If it’s been a little while since you last roamed the hills of Skyrim on your trusty steed (or vertically up a mountainside), tried backstabbing a dragon or shot an adventurer in the knee, then Bethesda is ready to lure you back to Nirn with some new content in its first DLC – Dawnguard. Put on your gauntlets because they’ve given us a handful of more reasons to fight.
The first thing that might happen after you’ve taken a few steps in the snow is remember just how vast and daunting this world is. I took one look at my mile-long list of current objectives and I was immediately back in it. Looks like I’ll have to hold off on all of it if I’m ever going to make it through the new stuff. But it doesn’t matter where you are in the world or how far along in any quests you were – the first thing that happens after you download the content is you’re visited by a Van Helsing-idolizing Orc who tells you that the vampires are coming and you should totally come meet him and his buddies in their castle to talk about it. And off we go.
Without getting into too much detail about what unfolds, the basis of the plot is that these guys are members of a group called the Dawnguards, and they hunt vampires. They’ve always been around, but things just got serious when the oldest and most powerful family of vampires in Skyrim decided it was about time to block out the sun so they can roll deep 24/7 and pretty much run the place. You have to decide whether you want to make like Buffy and put an end to their charades, or if you’ve read enough Sookie Stackhouse books to fall in love with dead people and help their cause.
From a gameplay perspective, this means a lot of things. First of all, you get two brand new skill trees to go along with the content. The first is for the badass Vampire Lord form, which turns you into a demonic demigod and comes with a unique set of abilities. And since everyone who’s seen a vampire movie since 2003 knows that they have a serious vendetta against werewolves, the second tree is for new werewolf abilities. So regardless of which side you choose, you’ll have your own way of quickly traveling throughout the world and tearing up anything in your path.
You’ll also get a new weapon – a crossbow – and along with it the new blacksmith ability to forge both arrows and bolts. There are some cool new enemies like the Death Hound and Gargoyle, and also a bunch of undead-related stuff to add to the whole Transylvanian ambiance of the story (for instance, skeletons now pull themselves up out of the ground to attack you). You’ll find random vampire attacks happening throughout towns, you can finally attack with melee weapons while riding on your horse (!), and Dragonbone weapons have been added to take the place of strongest class.
If you decide to join the family and become a vampire lord, or if you come into Dawnguard already as a vampire (which, by the way, leads to some unique and occasionally hilarious dialogue), the game gives you a slightly revamped set of abilities. Aesthetically, your eyes now glow and you have certain bat-like qualities in your appearance. Your weakness to fire is now a smaller percentage, while resistance to ice is greater. You can now feed on people while they are awake, as opposed to exclusively assaulting people in their sleep, and, most importantly, people do not flee from you on sight when you’re a stage 4 vampire. You also have the option of turning your spouse into a fellow blood-sucker. So basically, they’ve made it a bit more user-friendly to join the dead.
A couple more things to know before you start loading up on silver and garlic (or not): If you’ve run into some guys from the Vigil of Stendarr, you know they have a place called the Hall of the Vigilant. If you haven’t checked it out, you might want to do so first, because as soon as you download the content that place is ash. Also, if you’re taking advice from the guy in Stepbrothers and you want to change your face, you can now do so with the services of a woman in Riften. She doesn’t like vampires though, and is for some reason one of the only people in the game that can tell if you are one, so if you’ve got fangs you’re stuck with your mug.
That’s about it. If you’ve played Skyrim, chances are you’ve contracted it’s addiction like the vampire infection, and Dawnguard just gives us another excuse to play. There’s plenty of cool new things to do and people and places to see, most notably of which is a trip to one of the famed realms of Oblivion. So grab a mug of mead and jump back into the game. Seriously. Mead’s delicious.