Skyrim: Dawnguard PS3 review – Stayin’ alive? That’s your call

It’s not every day you free a friendly vampire from a centuries-sealed sarcophagus and find yourself in the midst of a fanged version of Jeremy Kyle. This third piece of Skyrim DLC slots pretty much seamlessly into the Elder Scrolls experience, delivering an enjoyable storyline that pits the undead against their hunters, the titular Dawnguard. Oh, and it’s up to you to pick a side. First, though, you’re sent off to investigate – in typical Skyrim style – a mysterious cave. Trussed up within the depths is the aforementioned Serana, and her family are a nightmare.

Skyrim Dawnguard PS3 review

Volkihar clan leader Harkon – who happens to be her father – stumbled upon a prophecy long ago, foretelling the ability to blot out the sun. An audacious eclipse that not even Bonnie Tyler could have envisioned, and one that, as an evil bloodsucker, he’s pretty keen on. Serana is less so, which could make Christmas dinner rather awkward, and the family’s been torn asunder as a result – hence the whole ‘locked away for years and years’ thing.

Early on you’re offered a choice to join the vamps. Doing so gives you bonuses such as immunity to disease and poison, and some powerful new spells, but means that sunlight has some less-than-pleasant effects. What’s more, it also unlocks a whole new tree of perks and the ability to transform into a (somewhat clumsy) Vampire Lord.

Stay mortal and you’re fighting alongside the Dawnguard, who also provide incentives in the form of new weapons with added damage against the undead. As a start, they gift you with a crossbow, which is powerful and makes a wonderfully satisfying ‘swsssh-thunk’. It’s handy for keeping vamps at bay during combat – well-advised unless you want to join their numbers, because Sanguinare Vampiris is contagious like cooties.

Whichever path you choose Serana is on hand, and makes for an engaging, helpful new follower – feisty and able to hold her own in scraps against new enemies such as Bonemen and Gargoyles. Dawnguard also offers up a few extra locations: Fort Dawnguard and the imposing, labyrinthine Castle Volkihar, as well as the Soul Cairn, a bleak, purple-tinged Plane Of Oblivion that looks like a goth kid’s wildest dreams.

For a lot of the time, though, you’re travelling through Skyrim’s main map, albeit to far-flung corners, and trawling dank caves teeming with Frostbite Spiders. As such, it feels like a natural part of the game – an enjoyable questline in the game proper. It’s also the best of the three DLC packs to have finally hit Skyrim on PS3. Deeper than the largely customisation-focused Hearthfire, and more integrated into the game as a whole than Dragonborn, this is a lengthy extra chunk of game that’s well worth the money for anyone looking for an excuse to jump back into Tamriel.

Our Score

Score: 8
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