Many of you are still neck deep in Skyrim, exploring the mods and fixes that are practically pouring out of the workshop. I’m guilty of that myself. Now, seven months after Skyrim‘s launch, Bethesda has DLC waiting in the wings. “Dawnguard” opens up Castle Volkihar and Fort Dawnguard for players and tacks on an additional 10-20 hours of gameplay. Enter the vampires… scary, floaty, bat-summoning vampires who are the mortal enemies of the Dawnguard, protectors of the light. Of course, you’ll have to choose sides. This whole ordeal revolves around vampire Lord Harkon, who has his dark heart set on blotting out the sun with an Elder Scroll so that vampires can take over… well, everything. Players who walk the path of the vampire will become embroiled in a dark, otherworldly plot and may even be offered the opportunity to become a vampire lord, which will open up a brand new skill tree.
I had a chance to sit down with “Dawnguard” and experience a portion of the vampire storyline, as Bethesda remains very tight-lipped about the other half of this content pack, the Dawnguard. Despite my pestering, answers didn’t come. So I moved on. I began in the vampire castle Volkihar, triggered some dialogue and eventually ended up in a realm plagued with restless spirits. I was able to experiment with the crossbow a little and found it easy enough to aim, but long reload times had me longing for my bow. I turned into a vampire and explored my catalog of creepy powers. Note that in order to use any of them, you’ll have to press down on the right thumb stick and levitate, a fact I wasn’t outright aware of, which led to my prompt and embarrassing death.
Round two: I turned into some bats, flew across the barren landscape, summoned a gargoyle, tore the souls out of my enemies, and flung magic around with ease while looking every bit the ugly, unwanted Nosferatu I’d longed for since Twilight up and ruined the stereotype. The vampire lord abilities do offer a dark sense of fun, and my preferred method of annihilation was by summoning said gargoyle. Vampire lords will also eventually be able to summon an undead dragon, and I can’t think of any reason why that wouldn’t be fun.
Your quest progresses once you reach the castle at the top of a hill. What followed was such a long, grueling chunk of plot exchanged between two NPCs that I just stopped caring. Those of you who’ve longed for the opportunity to play as a vampire won’t be disappointed; the addition of the vampire lord skill tree provides plenty of room for growth and customization and offers three new shouts. When you return to daylight realm, you’ll take your vampirism with you. Unlike lycanthropy, you can switch between vampire and human form at will. Just know that if you assume your monstrous vampire lord form in front of others, you’ll be attacked on sight. Players can’t be vampires and werewolves simultaneously, but werewolves may choose to become vampires during this storyline and thus cure their lycanthropy.
Throughout the demo, I’d hoped I’d be given a few more details about the unseen side of this conflict, but the nature of the Dawnguard is a closely guarded secret. Bethesda devs confirmed that regardless of which side you choose, you’ll be privy to the same length of content. So don’t worry about being shorted if you go the blood-sucker route, both sides are rewarding. I’m just not sure exactly how yet. Be advised, “Dawnguard” is recommended for player characters around level ten, though you may begin this quest as soon as the world opens up to you. I wouldn’t recommend venturing into vampire territory until you’ve added a few dragon shouts to your arsenal.
In addition to the story content, “Dawnguard” also includes the inclusion of dragon bone weapons, crossbows, mounted combat (which I was unable to experience) and new creatures such as armored trolls and death hounds. It’s a heaping pile of stuff to do, so wrap up whatever quests you’re plowing through and get ready; “Dawnguard” hits the Xbox 360 on June 26, with the PS3 and PC launch due roughly one month later.