Bethesda took gamers by surprise with the reveal of their second piece of downloadable content for Skyrim, entitled “Hearthfire“. Especially considering the release date was a mere week later after the initial announcement. Further more, Bethesda took a side route in their plan to offer bigger and more expansion like downloadable content by offering tons of new features in Hearthfire and pricing it at only $5. With the ability to craft your own house from the ground up after gathering new building materials, is “Hearthfire” worth your time or your measly $5? Not so much.

Along with the announcement came a beautiful trailer showing off tons of possibilities and features that would further enhance your time spent with Skyrim. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. At all. In fact, “Hearthfire” had so much potential to be truly epic and expansive for its low cost but completely missed in nearly every way possible. First and foremost, “Hearthfire” is too restricted for it’s own good. A courier delivers two letters. One of which speaks of buying a plot of land and the other about adoption.

Don't plan on placing anything yourself, Bethesda did all the cool work for you.

There’s only three plots of land available for purchase, each with their own drafting table, carpenters workbench, anvil, chest, clay deposit, and a stone quarry. All are essential in creating your dream house. The bad news is, you have hardly any control on the actual look of your home. In fact, each of the three houses you can build look exactly the same. After building a main hall on your house you can expand it to three wings. While you can build things like a library or greenery. You have no choice in where they’re are placed. For example; an armory can only be built in the east wing, while a trophy room can only be built in the north wing.

You do have three different choices in each wing making all combinations possible through each of the three homes, but the freedom is taken away. This means you cant have a library and a kitchen built in the same home because they both can only be built on an east wing. Not only is this absurd, it ruins the whole aspect of building your own home. You can only built what Bethesda wants you to build, which is completely opposite of what Skyrim is all about. Even worse, once a wing is built, there’s no going back. You’re stuck with whatever you build with no option of re-contruction.

You like? Hope so, each of your three houses will look just like this.

If you already feel your freedom is lost, it gets even worse. After collecting all the materials and building the parts you need to furnish your house, you still lose all control. You don’t get to place anything you build, everything is pre-furnished once completed and once you build everything on the list, that’s it. There are no choices or sacrifices aside from choosing an altar in your cellar or tons of useless barrels. Since there’s no option to store things in your display cases, you must individually place each item and hope they look the way you expect. Face it; you know it’s going to be the exact opposite.

If that isn’t bad enough, I wasn’t even able to move in my adopted child. Instead, I had to move him/her into an already existing home I purchased in the base game of Skyrim. It’s completely insulting having spent hours building my home of Bethesda’s dreams and not even able to move my child in. On the bright side, I do get the entire house to myself…..all three of them, which let me remind you again, look exactly the same! Aside from the wing variations, if I was to put all three side by side, I couldn’t tell you what is different on the inside.

I just spent $5 in real life to have this option, of course I'm sure!

However, “Hearthfire” does have it’s uses. It’s more of a “convenience pack” than anything. Having a greenery, alchemy lab and armory in the same place is very useful for hardcore role-playing fans trying to take their experience to the next level. Being able to grow your own ingredients is a huge plus, especially for plants or other natural materials that are extremely hard to come by. Aside from growing plants and alchemy, there isn’t much use for their houses unless you’re a giant loot whore and love having more than you actually need.

Adoption was certainly an interesting aspect, but it was executed poorly. When I saw having the option to have children do chores, I thought to myself this could actually be useful. Instead, they just find a spot in your home, pull out a magic broom and sweep absolutely nothing. Conversations are short and boring, and even your spouse doesn’t say much about them. The only interesting feature I found was when I came home and my daughter captured a fox as a pet. Cool, but the fox stood there brain dead and did absolutely nothing. So exciting!

Trophy rooms are cool, but the creature selection is far too limited.

I can’t help but feel utterly disappointed by “Hearthfire.” It’s not the idea of the DLC. It’s that Bethesda portrayed it as something that gamers have actually been asking for and even stated Minecraft was an inspiration, then completely bombed in executing it properly. “Hearthfire” had so much potential. The idea was perfect, but taking away the freedom in a game which revolves around player choice was an enormous error.

Yes, “Hearthfire” is only $5, and it’s certainly not as bad as horse armor. Unfortunately, it doesn’t do anything worthwhile or even enhance the gameplay. Sure, it does make things more convenient and opens up a few new gameplay elements, but what is here doesn’t justify the price tag. As a huge, and I mean huge, Elder Scrolls fan. It’s hard for even me to recommend this DLC to anyone. Unless you’re an alchemy maniac and would rather grow plants than explore, you might find some use in “Hearthfire.” For everyone else, don’t bother unless it goes on sale. You’ve saddened me, Bethesda. Next time, go for Shivering Isles scale and quality.

 

Here’s the Rundown:
+ It makes things more convenient.
+ It’s only $5
- It’s going to cost you 5 hard earned dollars
- Lack of choices and freedom
- It’s exactly the opposite of what you think it is
- Missed opportunity

5 and 5.5 are mediocre. These aren’t necessarily bad games, they just don’t do anything that is worth caring about and not worth the time of most people.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Hearthfire was developed and published by Bethesda Softworks. It was released for Xbox 360 on September 4th of 2012. It currently retails for $4.99. A copy of the downloadable content was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review.