Skyrim Dragonborn DLC PS3 review – Taking flight on a chariot of fire
Life isn’t always easy when you’re Dovahkiin. I’ve saved the world from a dragon apocalypse, overthrown the Imperials as a key part of the Stormcloak rebellion, and rebuilt the Thieves’ Guild into a force to be reckoned with. So you could forgive me for wanting to take it easy. But no, now comes a largely enjoyable chunk of DLC that tasks me with taking on an evil pretender to my title.
Skyrim Dragonborn DLC PS3 review
The first of three DLC packs headed to PS3 – Hearthfire and Dawnguard are set to follow, weirdly making the release schedule the reverse of that on other formats – Dragonborn landed on Xbox two months previously, with a main quest that clocks in at several hours for your £13. Worth the wait? In terms of exciting new foes to spill the blood of and fresh terrain to spill it on, absolutely – even if the whole ‘dragon riding’ thing is far less spectacular than it sounds.
It starts when you’re accosted by a pair of sinisterly masked men who ask if you’re Dragonborn. They call you a liar – seriously dudes, I killed Alduin, what more do you want? – and start literally trying to kill you with fire. Turns out these would-be assassins are Cultists, sent by the mysterious Miraak, the first Dragonborn. He’s also planning a big comeback and wants you out of the way. Tamriel evidently ain’t big enough for the both of you, so off you venture to root him out and teach him a lesson about respect. Oh, and he’s also keeping the peaceful Skaal under his control. You should probably sort that out, too.
This brief introduction aside, Dragonborn takes place on the island of Solstheim, just off the coast of Morrowind – we’re not in Skyrim anymore, Toto. It has a distinctly separate feel, a largely ash-strewn vista dominated by an erupting volcano off in the distance. As such, there are new ingredients, armour types and enemies to discover, plus a couple of additional shouts to add to your arsenal. It’s a decent-sized area of map to explore, with plenty of interesting locations to make that exploration feel worthwhile.
Thanks to some nifty Black Books, the main quest also whisks you off to the realm of Apocrypha. Leafing through one of these artefacts never fails to provoke an amusing response from faithful follower Lydia – “I do wish you’d stop doing that…” – before you get sucked into this parallel dimension. The Plane Of Oblivion associated with Hermaeus Mora, Daedric Prince of fate, knowledge and memory, it’s a dark, Lovecraftian labyrinth built from oddly stacked books and flapping pages. This must be what a Waterstones employee’s nightmares look like.
Apocrypha is also home to the frankly horrific Seekers – writhing masses of tentacles that fire off ranged attacks at you and clone themselves during scraps. If you’re skilled in archery, they’re best dealt with from a distance, but if you run out of arrows (as I did a few times) you can only restock back in Solstheim proper, and even then there’s only one real town at which to do so. It’s infuriating and sometimes leaves you in a fix. In comparison, the hulking Lurkers – big, stompy things that puke in your face like they’re in an episode of What Happens In Kavos – are practically a breeze. In tandem, these new foes make for some of the tensest, most challenging combat I’ve encountered in Skyrim.
One of the DLC’s headline features, though, is the fact it lets you ride dragons. Badass in theory, sure, but in reality it’s unwieldy like a First Great Western commute. You can’t control where your willing beastie flies, only set your sights on those back on the ground and let loose with a blast of dragon breath. It’s not even in first-person, which jars slightly. It feels more like a gimmick, and doesn’t really add a lot.
Another niggle is the fact that, in order to get Dragonborn working, I had to reinstall the entire game, patch and all, before downloading the DLC for a second time. That was fun. After that, however, it slotted neatly into my 60-hour save, with only a few crashes over an extended period of play.
Still, with an engaging main quest and a multitude of extra goodies to keep you entertained, Dragonborn justifies its price tag. If you’ve rinsed Skyrim’s dense main map – and let’s face it, you probably have: it’s now been a whopping 14 months since the game came out – this is a meaty, if long overdue, slice of additional adventuring to finally get stuck into.