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The Good, The Bad & The Awesome, A Skyrim: Dragonborn DLC Review

Written by Jeremy Shane on Monday, December 10 2012 and posted in News with Benefits
The Good, The Bad & The Awesome,  A Skyrim: Dragonborn DLC Review

The newest DLC for Skyrim landed nearly a week ago and playtime is over, it's time for us to talk about the game now.


   So thousands of X-Box players have already sailed to Solstheim and adventured through the Dragonborn DLC, but for those waiting whether by choice or because you are on PC and PS3 we wanted to touch on a few things that may answer any questions you have.  Those that have played the DLC are welcome to chime in with their own thoughts about the add-on in the comments.

   *I would recommend checking out our Dragonborn DLC-Leak article if you haven't already.  It ended up being very accurate and has plenty of information that might not be doubled up on here.

   Once you get everything loaded and jump into your game, you will eventually get attacked by cultists of Miraak who attempt to kill you for being the false dragonborn.  Reading a note on one of their bodies leads you to a ship at Windhelm that you convince to take you to where they originated from: Solstheim.  Once you get there however, it's more than just a linear group of quests, it's a whole new miniature skyrim to explore with dwemer and draugr dungeons, new words of power and magic, new enemies and friends, random adventures and more.  This is definitely the best add-on for skyrim to date and a must have for skyrim fans.


  • Toys

   One of the better parts of Dawnguard was the addition of new armors and weapons from the two fighting factions, here we get that in spades.  Even if the armor or weapons were not something I personally wanted to use, you could tell how great the designs and options were for characters. 

   Chitin, Bonemold, Nordic Steel, Stahlrim armors with the last two also adding new weapons to the game (and a couple offering both light and heavy armor versions).  Best of all was the unique equipment added like the Champion's Cudgel, Deathbrand Armor (a unique set of light Stahlrim armor), Morag Tong armor (an ancient looking light Chitin armor), a few dragonpriest masks, a couple unique scimitars that compliment each other for two-handed fighting, and plenty more.

   New toy fun applies to mages this time around, as well.  A few different types of robes added, new rings, a staff enchanter, new spells, etc.  So if you don't play a battle-mage and the new armor and weapons is not a plus to you, there is still something for you here.

  • Hermaeus Mora's Realm

   Definitely more interesting than what we got with the Soul Cairn in the Dawnguard DLC, this Daedric realm has plenty of atmosphere with unique creatures, architecture of books and moving hallways, and best of all- unique powers at the end of each 'level'.  (There are several black books about the game that you can find and when reading them, take you to a new level or portion of his realm).

  • New enemies

   Often in DLC we simply get reskinned versions of existing monsters, we even saw some of this in the Dawnguard DLC, but on Solstheim you'll get your fill of new life (or non-life as the case may be).  For the reskinned baddies we get a few: Werebears, Morag Tong (expected since they are just people essentially), a new Dragon type, but we also get some great new opponents: Lurkers (in a few forms), Ash Spawn, Dwemer Ballista and Reiklings.

  • Something for maxed out characters

   Have you already hit the level 81 cap?  Bethesda even put a little bit of extra fun in the game for you.  No, they didn't extend the level cap, but there is a warrior wandering around that, just like you, has done it all and is bored and looking for a new challenge.  He's the ebony warrior and according to most offers one of the hardest fights in the game. He knows the full shout of Unrelenting Force, heals himself during combat and is loaded up with good equipment (the name might have given that part away).

  • More challenging

   I think Bethesda stepped it up a notch for how hard some of the enemies were to fight or even slightly more challenging puzzles for you to solve in ruins.  Overall, between a few additions in Dawnguard and now a few things in this monster managerie added, it's a little less easy to just sneak your way through the game now.

  • New Shouts/Powers that are good

   The new shouts added to the game are nice additions, especially the Dragon Aspect Shout. The new powers you get from the Black Books can't be overlooked either.  Some give you a bonus to your overall power that will help you in fights, but others address things you might not think about at first, but once you see them can't help but notice how helpful they will be.  Those that play with followers will be glad to see one that allows your attacks to not hurt allies, looters will definitely want the dremora merchant to conjure up and sell gear to.  All in all, the new powers added are really well thought out and can definitely help you craft a more class-centric character as well.


  • Spear Tease

   A big request from players has been the desire to see spears added to the game.  Well in Dragonborn, they finally do and it's not at all what you wanted if you were one of those folks.  The Reiklings use spears and when you add them to your inventory and equip them, you get a little bundle of spears on your back - that work like arrows.  Yes, you shoot them with your bow.  Bethesda has said they have plenty more DLC coming, including free upgrades like what we got with horse combat already, so we may see new animations added for the player to use spears in the future, especially since it was shown at the game-jam demo they did last year.

  • Werebear Tease

   Yet another topic of discussion for Skyrim fans has been wanting to be able to become other were-creatures besides werewolves.  You'll find a tribe of werewolves and a tribe of werebears on the island.  (If you are a wolf already, you can get some cool rings from the tribe by-they-way)  The werebears are only an enemy here though, to my knowledge you cannot become one.

  • Dragon Riding Tease

   The good news is yes, you get to ride dragons now.  The bad news, you really don't get any control over them.  Once you climb on board, they pretty much just circle about and you can fire magic from dragon back.  Personally this didn't bother me, but I've seen a lot of complaints about it and thought it worth including as something customers of the new DLC should be aware of.  You also don't get to do this until near the end of the 'main quest' for the DLC, so don't expect to jump right into this unless you plan on rushing through.

