does so well with something so overtly silly and ultimately pointless. Attacking things on a dragon is just a huge, drawn-out pain, so traditional on-foot battles are by far the better alternative, leaving the only purpose of dragon riding to be travel. Only you can’t tell it were to go. Unless you do Fast Travel, which is the same as standard Fast Travel except you’re still sitting on a dragon at your destination. Oh well.

That major let-down (and the underwhelming nature of the villain) aside, Dragonborn is by far the most essential Skyrim add-on to date. All of Skyrim’s existent sins persist, so it’ll do nothing for those who didn’t get on with the parent game, but those who did will be eminently grateful for more of the good stuff, in a setting that combines both spectacle and fan-service. Hell, there are even a couple of good, and funny, characters, which is not something I’m used to saying about recent Bethesda games.

I must admit that I’ve increasingly felt negative towards Skyrim since its first weeks, but by getting Skyrim basics right and lending a little more wildness too, Dragonborn reminds me that I’m being churlish. There’s still so much Skyrim is short of, still too many situations which are resolved by violence alone, but within the confines Bethesda set for themselves they’ve really done ever so well here.

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96 Comments »

  1. Greggh says:

    Yay! The setting is all bleak and grimy and brown-y again :D

    Volcano ash in my trousers!! Hooray!

  2. FurryLippedSquid says:

    I played the vanilla game like a man possessed putting some 250 hours in with one character and another 50 odd with a couple of others. I fully exhausted it and nothing here is enough to draw me back, despite the lure of some Morrowind fan service.

    • Sandiiman says:

      250 with one, 50 with another? I have almost the same as you (320+) yet I have never reached over fifty with one character, and there are still things that I discover and find to be new.

      • FurryLippedSquid says:

        You aren’t running fast enough or looking hard enough.

      • Stevostin says:

        250 with the same character ? You must be bored to death. Bethesda games, never, never tried to be teh ultimate everything. 1) you can 2) than turns the game into a very bleak experience. OTOH, play a character that die if he dies… And you’re clearly playing the game of the games.

        I am on 280 on 2 characters. Rule is “no quicksave”. Wonderful experience.

    • Davie says:

      450 hours across three characters here–I’ve definitely gotten tired of poking about in caves and ruins on the mainland and I’ve done most of the quests, but Dragonborn has just enough new stuff and said stuff is just different enough to suck me right back in. Quests are more interesting, there are some unique takes on the standard dungeon types, the visual design is better, there are even a few likeable characters that don’t feel completely wooden. It’s worth taking a look even if you think you’re sick of Skyrim.

    • noodlecake says:

      I felt that way after about 60 hours over three or four characters. The dialogue and AI are so horrendously bad that it pulls down everything else. I think I also spoiled iot by getting The Witcher 2 whilm I was into it and it just felt terrible in comparison when I went back to it. I’m really nervous that The Witcher 3 is going to be spoiled by trying to make it open world. Open world definitely doesn’t mean better… Non-linearity definitely doesn’t mean better either if the story is strong enough.

    • tallachian says:

      I am on character number 5 currently level 57 going thru the whole Skyrim order. To date I have 1228 hours played and am still not bored with it. Why? because after the first character, who was a tankish, magic weilding do everything type, I put in restrictions on my toons. If you’re playing a thief, play it like a thief, no heavy armor and weapons, no magica save for some minor abilty in Illusion maybe, ect, ect.
      Granted playing a strict Assassin makes many of the fights one-sided in your favor (when your skills get up a bit) unless there’s a bunch of backup for your target there but still not insurmountable.
      The other thing is, dont replicate yourself from the previous character. take a different road and the world unfolds differently. Don’t blindly plod along with the sheep, forge a new path and game keeps it’s excitement. Granted too that there are many quests that resolve in much the same manner but this isnt nor should it be your focus.
      Ask the questions: Did I do everything? Am I Thane in all nine holds? Did I compete ALL the questlines? Were there some interesting side quests I missed? Did you unlock all the acheivements?
      I know many gamers out there just want a quick thrill and then start complaining because they’re not getting more content added to keep the quick thrill alive. Some will never be satisfied, while others take it as it’s presented and have a blast with it. I’m in the second group and am glad to see Dragonborn arrive to give me even more to do.

