Taking Sides with Skyrim’s Dawnguard DLC

Consider Dawnguard’s arrival on PlayStation 3 a late Hallowe’en present from Bethesda. The latest The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim expansion is full of vampires, creepy rituals, spooky old castles, and a lot of violence. There’s also a lot of epic questing thrown in for good measure, too.

Party tricks

Just like Dragonborn, there’s an awful lot of content added here, although unlike your quest to Solstheim, Dawnguard takes place almost entirely within Skyrim. This premise may turn a few people off, but the DLC manages to tie in some superb new environments and exciting quests, all without leaving the snowy land we’ve come to love.

Really, everything centres around one big decision: do you join a clan of vampires on the brink of returning to greatness, or do you sign up with the Dawnguard, a vampire hunting organisation? Both factions offer up their own opportunities and advantages, so if you’re willing to use separate saves, there’s a large amount of replayability here.

Deadly gaze

Both quest lines essentially encompass the same story progression, the only difference being that you’ll see it unfold from the perspective of just one group. The quests themselves are varied and enjoyable, with some being particularly lengthy and brilliantly grand. Dawnguard arguably has some of the best singular missions in the entirety of Skyrim and its DLC – and that’s saying a lot.

The plot is spurred on by a wide cast of characters, and while some are still rather one dimensional – as we’ve come to expect from the game – others really stand out as memorable personalities. A woman who can partner up with the dragonborn for much of the content as a follower, Serana, is one of these characters – she’s easily one of the most likeable and endearing NPCs that the title has produced, featuring a broad range of well written dialogue.

Old bones

However, a somewhat linear story isn’t all that Dawnguard brings to the table. The DLC also manages to squeeze in some new optional dungeons, radiant quests, equipment, and even introduces new enemies into the game world. Tired of culling the usual bunch of dragons with just a couple of arrows? Then you’ll love the new deadly breed of flying lizard. Just make sure to lure them away from villages if possible – unless you’re eager to see Skyrim’s peasants become an endangered species.

Surprisingly, the real stars of the DLC are the unexpectedly grandiose boss battles scattered throughout, most of which take place in picturesque locations that are bound to impress. Actually fighting these enemies feels familiar, but the well-paced narrative ties the combat together very well, making Dawnguard seem like one of the dragonborn’s most engaging journeys.

Great halls of fire

If there are any gripes to be had, it’s that the DLC does appear to push the game’s limits at times. During some of the previously mentioned boss fights, for example, the frame rate can plummet to worrying levels, and we did encounter one or two aggravating glitches, but nothing that reloading our game couldn’t fix.

At the end of the day, Dawnguard is yet another enjoyable DLC that expands Skyrim’s lore and world extremely well. Together with Hearthfire and Dragonborn, it completes a fantastic run of content for one of the best RPGs of recent times, even if they’ve arrived a little late to the PS3 party.

Dawnguard is currently available for £6.49/$7.99 from the PlayStation Store. It will revert to its standard price of £12.99/$16.99 on 6th March.