By now, you may feel that you’ve seen and done just about everything that The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim and its titular location have to offer. That may be the case, apart from the odd miscellaneous quest, dungeon cleansing or standing stone hunt, which means that you should look elsewhere. Perhaps a trip to Morrowind‘s island of Solstheim, wherein a brand new quest line awaits your surly skills, is in order. The landscape has changed since the series visited it last, and there’s a lot for you to do.
In order to take the aforementioned trip, one must accomplish two separate tasks, after completing The Horn of Jurgen Windcaller quest in the main campaign. First, the game’s brand new Dragonborn expansion must be downloaded and installed. Once that objective is completed, the player must venture to one of the land’s major city forts, where he will come face to face with mysterious assassins. When those strange baddies’ mission is put to an end, and their orders are stolen, it’s time to head to the Windhelm Docks to charter a boat.
After landing on Solstheim’s ash covered shores, a new adventure begins. The people need help, and you’re the one to assist them, which is especially true considering the fact that you’re holding a note that helps to explain the curious mystery. That is, an interesting plot that has a lot to do with a surreal set of black books and another Dragonborn, who doesn’t have friendly aspirations. Are you up to the task of saving the gloomy island’s inhabitants from certain doom, at the hands of ancient evil and ashen zombies?
Unlike the two add-ons that came before it, Dragonborn can easily be referred to as a full expansion, because it offers quite a bit of content for approximately twenty American dollars. In fact, you’ll find that the download contains upwards of thirty hours of new content, including high-quality story missions that take a decent amount of time to complete. A lot of the available game time does come in the form of side missions and miscellaneous activities, however, not to mention location scouting. There happens to be more than thirty different locations to find, ranging from construction sites and burrows to elaborate dungeons and unique towns. If you go for one hundred percent completion, it will take you a lengthy amount of time to fully complete the locations’ offered missions and find all of their hidden loot.
Finding all of the black books is a lengthy jaunt in and of itself. While some of them appear in main quests, others are hidden or locked away, requiring additional questing. Only five are needed in order to unlock one of the new achievements, though you may want to go the extra mile by finding the other two. That’s because, upon reading one of the memorable collections of papyrus, heroes are transported to a strange and surreal realm where things aren’t always as they seem. Loose pages fly, and weird enemies creep around, waiting for someone to attack. Those who best them and their twisted homes end up being gifted with special attributes, making the time investment more than worthwhile.
As far as the included gameplay goes, not much has changed, apart from one major addition: dragon riding. The series’ legion of fans can look forward to a lot of on-foot questing throughout the majority of this new campaign, and will find new followers to share their adventures with. However, during the latter part of the experience, a second unique shout is learned, allowing dragons to be tamed. Once friendly, the beasts can be ridden through the air, with players targeting enemies as they soar. It’s an interesting idea, and one that people had been requesting for quite a while, but its execution is unspectacular.
Simply put, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dragonborn is the lengthy RPG’s best add-on thus far. Its presented quest line is entertaining and immersive, and the supporting objectives certainly don’t lack variety. The only notable issue to be found regards its frame rate, which stutters, and also drops to zero at times, effectively resulting in momentary freezes. Of course, Skyrim is known for having that particular problem, which makes it easier to overlook. After all, the game is huge, and open-world experiences are rarely glitch free.
Those who can’t get enough of Bethesda Game Studios’ spectacular role-playing game should certainly attempt to become Solstheim’s much-needed hero, or heroine. The island is in need of a savior, and it offers a lot of interesting adventuring, which makes this expansion’s twenty-dollar price tag easy to digest.
This review is based on an XBOX 360 copy of the game that we were provided with.