It’s hard to believe that it’s been over a year since Bethesda’s epic adventure graced our homes and sent us on a journey through the mountainous lands of Skyrim. With impressive graphics, a generous helping of spells and dragon shouts, plus a seemingly endless list of quests, it came as no surprise that the title gained enormous praise, topping many a ‘game of the year’ list in the process. 360 players have already been treated to the decent if unremarkable Dawnguard, but this latest effort, entitled Dragonborn, seeks to be altogether more interesting and sizeable. You’ll have new areas to explore and new foes to encounter, but is it worth the 1600 point asking price?
Developer: Bethesda Game Studios
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Platform: Xbox LIVE Arcade (Reviewed), PlayStation Network, Windows PC
Genre: Role-Playing, Open-World
Release: (INT) 4th December 2012
All you have to do is travel to a major town, and it won’t be long before you’re attacked by masked cultists under the servitude of Miraak – the very first Dragonborn. With that, the quest is activated and you’ll gain access to an island that long-time fans of the series might well remember. Solstheim serves as the location for the entirety of the action, and despite being only a fraction of the size of Skyrim itself, there’s still plenty to see and do. Certain areas give off a distinct Morrowind vibe, but you’ll soon be trudging through the snow in places which could have easily been chopped from the main game. We aren’t saying that’s necessarily the case, but assets have certainly been reused here more than they were in Oblivion’s expansion, Shivering Isles.
Finding and challenging Miraak is no easy task, and you’ll have to traverse flooded ruins, jump into a Daedric realm and even make a questionable deal in order to complete the quest. The story isn’t especially well written and nor will you always have more than a single dialogue choice, but then Dragonborn isn’t about the story as much as it is about giving you fresh things to see. Unlike in Dawnguard before it, there’s no painfully long dungeon to endure, instead featuring a pace that makes you feel like you’re making headway and always on the verge of the next objective. It never quite reaches the high of the icy dual dragon battle from the previous download, but at least the soul cairn and confusing caverns are a distant memory.
An aspect seen in the trailer for Dragonborn is the ability to ride dragons. In a game where players could have easily clocked in over a hundred hours, new gameplay types should usually be encouraged. The dragon riding just isn’t up to the standard it should be however, with simple commands that don’t always seem to work when you want them to, as well as a complete inability to control the beast itself. Being at the mercy of the AI amounts to no fun at all and it’s a real shame given that games have been pulling off dragon riding for over a decade. It’s a missed opportunity for sure, but at least it’s just a fleeting part of the download that won’t be forced upon you again.
Skyrim has always been known for its plentiful sidequests, and there are a number of those included here. The main storyline only lasts around six hours of focused gaming, though the content pack can take a fair while longer should you spend time mingling with the townsfolk, soaking in the lore and taking the occasional scenic route. Whether or not you consider Dragonborn to be a worthwhile addition depends on your outlook on pricing, but there’s certainly enough content here if you’re itching for more Skyrim… though at this point, that happens to be a pretty big if.
Of course, you can’t expect to be blown away by a game which you’ve been playing for a little over a year now, but despite a new questline involving an ancient villain and one truly bizarre character, there’s been a definite loss of wonderment. Either Skyrim hasn’t aged too well or we’re just suffering from gamer fatigue having spent too much time in its enormous world, but it’s possible that you’ll be looking at Dragonborn this season as an unfortunate case of too little, too late. It’s still a solid piece of action and adventure (probably the game’s best add-on to date), and is a commendable purchase for anyone who can’t wait to once again lose themselves in this fantasy realm.
7.5 – Good. Entertaining but is held back by a couple of flaws. It will certainly capture its intended audience but it won’t appeal to everyone.