Skyrim’s long awaited first DLC expansion is here at last. Does Dawnguard live up to expectations or does it simply flounder about? Depending on what you want and expect out of this expansion, I will be recommending it or warning you to stay away. Unfortunately, by itself the expansion is quite disappointing. The main quest is rather boring as well as being a Vampire Lord is not thrilling sadly. What it does have going for it, however, is what it brings to Skyrim itself. This is the expansions main redeeming parts as it opens up the fun you can have in Skyrim some more with exploration.
The main plot of Dawnguard is the introduction of two fractions, the Vampire Lords and the Dawnguard. The Vampire Lords main purpose is to thrive and aim at blocking out the sun, while the Dawnguard attempts to do everything in their power to eliminate the Vampires once and for all. Near the very beginning, you are given the chance to choose your side in the fight. Choosing the Vampire side, will allow yourself to become a Vampire Lord and use its new powers to your advantage. Either choice will eventually lead you down the same path and quests in the end, just for different goals in mind. Unfortunately the expansion mainly deals with this huge quest line of a story and offers very little areas to explore.
The thought of becoming this all powerful Vampire Lord sounded like a lot of fun to be had. Sadly, there is little to be found here. If you decide to become a Vampire Lord, do your best to never use it in a cave. As a Vampire Lord, you are much taller and forced to view your actions in 3rd person view. This would normally be fine, except that in small corridors you will find yourself stuck and unable to continue on unless you revert back. Unlike the normal Werewolf, you can transform back and forth as often as you want during the day. Transforming often might be ok if there was not annoying 10 second sequence you have to witness every single time. It should also be mentioned that while you are a Vampire Lord, you do not have the ability to unlock doors or chests as well as can’t pick items up. This makes exploring as a Vampire Lord rather annoying.
So what about the powers of a Vampire Lord? As a Vampire Lord you of course have access to normal vampire spells and powers. And just like normal vampires, your powers and weaknesses advance the more you go without feeding. If you transform as a Vampire Lord, you will have access to unique gifts such as directly absorbing health or turning into a bat and quickly getting away for a quick second. The Vampire Lord contains two different status, one where you are on the ground in melee mode and another where you’re hovering in place and have access to your magic. Sadly most of the Vampire Lord powers are rather disappointing and don’t help as much as you think they will.
While being a Vampire Lord is disappointing, there are some qualities that can help make it worth it to keep it around. The main advantage of being in Vampire Lord deals not with combat but just how you get around Skyrim itself. While hovering, you can more easily get around by easily going over any rocks in the way as well as it allows you to travel over water directly without swimming. This can help you get access to hard to reach islands as you can jump while hovering, even over water. Another is the ability to quickly move great distances by sprinting. While you are a Vampire Lord, instead of using your legs to sprint, you use your wings. This ends up having you travel very fast across the land, much faster than a horse too.
So the main quest and being a Vampire Lord may be disappointing, so is there anything else that might make this expansion worthwhile? While the expansion by itself is disappointing, what it offers and brings to Skyrim is what makes downloading this worth it. The main thing the expansion brings, besides the Vampire Lords, are new armor types, the crossbow, and two more powerful dragon types. Before now, the highest leveled dragons were the Ancient dragons, now this has been replaced with the Legendary dragons. These dragons require very high player levels before you an even fight them. So don’t expect to be facing off with the powerful creatures unless you are level 70 or higher.
Another thing that makes exploring and playing around between quests is the introduction of new shouts. One of which allows you to call forth a dragon to help you out for a few minutes. This dragon will follow you around and kill anything that tries to attack you. Another is a very useful Steal Soul shout. As you can imagine, if used and is a hit, it will not only steal the enemy’s soul and place it in a soul gem, but also make them your ally. Throughout the entire expansion, you will be introduced to a Vampire Lord named Serana, who is voiced by the wonderful Laura Bailey, will be joining you on quests to help finish them. Not only are there the normal benefits of having a NPC follow you around and fight with you, she is also invincible. No matter where you go, she will not die, even after the main storyline of the expansion is over. This can be a huge benefit if you welcome the addition to your exploration.
While Dawnguard on its own might be disappointing and rather short, around 20 hours, what it brings to the series is what utterly saves itself from being unwanted. So like I mentioned in the beginning, depending on how you view this expansion this may or may not be for you. If you want to only play the expansion for what it’s worth on its own, then you will end up feeling disappointed. However, if you love to explore endlessly around Skyrim, then this expansion will benefit you most with what new stuff it brings to the table.