  3. Sandiiman says:

    I honestly couldn’t care less about whatever happened in the DLC, after 9 years I got to revisit Solstheim. Seeing that place again, I very well accepted that it was more than worth it that my food shopping for the week was going to be affected.

  4. Kestrel says:

    Every major Bethesda title straddles the line between greatness and disappointment, more so than almost any company I can think of. Oddly, they never seem to get it quite right, and their past mistakes are consistently repeated.

    I think I’ll pass on this DLC =/

  5. Fierce says:

    Sounds fine. Still waiting on the GOTY edition since it’s completely pointless to purchase this right now.

    It has already passed the window defined by the release dates of Fallout 3 -> Fallout 3 GOTY as well as New Vegas -> New Vegas Ultimate.

    So I’m thinking Summer Sale 2013.

    • MacTheGeek says:

      I’m in the same boat as you, but I don’t think we’ll see a GOTY until the end of 2013, at best. Rumors say that Bethesda is planning at least two more DLCs, and we won’t see a GOTY Edition until they’re all released.

      • Spengbab says:

        While waiting for the GotY version is a valid choice, you shouldn’t let it keep you from playing Skyrim – you can just buy the main game plus whatever DLC interests you. Like, the first 2 expansions haven’t been well received (Vampires are even worse than zombies and Hearthfire is a complete waste of money with the various extremely well-made Workshop houses available), so I’m not going to bother with those.

        I might buy Dragonborn when it comes up in a sale though. As for the remaining DLC, we’ll see. Maybe they’ll be more in the vein of Dragonborn and less Hearthfire-y

  6. bear912 says:

    That first screenshot bugs me for some reason, but your enthusiasm is almost insect-ious.

    • RedViv says:

      Another pun thread? You gotta be chitin me!

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        Bugs in skyrims crypts you say? I rather fancy a bit of entomb-ology

  7. Liudeius says:

    I just finished the main quest of Skyrim, and I just can’t understand why Bethesda chose to make the original game so uninteresting and standard.
    I was fighting spiders and zombies in the first dungeon in the game, with a dragon following almost immediately after, and I’m still fighting spiders and zombies (and dragons) in the final dungeon, where the game should be at maximum epicness.

    At least the final dungeon was somewhat exciting because of how many enemies there were. In the main Dragur area I think I was fighting about twenty, all attacking at once, and there was a 6 v 1 dragon fight, but I have a feeling that’s thanks to the WARZONES mod rather than Bethesda. (They did specifically say that more than two dragons at once had been deemed too hard.)

    This is the first DLC that I’ve actually been interested in just for how much more unique it looks, but I’m still betting Moonpath to Elsweyr is better.

    • woodsey says:

      I seem to remember there being multiple dragons fighting me towards the end of vanilla Skyrim, although I might just be a filthy liar.

      The amount of Draugr fighting after 100 hours or so had definitely begun to grow tiresome, although I can’t say I ever tired of the dragon fights – especially when town guards and such were dragged into the fold.

      • Liudeius says:

        I checked the .esm, and it was WARZONES. It adds five dragon spawns in Sovengard, close enough to each other that they all attack at once.

        • Cam says:

          Warzones is one of the mods that I deem *Essential*.
          The whole civil war part of the game always felt like a complete minor event; it never seemed even remotely important compared to the DRAGONS attacking everyone. The WZ mod at least gives certain points the feeling of an actual war, instead of a few random fights between groups of 3-4 guys wandering around chatting. (“so, what’s your story?”)

