E3 2012: The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim's Dawnguard DLC Hands-On Preview – The Vampire Diaries
Written Saturday, June 16, 2012 By Dan WebbView author's profile
I personally, genuinely haven’t played Skyrim since before its release last year. After 130 hours in 10 days, I completely drained myself and couldn’t spend a minute longer with the game – it was like overindulging myself with a 60oz rib-eye steak in one sitting and needing a break from it. E3 2012 marked my return to the plains of Tamriel and like any return to a classic game, it just seems like there’s never enough time.
Dawnguard is Bethesda’s first piece of Skyrim DLC and is set to offer 10-15 hours worth of gameplay for $20. We picked up proceedings around three and a half hours into the game, moments after completing the quest, 'Chasing Echoes'. At this point of the game, we’ve assisted Serana in opening a portal to another dimension, to a place called Soul Cairn.
Soul Cairn is a dark and miserable place, with plenty of land and a lot of nothingness. The eerie feel of the huge open plains is nothing like we’d experienced in Skyrim thus far and as a mere mortal, there’s a lot of ground to cover to get to the castle main gate to speak to Serana’s mom, Valerica. Good job we can turn into the Vampire Lord then, huh?
The Vampire Lord can not only easily dispatch the Boneman and Wrathmen with sublime ease with its strong melee attack, but they can also move at a rate of knots too as they effectively hover across the plains. Combine that with their special moves and they can be a formidable force. Using the Bats shout, the Vampire Lord can essentially transform into a colony of bats to move quickly from one location to another. Great for evading. Using the Summon Gargoyle shout, the Vampire Lord can call in a powerful ally. And finally, using the Vampire Grip shout, the Vampire Lord can suspend foes in mid air and drain them of heath.
The main, and only, real mission we were able to complete during our hands-on with Dawnguard was a task for Valerica, who asked us to dispatch three Keepers found at various stone structures located around Soul Cairn. In order to perform such a feat, Valerica gives the player an Elder Scroll, which antagonist, Harken needs – along with Serena’s blood – to become all-mighty and powerful. Whether the circumstances in the demo mirror the actual final content remains to be seen, as it was recently rumoured that you either become a Vampire Lord or get a crossbow, depending on the side you choose. In this demo, we had both, but that might have been intentional on Bethesda’s part to show off all the facets of the new expansion.
Switching to the Vampire Lord form we covered a lot of ground in a short amount of time to stand at the base of an abandoned castle-esque structure. Bumping into a Keeper was a little trickier than we’d imagined it would be, especially after making such quick work of the Bonemen and Wrathmen around the plains. The Vampire Lord, however, isn’t possibly the greatest form to take on these huge beasts, namely because the Vampire Lord’s melee is no match for the Keepers. It was a case of reverting to human form again and whipping out the quick-firing crossbow. It’s a matter of keeping your distance then and taking pot shots to whittle the Keeper’s health down. It’s elementary my dear, Watson. It was then a case of rinse and repeat with the other two Keepers, with one being at the top of a tower requiring use of a portal to get to. Unfortunately, before we could speak to Valerica to end the mission, our time was up.
The Bethesda rep on hand was also keen to point out that Dawnguard was like the main Skyrim game itself and littered with side quests and random encounters galore.
30 minutes at a trade show is usually enough to get in, get your content for a preview and get out, before sprinting like a horse on crack to your next appointment. 30 minutes with Dawnguard flew by and we could have done with another hour or two to really get a feel for what may come. That, my friends, is the sign of a good game though. Always leave 'em wanting more, right?
The world of Soul Cairn might be a miserable place with nowhere near as much beauty as Tamriel itself, but that doesn’t make Dawnguard any less fun. The crossbow is immensely enjoyable to wield, as is floating around as the Vampire Lord and taking advantage of his specific shouts. And with 10-15 hours of gameplay – which is essentially what many games offer for full retail price these days – it’s shaping up to be a bit of a steal for $20.
Skyrim’s Dawnguard DLC will be out later in the year and will set you back a mere $20.