   One thing I'm still experimenting with is using map-markers to try and get them to move, I had a marker set on the other side of the island at one point and when I triggered for the dragon to land, he flew across the island and landed nearer to my marker.  Every other time they've landed somewhere below in the area they were circling.  I don't know if this was an odd occurance or not though, if anyone has had any different results please let us know.

  • Limitations on Toys

   One thing that always bugs me is getting a new weapon that is cool and not being able to improve it at the grinding wheel.  Pretty much takes it from cool to useless for me.  The champion's cudgel was one of these weapons.  It is pre-enchanted with a pretty cool effect so at least you can learn the enchantment from it, but it has a unique appearance so if you do so, it's gone plus it can't be upgraded.  There were a few other things like this as well, either you couldn't learn an enchantment off an item or couldn't improve something.

   A flip side to this is getting unique items that can be improved and have interesting effects but are just vanilla weapons.  I was a bit let down to see a couple weapons and armor sets added that have really interesting effects were just vanilla pieces that I didn't much care for appearance wise.

  • Bugs

   What would Skyrim be without a few bugs?  Although I did get a few of the normal variety: textures not loading right (or at all), X-Box freezing up a bit more than usual; I wanted to point out a few issues that need fixing soon:

   In two of Hermaeus Mora's sections there is a set-up that will remind you of the Skeleton Key return quest, except here light keeps you safe and darkness hurts you.  Unfortunately the sizzling sound that occurs as you get hurt never stops.  Not when you get to a safe zone, not when you leave the realm, not when you do anything else other than quit out and reload.

   Miraak wouldn't die.  I've heard of a couple other buggy bits of behavior from Miraak as well, but for me he froze near the end of our battle and stayed ethereal.  So you couldn't harm him and he just stood there indefinitely.  For one of the more challenging fights in the game, it's annoying to have to reload and start that section again right when you were about to win.  Apparently he has a unique death animation and it looked like he probably froze up as it was trying to trigger.

   Game freeze-up in Raven Rock home.  There are always issues of freezes or crashes from time to time, but this one seemed to happen repeatedly to me when trying to exit the home you get in Raven Rock.  Extra annoying because of course if you were there you were probably dropping off all kinds of equipment and changing things to head back out on your adventures.


  • PC

   What does this have to do with Skyrim? Well, it's not an ad for windows.  Even though I've been playing this on X-Box, I normally play Skyrim on PC and I think it is pretty awesome that almost all of "The Bad" can be fixed with mods.  Animations for werebears and dragon-riding will now be in the game, so expanding on that is even easier with mods now.  Same for the limitations of items, on pc there are already mods to learn unique enchantments and create unenchanted versions of unique equipment. 

   For PC players, they really don't have to concern themselves with some of the short-comings of the DLC aside from spears.  (Yes, I know they have spears in mods already, but they aren't used like spears, there is no unique animation for them).  One other small thing I wanted to mention PC wise, was seeing that Bethesda added "piles of gold" items to the game, so all those players hoping to see treasure rooms in mods, but sad because you can't drop a million little animated items without crashing the game can rejoice.

  • Raven Rock Home

   The home you can get in Raven Rock is probably the best in the game.  It's as good or better than the Hearthfire homes (my vote is for better because it's more unique) and it can even rival some of the mod-homes out there for PC.  It looked like someone at Bethesda was paying attention to players this time: Several manniquins, weapon racks, plaques, work areas for every type of crafting and plenty of storage options.

  • Nostalgia

   Fans of Morrowind may experience goose-bumps as they sail into Raven Rock for the first time, they might get giddy when they find a mage experimenting with a flight spell, maybe feel at home when they walk into the giant mushroom that is Telvanni Tower, and perhaps get a bit of axiety at watching Red Mountain spew ash on the horizon throughout the game.  But if you don't get a tear in your eye when you hear the music for Morrowind playing, you might be dead inside.

  • Exploration

   As we mentioned at the start, one of the best parts of the new DLC is that it adds to one of the best parts of Skyrim - picking a direction and just following your feet to see what adventures they take you on.  Although the meatier parts of the game are definitely the more linear quests, there is still plenty to find by just exploring the island (and little islands around it - Lord Tusk commands it!).



4 1/2 stars: Only the few things listed for me under 'The Bad' kept this
from being a completely perfect experience.  Great job by Bethesda.



Dragonborn DLC is available now for X-Box players and will be available "early next year" for PC and PS3.  Bethesda has given no official date on release for PC or PS3, but every other time they haven't advertised an exact date either, it's just come out a day or two after the 30 day exclusive time period for X-Box was up.  So my guess is maybe January 4th or 5th for PC, maybe a little later on PS3 depending on what it goes through to get certified for PS3 release.  (And no PS3ers, still no official word on Dawnguard and Hearthfire for you yet, but they are still working on it + if you can get one DLC, this is the one to get).


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About the Author - Jeremy Shane

Jeremy was born in a small mountain village of a strange foreign land called Weystvurginea.  Banishment for liberal views saw him spend years wondering the east coast until he decided to bike to California.  When he saw how long a trip it was, he drove instead.  Now he's living it up in a low humidity climate, sometimes working on his photography and when not, he writes for us covering books (by way of his blog: Reading Realms), gaming, tv, movies, comics, conventions in the SoCal area, and creates a weekly webcomic: A Journey Through Skyrim.  If you look for him offline, start in the L.A. area; online start at: for his profile and all the social networks he's on... or just follow him on twitter, he seems to be on there a lot: @jeremyshane.


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