    • Acorino says:

      The main quest is dull dull dull.
      The Dwemer dungeon was alright, but maybe only because it was the first of its kind I encountered. Which was many many hours before I had to go there for the main quest. Which meant the shortcut to the dungeon end was locked for the second time, which meant I HAD TO DO IT ALL OVER AGAIN!!! GARRRGH!!!!!!



      I guess the peace conference was alright. Following General Tullius on his way to High Hrothgar and seeing him being joined later by Ulfric Stormcloak was much more interesting though. Side by side they walk in stoic silence, keeping the hatred for each other locked away in their hearts. Then Tullius starts massacring Stormcloak’s guards. Ulfric doesn’t interfere and seems to prefer to run away, cowardly. Directly before Ivarstead Ulfric gets his revenge at some Imperials, while Tullius runs straight over the bridge into the town to continue slaughtering Stormcloaks. They both rather seemed to enjoy slaughtering each other’s men!

      Skyrim offers some great quests and experiences, but the problem often enough is actually finding them. After having spent 141 hours (according to Steam) on one character, I have enough for now. It’s just odd becoming the arch mage and then when you visit the court magician in Whiterun he still says “If you got the aptitude you should think about joining the Mage College in Winterhold”. Yeah, fuck you! The arch mage of the freaking Mage College is standing right in front of you, you little skeever shit!
      The discrepancies between your power and the NPC’s perception of you contantly grows. I guess I start over with another character once the DLCs are available for cheap on Steam. I might then do another Guild questline, probably the Dark Brotherhood’s.

  8. caddyB says:

    Eh, will buy it around summer and build a huge mod library again. Definitely looks great, much better than the other addons ( which I’ve bought but never played ).

  9. cmc5788 says:

    Barely started reading the article, and I already appreciate your use of the term “expansion” with respect to DLC. Maybe DLC would be a little bit less awful if people actually treated DLC as an expansion.

    • Kaputnik88 says:

      I think the issue with ‘DLC’, in my experience, is that it frequently offers either superficial content, or content that should have been in the game in the first place, marking it as fundamentally different from the concept of expansion which implies(at least to me) a large amount of extra content like armours,weapons locations and storyline bundled together.

    • Xzi says:

      The problem being that the vast majority of DLC doesn’t have enough content in it to be classified as an expansion. DA:O Awakening, for example, is an expansion. 25 hours of new content, a little over half of what the original game included. Adds new character skills, new talents, new specializations, new companions, new areas, and a new storyline. We’re usually lucky if DLC adds just one of these things and 5 hours of new content for 2/3rds the price of an expansion.

      Bethesda is usually a little better than certain others (EA, Activision, Paradox) about their DLC, but in the end the whole thing was just designed to nickle and dime gamers without having them notice that they’re getting ripped off in comparison to how things used to work.

      • Werthead says:

        DRAGONBORN actually fits the expansion model quite well. I’m about 6 hours into it, have completed a few side-quests and one big dungeon (in the mines immediately next to the starting town) and have only just started venturing into the wilderness. I haven’t even looked at the main quest yet. Claims that the expansion can take 20-25 hours to complete everything in it seem quite plausible at the moment.

        That’s a lot better than FALLOUT 3′s, which all only took about 3-4 hours each to complete (aside from POINT LOOKOUT, which had more optional and side-stuff). FALLOUT NEW VEGAS’s DLCs are probably Bethesda’s finest released DLC (though they didn’t make them) to date, though. They’re all open areas (LONESOME ROAD somewhat less, and the first one is a bit monotonous), they were all fairly cheap and they could all take some time to complete. I think I sank 15 hours into OLD WORLD BLUES and still haven’t been into every corner of the facility. Plus the much better writing helped as well.

  10. DrAmateurScience says:

    Looks great, shame about the dragon riding.

    I do wonder why someone didn’t say ‘hey, what if they could *ride* the dragons?’ during the initial development. That would have been cool.

