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The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dragonborn
Score: 95%
Publisher: Bethesda Softworks
Developer: Bethesda Softworks
Media: Download/1
Players: 1
Genre: Adventure/RPG/Free-Roaming

And The Hours Continue:
When I reviewed Skyrim back in 2011, I said that gamers would lovingly refer to it as their Christmas vacation of 2011. That was an understatement, I'm afraid. If you are the type who strives to find all of the secrets, level all of the skills, make all the potions, enchant all the items... you might still be playing.

If, however, you find yourself looking for more... everything... to do, then you're looking for the Dragonborn DLC. This expansion is nothing less than massive, with an entire landmass to explore.


Let's Get Dangerous:
This time, you're not merely dealing with bitter cold, but a large volcanic isle that was nearly choked to death by volcanic ash. Bandits in Skyrim were dangerous, I suppose, but the Reavers of Solstheim mean business. The most 'civil' place you'll find on Solstheim is Raven Rock, a dunmer (drow) mining town. The mine's been shut down and everyone who remains works hard to simply get by. Even the guards are likely to grumble at the presence of another mouth to feed, so don't expect any handouts - or lenience. However, there are a few opportunities to make friends in Solstheim and, when food and money are scarce, friends are a useful commodity.

When I first made my way to Solstheim, I found my character to be a bit underpowered. Mind you, that character was at level 23 at the time. I realize that most players would probably have exceeded level 23 (by quite a bit) by the time they ventured into the Dragonborn DLC, so I'm not saying it's a balance issue or anything, I'm just saying it wasn't a cakewalk. I had to be careful and use some strategy to achieve my goals. Then again, that's the way I typically play anyway, which contributes to me being lower leveled in the first place.

As I write this, I'm at level 36, so I've spent 13 levels so far roaming around Solstheim. The difficulty feels a lot more reasonable at level 36, but when I get separated from my companion, things get tough... and when I find myself alone against four opponents, I start trying to remember the last time I saved my game, 'cause everything is likely to go sideways. Hell, if I'm alone against four enemies, it already has.


The Main Event:
The main quests of Solstheim revolve around another Dragonborn; one who isn't pleased to hear of competition. He plans to use his powers to sinister ends and would prefer not to have to worry about a possible rival.

If you've completed the High Hrothgar quest, your recent recognition as a Dragonborn by the Greybeards has placed a target on your back and you start off on the Dragonborn main quests when you're attacked by some Dragon Cultists. Once you've dispatched of them (you did win the fight, right?), you find a letter on one of them that leads you the island of Solstheim to hunt down the Dragonborn that sent men to kill you.

The main quests will have you seeking mysterious black books and, through these enchanted tomes, accessing Apocrypha, the realm of forbidden knowledge. To arrive at the realm, you read a black book. To leave? Simply read the book again. However, when you travel to this dangerous realm, you do so alone; you won't be able to rely on your companions on these tasks. Although you can leave by reading the book (or by dying) and you'll be returned safely back to your body in the real world, any potions used up in the other realm are still used up, so failure is not without its price. (Something I became all too aware of in some more mundane battles after having wasted all of my healing potions in this otherworldly realm.) The only way to learn the forbidden knowledge of each book, however, is to succeed and make it through whatever the book has to throw at you. These tend to be puzzle-like in nature, but are also populated with "Seekers" and "Lurkers" - neither of which are very nice to hang around with.

To be honest, I found the black books' challenges to be the most frustrating aspect of Dragonborn. The ability to keep playing it over and over without dying and reloading your game means that it's very easy to lay waste to your stockpile of healing, invisibility and sneak potions (or other useful potions) and leave you with fewer and fewer resources. I suggest saving as you go and... if you die in Apocrypha without advancing to a new chapter, reload your game. It's one of those things that feels very creep-and-save, but otherwise these can seriously hurt you in the long run.


And Now, The REST of The Story:
If you haven't completed the High Hrothgar quest yet, you can still travel to Solstheim by seeking out passage at the docks in Windhelm. Once there, you will have hours and hours of quests to play through, even without the main quests. There are NPCs who need help with some things, wild creatures and bandits roaming about, places to discover and, of course, dragons to kill.

You can go into business with an prospector to uncover the riches of a barrow, help (and gain the friendship and assistance of) a powerful wizard who lives in a magical tower made from a single mushroom. You can also get in good with the locals at Raven Rock by helping to solve their little problem with "Ash Spawn" - undead (and angry) souls who rise up from ash into vicious humanoid monsters bent on killing the living.

There's also a loan shark and general ruffian, Mogrul, to whom almost everyone in Raven Rock is in debt. He threatens everyone - when the guard isn't around - and will send henchmen to collect on his debts, but won't do anything "wrong" when the guard can see him, so you'll need to do your best to avoid him or use your choice of diplomacy, intimidation or stealth to deal with this character.

My favorite aspect of Dragonborn (and Skyrim, for that matter) has got to be simply the exploration... and Dragonborn provides a lot of it. One thing that seems inconsequential but that I spent three levels on (well, really quick levels), was simply a hollow tree stump in eastern Solstheim. I affectionately refer to it as the "Horker Dojo." It's perfect for practicing (and majorly leveling) Sneak, Conjuration, Heavy Armor, Light Armor and Restoration, but I'll give full details about that in an upcoming post. Check back for a link below.

If you're looking for more Skyrim, I highly, highly recommend Dragonborn. Hours and hours of additional content await you. Again...


-Geck0, GameVortex Communications
AKA Robert Perkins

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