The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim - Dawnguard
E3 2012: Hands-On Impressions
John McCarroll John McCarroll

Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, PC

Bethesda Softworks

Bethesda Game Studios

Action RPG


US Summer 2012

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Kill the undead - now with a crossbow.
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Now just close your eyes and trust me...
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To say Dawnguard is atmospheric is an understatement.
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Grr. Argh.
"Bethesda's goal was to make their supernatural creatures better in Skyrim and they've done just that."

If there's one company that knows how to do DLC and expansion packs right in the current market, it's Bethesda. While they might have stumbled with their first attempts – we all remember horse armor – their expansion packs for Fallout 3 and Fallout: New Vegas have been well-priced and top-quality. They're going back to some of their old ways for Dawnguard – it's somewhere between a traditional expansion pack and a piece of downloadable content. There's around ten to twenty hours worth of content in the expansion and though it weighs in at a 1600MSP/$19.99 price point, it looks like it's absolutely going to be worth it.

Dawnguard expands greatly on the supernatural elements of Skyrim: both vampires and werewolves come to the forefront in this game. Both types of creatures have been completely expanded with their own perk trees and advancement systems. Rather than level up your supernatural perks, you'll gain them as you use the abilities, so there's no, "where do I want to spend my Vampire points today?!" decision.

How does one become a supernatural creature, however? Becoming a werewolf is simple – just as in the original Skyrim, if you become a member of the companions guild, you get to become a big, furry creature. The new Vampire Lords are a little bit trickier, though. Players begin the game with the option to join the Dawnguard, a group devoted to vampire hunting. Later in your quest with the Dawnguard, you'll be given the option to become a vampire yourself and attempt to take control of the sun.

Vampires play a little bit differently than regular characters; you'll obviously get more powerful at night, and there's no access to your human inventory or your dragon shouts. To compensate, vampires have quite a few abilities, both magic and melee attacks are available, and swapping between the modes is as simple as clicking your analog stick. There are abilities like Mist Form, which makes you temporarily invulnerable as you regenerate health, magic, and stamina, as well as abilities like life drain and vampiric grip, which allows you to grab enemies telekinetically and throw them quite a ways away. It ends up being a great ability for crowd control, even if it doesn't do much damage.

We didn't get to dig deep into the story of Dawnguard, but the combat is certainly entertaining with the new additions. Alongside the new abilities is everything you'd expect in an expansion pack – more environments, more armor, and even an entirely new weapon type: the crossbow. New content in Dawnguard will seamlessly integrate into Skyrim, and you'll see new vampiric creatures as you explore the core world of Skyrim.

Bethesda's goal was to make their supernatural creatures better in Skyrim and they've done just that. The expansion pack will enter beta next week, and while no solid release date has been pegged down, availability should be soon, possibly as soon as the end of this month. There's a lot of content to explore in Dawnguard, so get ready to feed!

© 2012 Bethesda Softworks, Bethesda Game Studios. All rights reserved.