    Mind you, they got rid of levitate because of balancing (iirc?) so I guess having a flying mount presents the same problems – for the overworld at least.

    • Davie says:

      Levitation was done away with because Oblivion and Skyrim’s cities exist in their own cells, so any enterprising adventurer who floated over the walls would find themselves in a collection of useless LOD models. A shame, really, considering how successful the open cities mods were for both games.

      • SuperNashwanPower says:

        This nails it for me – of course. If you could fly, they would have to build mock ups of all the cities and somehow prevent you from landing on them. Then you have to worry about having a dragon in a city. Using the console to spawn a dragon somewhere it isn’t meant to be leads to some WEIRD behaviour. The only way to do it would be to go into a loading screen when you approach the city, remove you from the dragon, and leave it spawned outside the city gates. Or cut in a ‘dismount’ animation outside the city gates.

        TBH it doesnt sound like anything you couldnt work around, unless of course having the city geometry added in would slow consoles / low end PC’s to a crawl.

    • woodsey says:

      “I do wonder why someone didn’t say ‘hey, what if they could *ride* the dragons?’ during the initial development. That would have been cool.”

      I bet they did, and I imagine they didn’t bother because it’d either turn out to be stupidly overpowered (and I say that as someone who likes the fact that you can have 100% invisibility in Morrowind and such) or else need to be curbed to the point of utter disappointment, like it apparently has been.

    • Stevostin says:

      What would have been even cooler : “hey, do we really need the dragons ?”. They rather imped the general experience, although until a certain level they can offer pretty welcomed challenge. Then they’re just meanless meat.

      BTW, the real question would be “hey, do we really need a main quest”. A self conscious TES games that is openly about pick your adventure would be so… so … so great. The idea of a main quest kind of harm the core of what’s good in TES games.

      • Rindan says:

        I’m with you. TES games have simply horrible and awful plots. The story was easily the least interesting thing about Skyrim. TES does its best when it offers lots of exploration and little small scale stories. I wouldn’t mind a solid main story, but they are apparently completely incapable of getting something that is even vaguely palatable. I would rather they build more side quests and dungeons and the like than waste time spewing out a bad main quest story.

        I feel like the main plot in a TES game is like a bad romance in an mindless CGI filled action movie. You wonder WTF the director was thinking. Did they think that suddenly the film would woo people who wanted to see a romantic comedy by smearing a horrible romance into a blood bath of a movie? I feel the same about the main plot in a TES game. No one plays for the main plot. The main plot is bad and awful. People play in spite of it and, like a shitty romance in your CGI gore fest, edit it out from their memories and remember the good times.

        If TES just dumped the plot, it might actually free them up dump resources and redesign the game a “real” open world game.

      • Acorino says:

        Agreed.

  11. Rosveen says:

    Did you misspell Miraak’s name or did I just miss the pun?

  12. Jackablade says:

    Introduce mobile Silt Striders are we’ll talk, Bethesda.

    And Guar in place of horses.

  13. Strangerator says:

    Hear that sound? That’s the sound of a thousand modders making dragon riding awesome! Looking forward to the day when the final DLC has been released, when the modders will really cut loose and I’ll be able to tweak the game to make it really interesting. Granted, there are some decent mods now, but in a couple years it’ll be great.

    Looking forward to a more complete “no quest marker” mod, where the quest markers are not only permanently turned off, but the player would need to investigate and research to try to figure out where exactly a given ancient dungeon might be hidden. Obviously for this occur, many quests would need more information added, since Dovakhin would no longer be using his GPS to find everything auto-magically. A neat IG way to do this would be to put the relevant information into books, and drop those books where it might make sense in the world. Or just have them tell you “somewhere north of Falkreath”. Then you actually have to explore around and find the thing yourself. That’d be awesome. Get to work modders!

    • madchine says:

      Well, there is Better Quest Objectives which is essentially what you are asking for.

