Wednesday, 5 December 2012

First impressions of Skyrim: Dragonborn

So since yesterdays post was a bit heavy going (thanks to everyone who slogged through!) I thought I'd tone it back down today and give you my first impressions of the new Skyrim DLC; Dragonborn.

Like alot of you I bought and downloaded it pretty much as soon as I could, luckily my wife was out at a rehearsal so I had most of the evening to get aquainted with Solstheim and the new danger threatening the frigid north of Tamriel.

I'm going into this in a sort of play-by-play style but for those who can't be bothered here's the short version: The new setting and items have a great aesthetic and the overall world feels like you've left Skyrim behind. You also get a definite sense of impending doom just over the horizon. That said, I've had more glitches on Solstheim then in my whole 200+ hour playthrough to date but I'm hoping a future patch clears them up.

Just a note, some of this is minor spoilers for the first hour or two of play.

Starting Out

Like the other DLCs you don't jump immediately into the action and instead my Nord Warrior was chilling at his home north of Morthal. Knowing the rough location of Solstheim on the map I decided to strike out for Dawnstar and see what I could find.

A shipwreck, some bandits and a troll later I was on the coast just outside the town when a group of people come running towards me. Each of them is wearing odd robes and has a very Cthulu-esque mask hiding their face. This is the start of a Lovecraftian theme that seems to be permeating Dragonborn and I approve.

The Cthulu-Cultists demand to know if I'm the one they call Dragonborn (I never say yes to these questions, if only to delay the inevitable moment they attack) but soon enough they accuse me of being the 'false' dragonborn and state that Miraak is rising.

They lose the rest of the conversation after my axes makes several compelling arguments to their faces.

Boom, Dragonborn quest started. Quest marker updates and I'm off to get a ship to Solstheim.

KaariM Sesir?

Raven Rock

You get hit with a sense of the exotic almost immediately when you reach Raven Rock, the main settlement on Solstheim. Having booked a ride with a reluctant captain you are greeted on the docks by a House Redoran (a Dark Elf noble house) official who dresses you down as an 'Outlander' and reminds you that the laws of Morrowind apply here.

For me, who's role played as a Nord Skald or someone proud of the histories and traditions of the Nords it was the first time my character had been treated as the outsider. It was actually a great way to make you feel ill at ease and that's what this first act seems to be all about.

You see, no one seems to know about Miraak yet everyone thinks they should...something has been screwing with the brains of the townspeople and it doesn't take long for things to get creepy.

Raven Rock isn't as peaceful as the giant bug tents would have you believe
I won't spoil that part of the story for you as it doesn't take much investigation to get what you need to know. There's a temple on the island where weird stuff has been going down. Whatever you do though, don't rush headlong to find Miraak (or not) because you'll miss out the real joy of exploring this new island.


As I struck out from RavenRock I decided to make for a house not far away. As I got close I could see the roof was destroyed and the area littered with the all-pervading ash that coats Solstheim. Closer still and two Ash monsters rise up to attack me. These are weird looking things with fires in their chest and big stone knives.

They are also cowards. A few hits of my axe and they run for it...I mean absolutely leg it. I have to sprint to catch the second one and put him down. From what I saw though I think this is meant to be a behaviour pattern rather then a glitch.

Investigating the house turned up just a chest and nothing else...until I turned around and found a trapdoor in the floor. Down I go.

Inside some bandits are reading the worried letters of the homeowners lover on the mainland and laughing about how they 'Left him in the tunnel'. Two arrows, two dead bandits. Oh wait, did I say bandits? I meant 'Reavers' who do the job the bandits do in normal Skyrim. That is, turn up everywhere and get killed.

I won't spoil the rest of that houses storyline except to say the following:
  • The homeowner was tormented by 'voices in the deep' that drove him mad.
  • The madness is tracked in a journal and some letters and again gives off a Cthulu vibe.
  • His worried lover is also a man, but this is so casually mentioned that it actually seems like a real relationship rather then the They are Gay! that most companies who want to seem 'progressive' would go for. Well played.
Back on the surface I take a few steps before a shuddering roar shakes the screen and a huge dragon attacks!


Now I should mention that during much of my time in Dragonborn my Xbox has been juddering a bit, certainly more then in vanilla Skyrim. I was gonna write it off because my xbox is a very old one now but that was before the skinless dragon attacked.

Yes, the Ancient Dragon that came at me had no skin over its brownish mess of a body so that it looked like the poo demon from Dogma had grown wings and attacked. I'm hoping that both this and the juddering I experienced are Day 1 glitches that get patched soon because they did mar an otherwise very enjoyable experience.

Wrapping up

Dragon dead, I went towards the temple and killed some more Reavers on the way. This also let me pick up the new Nordic Carved Armour which is absolutely fantastic looking and also very high Armour so I finally ditched my flawless suit of Steel.

The temple keeps ratcheting up the creepy with dozens of people slaving away at repairing it while mindlessly intoning a religious creed in Miraaks honour.

That does it, I'm going in...

Until I emerge again friends let us say Skål! And drink together

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