The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has been out for a little over a year now, and Bethesda has yet to provide the expansion pack-sized DLC that they promised. After nearly 400 days, they’ve finally fulfilled that commitment with Dragonborn. Not only is Dragonborn equivalent to an expansion pack, it’s my personal favorite Elder Scrolls DLC released this generation. Yes, I’m even including Shivering Isles in that pool. What makes Dragonborn so great is not just its size, but what it includes. Bethesda has listened to their fans and provided them with what they’ve been asking for, at least for the most part.

Dragonborn takes place on the island of Solstheim, which is just off the coast of Morrowind. The story in Dragonborn is an easy one to follow. The first Dragonborn (Miraak) is on a path of power as he attempts to return and rule the island. Of course, his intentions are not good, and it’s you’re job to stop him. The most interesting part of this story is your adversary has every ability you do. I don’t want to spoil anything, but this makes for some very interesting gameplay moments towards the end of the six-hour main quest.

While that may sound disappointing, fear not. Dragonborn packs in a ton of content. I spent the first 10 hours with the DLC doing side quests, not including exploring, before I even began the main story. Once I finished the critical path, I spent several more hours with secondary activities, and I still have many more to find and complete. The side quests are much more entertaining this time around. Dragonborn isn’t just about a separate island with a ton of new tasks. Dragonborn brings along new items, weapons, armor, shouts, abilities, mining material, smithing options and enemies.

The biggest, and probably the most anticipated feature, is Dragon Riding. Unfortunately, it’s not all that I hoped for, but it’s a decent effort. The issue lies within the freedom itself. While you can ride a dragon and command him/her to attack and land, there’s no freedom over where he/she goes. You can also fast travel, but your hopes of beautiful scenery are shot down with a loading screen. Had the dragon actually flown you to your destination, it would have bumped up the experience just a notch. This feels like a missed opportunity.

Aside from dragon riding and Bethesda’s odd choice to have the new spear weapons used similarly to arrows, Dragonborn doesn’t disappoint. The huge amount of land and enormous quantity of dungeons to explore will keep you busy for quite some time, and the new enemies are simply fantastic. For those who have yet to play it, there’s a certain enemy that fans have been asking about for some time makes a return, and they’re very deadly. Bethesda also created some very unique weapons this time around. My personal favorite is the Bloodskal Blade. I despise two handed weapons, but this bad boy releases an energy blast with power attacks doing 30 damage on top of the base amount. The best part about this weapon, aside from the look is that it’s not a magical weapon. If you have the stamina, those blasts will go all day.

Stalhrim makes a return with its own quest that involves a set of armor. Doing a certain side quest will also open up smithing options as you can now mine Stalhrim, along with many other new minerals. There are still a few minerals I’ve mined for which I have not yet figured out a use. The mysteries of the Dragonborn DLC are the best part, and there’s quite a few. Puzzles make a more significant appearance this time around, but aside from one quest, they didn’t provide much of a challenge.

If shouts and powers are your thing, you’ll be happy with the ones that Bethesda added. Dragon Aspect is easily the coolest. Not only does it make your character look like a complete bad ass, it gives you the “mighty aspects of a dragon.” Thus, you deliver colossal blows, wear an armored hide, and your shouts are more powerful. It lasts for a decent amount of time, but it can only be used once per day. For those of you who are level 81, this shout will be your best friend. Bethesda has made a quest specifically for those who’ve reached the level cap. “The Ebony Warrior” is no cake walk. If you choose to look it up, you’ll know why. The Ebony Warrior will test even the best of players.

If Morrowind wasn’t enough, you’ll also venture into the plane of Oblivion known as Apocrypha. Dark powers can be learned here through the quest of “The Black Book.” Some of the benefits you can acquire give you2 skill points per book or prevent your attacks and magic from hurting your followers. Not only are these extremely rewarding, but you can finally reset all of your perks without starting a new character. You don’t need to reset them all at once though, you can choose which ones you need to clear and keep. Then again, playing through Skyrim with a new character and powers is the beauty of the game.

I’m very happy to say that Bethesda has done their homework. They’ve finally given us a gigantic DLC that’s worth every Elder Scrolls fan’s money, and then some. Not only have they delivered one of the best expansions in the series this generation, they (for the most part) gave the fans what they asked for. After nearly 20 hours of gameplay, I’m still finding areas, quests, dungeons, NPCs and items that I’ve never seen. As much as I love the world of Skyrim, it’s nice to travel off the coast of Morrowind and see what else the Elder Scrolls universe has to offer.

If Dawnguard wasn’t you’re thing and Hearthfire left you disappointed, Dragonborn will certainly be worth your hard earned money and time. Even though it took Bethesda over a year to provide us with what was promised, this DLC makes the vanilla game feel fresh again. I feel like starting a new character and falling in love with Skyrim all over again. These new features, weapons and items now add new gameplay options for all the original quests and something no Skyrim fan should miss out on. If you still own Skyrim for Xbox 360, there’s absolutely no reason you shouldn’t purchase this. I would even considering repurchasing the game just to play this DLC if you’ve sold yours. It’s that good. If future DLC is anything like this, Skyrim fans are in for a real treat.

 

Here’s the Rundown:
+ Tons of new items, quest, enemies, locations, weapons and armor 
+ Going up against another Dragonborn
+ Over 20+ hours of content
+ Equivalent to an expansion pack
+ Ability to reset any perks
+ *Spoiler* enemy has returned
+ Riding Dragons
- Riding Dragons isn’t all it should have been
- Spears used as arrows
- More frequent frame rate issues

 

9 and 9.5  represent the pinnacle of the genre, a game that defines what that genre should be about. These scores are for games that you not only feel would be worth your purchase, but you would actually try to convince your friends to buy them as well.

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dragonborn was developed and published by Bethesda Softworks. It was released for Xbox 360 on December 4th of 2012. It currently retails for $19.99. A copy of the downloadable content was provided by the publisher to RipTen for the purposes of review.