      Sadly, it is a one-man-operation and is very far from covering most quests. I’m ten hours or so into my second playthrough and the only altered quest descriptions I’ve noticed so far are the two telling you to go to Bleak Falls Barrow which have a little “It’s to the west of Riverwood” notice attached to them.

      In combination with the Immersive HUD mod and the memory og my previous stroll through skyrim, I find that you can play a decent muddle-navigate game without resorting to the map or quest markers.

      Ideally of course, you should need to look for landmarks, ask directions and get lost ten times over in order to find your destination. But that’s not gonna happen any time soon, I fear…

      EDIT: This just made me think that I needed more route finding challenge, so I added No GPS Arrow to my mod list. Finding my way in a Skyrim I know is one thing – wondering how it will affect the game once I get to Solstheim…

      • pokki says:

        We used to have this in Morrowind (yes, yes, get off my lawn, etc). I remember back then it felt awesome to have to take a look at your surroundings from time to time, bring up the map to see where you were in relation to the large cities, open the journal to re-read the directions (“it’s to the east of Pelagiad, directly north of…” “follow the path until you arrive at the lake, then…”). One of the main quests had you find a hidden cave through landmarks vaguely remembered through legend so you had to correlate vaguely poetic descriptions with actual terrain features “okay yeah from over here this might look like white wolf fangs…”. Exploration!

        Then you had no direct fast travel so to go back to a previously visited place you had to remember where it was (no markers for small landmarks, only towns and villages), teleport to the nearest Temple or Imperial shrine and take a combination of silt striders, mage guild teleports and boats until you arrived some place near your destination. Then run all the rest of the way while fighting off the damn cliff racers and diseased rats. Urgh.

        I don’t miss not having fast travel. I do miss not following an arrow to find where I’m supposed to go next. In Skyrim I find myself just fast-forwarding through most quest setup dialogue because there’s no point, they don’t tell you where things are: “a bandit leader in a cave”, they tell you, and you magically know which cave and precisely where it is, and when you arrive there the guy has a floating arrow over his head. There is not even a nod in the dialogue to the fact that you are supposed to be searching for places and hidden stuff and elusive characters. You don’t even have the option of ignoring the arrow because they don’t give you any other hints!

        The other dude has lost his family heirloom, his precious, he has searched for it for years, made it his life’s purpose… but from your point of view the second you hear about his plight you know exactly where everything is, and you solve his lifelong problems in an afternoon of running around.

  14. Engonge says:

    I started playing vanilla skyrim,attacked 3 guys who were transmitting a prisoner of some kind.I approached to talk to them,they refused(or something similar),I attacked them and faced a terrible death.I yelled “BULLSH*T” while throwing away the keyboard and never got back to the game.Yes I’m 12.

    Clunky UI and too much simplistic combat killed it for me.I dont see how anyone finds that combat interesting.

    I’ll get back to it eventually with a new UI that doesnt suck donkey’s genitals.

    • Xzi says:

      “I dont see how anyone finds that combat interesting.”

      They mod it, heavily. I have a completely different UI and combat experience in my Skyrim.

    • Davie says:

      There is absolutely no reason not to use SkyUI. It solves pretty much every problem with the interface, and it’s been out since a month after the game was released.

      • derf says:

        It truly doesn’t.

      • Acorino says:

        it solves every problem with the inventory (aside from item names), but with the rest? i don’t think so.

  15. Universal Quitter says:

    Damn, I may have to buy this. I always (cynically) hope that all DLCs in games like this will be superfluous garbage, that way it’s cheaper to get the full experience by being able to ignore extra “content”. Thanks again, Bethesda, for lightening my wallet with interesting locations that add much needed flavor to your games.

    Side question: is spellcheck local, coming from my browser, or site dependent? It rejected “flavour” as a correct spelling, which I thought was hilarious with this being a UK-based site.

  16. Mdnthrvst says:

    A slight correction: The wording at the beginning of the fifth paragraph seems to imply that “Oblivion” is the term for the hellish realm encountered in TES IV through the Oblivion Gates, and that Apocrypha is an entirely separate thing.
    Daedric realms are ALL regions of Oblivion, and Hermaeus Mora’s library of Apocrypha is no different from any other.

    In TES IV, since Mehrunes Dagon was the Prince invading Tamriel, you mainly explored his so-called Deadlands, which is likely the “hell-plane” you’re referring to, but there was also Mankar Camoran’s Paradise, as well as the various other realms we didn’t see.

    • SanguineLobster says:

      I hope we get a chance to see Azura’s Moonshadow sometime. Maybe if Elsweyr is the next game.

      • Acorino says:

        I presume the next Elder Scrolls will be set on Summerset Isle, just because the Psijic Order that was introduced in Skyrim is from there.

        • pokki says:

          The Psijic Order is well-established in the lore, from way before Skyrim. I haven’t played Arena (for more than two hours) or Daggerfall, but there already are references to the Order in some books in Morrowind.

  17. Bill says:

    I can’t understand how anyone would put hundreds of hours into Skyrim. I managed about 30 in total, over probably 3 characters, and most of my time was spent tinkering with mods, trying to turn it into a game actually wanted to play.

    I finally admitted that I can’t get into a game that so readily shows me the cracks and seams in the illusion. It asks me to believe the grand vistas and epic mountains only to have my horse walk up a vertical cliff. I am left gazing to the horizon, only to see the right angled corner of the ocean.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      300+ hour player here.
      A few patches and mods, and BANG – the silly is gone.

      Sorry to invalidate your view, but my experience was just so opposite to yours.

      • noodlecake says:

        So is there a mod to make the acting not completely off putting and the AI decent and the first person combat actually fun? Or do you just have to pretend that they’re good and grind on like you do with no mods?

        • Rosveen says:

          Yes, there are some excellent mods for combat and AI. Sadly, we can’t do much about acting.

  18. CountVlad says:

    It does look really good and I was looking forward to it but sadly my save, which I had spent many hours on, seems to have got permanently corrupted. I might buy this if I can drum up the enthusiasm to start again from scratch.

    Note to Bethesda: Please, please, please fix your save system. Your games are the only ones where I have had problems with corruption, even when using mods with games that don’t officially support modding.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      Did you have many mods installed? Before your save became unusable, did you start getting hitching and stuttering? If so you may have fallen foul of some mods’ use of scripting, which under certain circumstances can cause massive bloating of save game sizes. Anti-bloat mods won’t help you – the problem is a script looking for an uninstalled mod, and generating endless error logs. So your save file goes from 10Mb-ish to 140 in short order, until it just won’t work anymore. Check your save game size and see how big that lil monkey is. It shouldnt be much more than 20 meg (assuming 350+ hours play).

      Its a royal pain because it happens when you deactivate or uninstall a mod, so you only know its happening once its too late. Look on the comments for mods and see if people talk about bloating. Other than that all you can do is find a save game from BEFORE you installed the naughty mod. Hope this helps!

      EDIT: The mod Sounds of Skyrim was a major offender, though I think its been taken down or changed now.

      EDIT2: I also just read that patches can affect mods and introduce bloating. Annoyingly, the advice is to deactivate the mod! Fancy playing russian roulette with your save game?

      EDIT3: Actually, just go and read this lol http://skyrimforums.org/threads/save-files.5932/page-2

      • CountVlad says:

        Thanks for the reply. I’ve been using SoS almost since it came out. It sounds like that could be the problem because I uninstalled it (and foolishly deleted it) using NMM recently and that’s when the problems started. My current save is almost 50MB and my smallest existing save is 13MB.
        I’ll have a play around with it using the info on the thread you posted and see if I can get it to cooperate.
        What we really need is a tool to clean saves of non-existant scripts…

        • SuperNashwanPower says:

          Ah right yeah SoS was a meanie. Annoyingly, when you set the thing up it gives you a choice of what sounds you want to operate. If you choose certain ones, the mod will be fine and never cause a problem. I believe it was only if you chose some of the town sounds, like the kids playing and cats fighting. I got the bloat post-uninstall, yet my dad didn’t, because of the sounds I chose.

          I am not certain, but I believe that the Skyrim Script Extender may have been responsible for introducing the conflict with Papyrus, Skyrim’s built in scripting tool. The SSE was a fan-made addition needed to run certain mods, and as such, outside of Bethesda control. I may be wrong, but I believe it was the addition of SSE to Papyrus that introduced the possibility of these infinite error logs being generated, so the onus would be on the SSE programmers to remove this flaw.

          I got to the point where if I installed a new mod, I would make a copy of my save BEFORE installing, then religiously monitor the file size, then uninstall and do the same. Make sure to fast travel around and enter buildings a lot. If the file size stays OK, the mod is alright. Massive PITA though. Would be interesting to find out if you can directly edit out the script remnants though.

    • Rosveen says:

      For best practice do NOT deactivate mods on a running game. Ever. Some mods are quite safe to remove, like texture replacers and such, but if there are any scripts you need to be VERY careful.

      As for Sounds of Skyrim, it was the Civilization module that caused bloating (specifically, its scripts). It’s fine as long as you keep it, removal is the problem. Here’s a way to safely remove it:
      http://forums.bethsoft.com/topic/1423035-should-i-uninstall-sos-sounds-of-skyrim/page__p__21961595#entry21961595

  19. Jim Rossignol says:

    This has me intrigued. Might be time to go back to Skyrim.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      Hi Jim, what are your thoughts on the price? I am sure Bethesda DLC used to be cheap and cheerful for quite humungous chunks of game :) Maybe I have rose-tinted steam sale spectacles on …

  20. SuperNashwanPower says:

    Anyone know if having mods installed will conflict with this DLC? I have lots of en-beautifying mods installed to get rid of rubber water and hideous imitation leather faced nords.

    • Alphadrop says:

      No probs with texture mods and most other mods work fine with the dlc. It’s only mods that change/add some esoteric coding that may have trouble.

  21. Prolar Bear says:

    This is my opinion only, but I thought vanilla Skyrim didn’t deserve the title of Game of The Year here at RPS. It’s been two years since I’ve played it, but I can remember the story being fairly dumb, with no really good characters (as Alec said in this article); also, as pointed out, pretty much everything is solvable with combat. My gripe is that the combat is way too simplistic and there’s simply not enough variation in the game: I remember most caves being very similar, with similar enemies etc. (“OH you’re a high level character, let me throw some more draugr at you”). This does look to reintroduce a bit of weirdness back to the game, at least, so it looks like a step in the right direction.

    • croaker says:

      It seems to always happen with Bethesda games these days. They come out, every single reviewer is madly in love for however long it takes them to make a review and then a year later no one really likes that game much anymore. But it’s too late as they’ve all gotten their metacritic scores and their goty awards. Works for Oblivion, Fallout 3 and Skyrim equally.

      I tried Skyrim on release and found it to have the same flaws as their previous games so I didn’t get far. Hopefully one day Bethesda will get an animator, a writer and a QC department. I’m not holding my breath though, it’s much more profitable to just let modders fix everything wrong with their games. It’s bizzare they actually have a great reputation because they let modders do their jobs.

    • bigjig says:

      I totally agree, and the problem I have with that is that Bethesda will never have any true incentive to improve their games in any meaningful way when they release crap that gets 50 GOTY awards every single time.

      The link below is a view of another TES fan that had very similar frustrations to mine. I guess I just have to accept that TES is just another game series lost to the casuals..

    • Acorino says:

      Skyrim was my favorite game ever in the first 50 hours I spent with it. It lost its shine after that, sadly. But it can be amazing…mostly outside the scripted narrative of course, just roaming the wilderness, hunting creatures down, being hunted down, traveling to Winterhold with horse in tow (never used one of those auto-travel carts, what’s the point?), and simply seeing things happen.

      Yet if I had to formulate a pro and contra list about the game, I’m sure I would list more negative aspects than positive ones. There’s so much that’s wrong with Skyrim, but I don’t think that makes it a bad game, because in its best moments it soars to rarely equaled heights. The low points show the way forward and how much potential remains untapped. I sure hope Bethesda get rid of fast travel and the GPS (though limited teleportation is fine) and design the game in a way that lets you find your way on your own without the HUD telling you how to, like Gothic and Outcast managed to. Because the best moments lie out there in the simulation, where things just happen, without any scripted events getting in they way.

  22. Shooop says:

    Oh good, we do get to meet Hermaeus Mora!

    If the price and the mods are right I may consider this.

  23. Zorn says:

    I always feel like I’m playing a hiking simulator when playing one of Beteshda’s titles.

    • LennyLeonardo says:

      I keep thinking an actual hiking simulator would be good. Or rather an adventure simulator, where you have realistic carry weight and container issues, hunger, thirst, warmth, fatigue, injury, and stuff like that to deal with, but in a wide open fantasy world like Skyrim’s.

      Imagine if you needed to load up a backpack with supplies and make sure you’ve had a good rest before you trek from Whiterun to Markarth It could take days. And levelling is all about survivability, not combat, and a single wolf could bite your face off in one go, or a broken leg could have you crawling for the nearest village hoping to find a doctor.

      That’s the kind of fantasy adventure I want.

      • Strangerator says:

        You can get a lot of those functionalities through mods, but as is the case with many such systems, they don’t quite synch up with how the game was designed to be played.

        If Bethesda were smart, instead of the DLC stuff they’ve been doing, they could continue working on modder support and some kind of front-end software to allow console players to use mods. There’s so much content being generated out there, if they only had a way to QC the best ones and allow them to go to all versions of the game. Maybe even roll it into some kind of micro transaction system, where you could buy mods for super cheap?

        • Acorino says:

          They really should learn to think about user generated content like Valve does.

  24. meepmeep says:

    I hope there’s more door puzzles that have to be solved by reading three symbols off a claw buried somewhere in your inventory. That never gets old.

    • Acorino says:

      The first time around it felt clever, after that I couldn’t believe they were recycling the same puzzle over and over again. It’s only a puzzle if it has to be solved. If you already solved it once…what’s the point?

  25. running fungus says:

    Had no interest in Dawnguard but may give this a go. I returned to Skyrim after the clusterfuck that was XCOM and was blown away by how great, and large, it is, all over again. Currently level 78 and thought to pursue a rather obsessive 100 skill in everything goal, along with poking in every single corner of the world, at which point I expected to be sick of the thing entirely, but the draw of a decent expansion (and new character, maybe?) may do it.

  26. koalasoftware says:

    I loved Skyrim for about 80 hours, then it started to feel like a grind and then I realised I was in a Skinner box and felt somewhat stupid for putting that much time into it. The world is fantastic, but the quests being just fetch this, kill that, seemed a bit simplistic, and the lack of characters killed it. I don’t see anything in this expansion to fix that.

  27. kupofatu says:

    as Dawn implied I’m stunned that a person can profit $7584 in one month on the computer. did you see this webpage http://www.Cloud65.com

  28. JanusForbeare says:

    Okay, so I’m a year late to the party, but I just wanted to say that Alec’s criticisms of Skyrim and its DLCs hit the nail on the head. I spent years delivering similar rants on various message boards, so it’s nice to see that I’m not alone in protesting the emphasis Bethesda has placed on form over substance in recent years.

    Kudos, Alec. I salute you.