Hey, readers! It's been a while since I made a blog post, as I've been busy with stuff and haven't done anything on the wiki in some time, aside from chatting with our peeps in the IRC. I've decided to brush off my old blogging account and make a new post, since I've got something related to The Elder Scrolls for once, instead of blogging about the other crap I usually blog about!

Back in June I bought Skyrim Legendary Edition. Ostensibly, this gift was for my brother, who loves The Elder Scrolls (albeit not as much as I), and he hadn't played the expansions on his Playstation… Neither had I! Coincidence? No! I've been putting a good bit of time into Skyrim lately, and I'm finally starting to do all the DLC with my Imperial character that I made. I've decided I'd do a little series detailing my adventures through Skyrim with my first time doing the expansions, and this first entry will cover Dawnguard's first playthrough and my opinions on it.

I love the Romans, so when I am not using my Eric Snowmane Viking persona, I am making Imperials, typically of the standard fighter style, and this save was no exception. My Imperial, who I named Damon, is a fighter who joined the Legion and swears fealty to Emperor Titus II in this bloody time in Skyrim… Not that I've been doing much of the Civil War. He'd started with the standard “Caesar” look of short hair, a clean face, sharp jaw, etc, wears heavy armor and always uses a sword and shield, etc.

When I play The Elder Scrolls, I always do it in-character. I make a backstory for the character, and I give them some kind of moral compass and drive to help steer me through the massive world that is Skyrim. Or Cyrodiil, Vvardenfell, or what have you. It's something I always do. I love roleplaying the game.

Damon came to Skyrim as a retired Legionnaire. He's in his late 20s, maybe early 30s, and after a good decade-ish of service to the Legion, he had left to have a simpler life with the woman he fell in love with. She was killed by vampires in their new frontier home near the border to Skyrim, and Damon donned his armor and started tracking them down, and the trail led into Skyrim… And the ambush on Jarl Ulfric Stormcloak that nearly led to his execution.

After escaping Helgen with Hadvar and doing his duty to Whiterun and Riverwood by helping with the dragon threat, Damon went to Solitude, looking to aid the Empire once more by fighting the rebels that lead to his near death, hoping to use the battlegrounds as a chance to scout out the area in search of the vampires. He found the Jagged Crown, and went to the defense of Whiterun against the Stormcloak attackers. He was then attacked by a vampire posse in Whiterun shortly after the battle, and innocents died, leading to his joining the Dawnguard to protect the people as a whole while scouting out his true vampire targets.

I naturally went through the Dawnguard quests siding with the Dawnguard. To sum it up shortly, Dawnguard as an expansion was “eh”. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't particularly great. Volkihar Castle and Fort Dawnguard looked good, but the Soul Cairn felt bland and boring in appearance, and I was actually pleased to get out of it at the end. The Forgotten Vale, visually, was beautiful, but I spent a good five hours in there, stuck in the labyrinth of mazes, always lost… Then I had to deal with the Arch-Curate, and even at level 22 at the time and with some nice stuff, he was always a really hard hitter, and as a standard Legionnaire who limited myself to swords, the occasional bow, and so on, it was really tricky taking on this guy with powerful attacks, both melee and ranged… I always play on Adept, but it got to where I dumbed it down to Apprentice or Novice just to get past there.

When I got to the end and actually fought Harkon, it felt anti-climatic. I was glad that Harkon was dead, but after the bull-dung I had to go through to even get there, there wasn't any joy or real sense of accomplishment to the job being done. I just took his sword, mounted it in Breezehome, dropped the loot, and the day's fighting was over. I am not entirely convinced that I would do Dawnguard again more than once or twice.

The real letdown for me is Serana. She is a fabulous character, and definitely the best developed companion that I've met in an Elder Scrolls game, and she isn't marriageable. Why?

I wanted to dislike her. From the moment I met her, I did so with distrust, but as the time went on and Damon was forced to work alongside her, I ended up liking her. I would like to think that, after all that Damon and Serana went through on their adventures, he eventually came to trust and depend on this vampire. The development was there. You have all these personal discussions with her about her family, what you will do, what she will do, etc, and you have to die for her, quite literally, by either embracing undeathtemporarily (which I did) or by letting her trap your soul to give you access to the Soul Cairn, and the way she says things like “I'm glad you're with me” when we are traveling, it's quite clear that she has grown accustomed to the player and trusts them completely.

When we defeated Harkon, I visited the face changer, and I changed my face a second time in my save. Before then, I had long-ish hair, a scraggly beard, and I scarred his face and blinded him in the eye above the scarring. In 35 hours, a lot of stuff had gone down, and I hadn't even climbed to High Hrothgar. A lot was left to be done, and I wanted to upgrade his look from the clean face of a newcomer to one that had reflected what he had been through. My new face keeps the scars and the eyes, but changed the beard to a clean, trimmed one and made the hair collar length.

Afterward, I was chatting with Serana, and after telling her how with mortality she could become her own person after everything that broke her family apart, and she agreed and left to seek a cure before running into me when I was lingering around Fort Dawnguard to get training, nick stuff, sell a few things, and chat with the Dawnguard and learn more about each person and just have a few roleplayed days of R&R after the trials of the last while. When she met me, she said how she was glad to see me, and in my own headcanon, even though it never happened, I'd like to think she put a hand up to hold Damon's scarred and bearded cheek, look in his eye and at the injuries the last many weeks of trials against the vampires with her, and meant what she said with some degree of affection, before saying “I thought you'd never ask” when I told her to come with me once more.

Even if the game won't let it, because she is so developed and this should have happened anyway, I'm going to assume it is with affection that she travels and spends at least the next good while spending her mortality with Damon. Damon and Serana is my ship, that's how it is, that's how the story goes, as far as I care!

My current location is Solstheim and Dragonborn. After doing some exploration in the Rift with Serana, I finally climbed the 7,000 Steps, got my training, and went to get the horn of Jurgen Windcaller. When I failed to get the horn I was attacked on the way to Riverwood, and I took a turn in course to head towards Windhelm and check out Dragonborn before continuing the Main Quest, eventually wrapping up the Civil War, getting more than one quest into the Companions, and of the houses you can build in Hearthfire, Alarra recommends the one for the Pale, so I am doing that one.

But, I want to complete Dragonborn first. I'm not going to lie, I'm nervous. I haven't done Dragonborn before, because Morrowind is my all-time favorite game, and I don't want my fond memories of Bloodmoon ruined by being letdown by Dragonborn's quests, locations, appearances, etc. I only just got there, so I haven't got much to say yet. I will leave it at this: It's cool to see Sujamma and Cyrodiilic Brandy, the Bonemold armor the Redoran wear reminds me of their armor in Morrowind and I approve, and I wish Solstheim was bigger. It was a small island and a nothing commute between Raven Rock and Frostmoth in Bloodmoon, and I always attributed it to how the times were during development and that's what they were able to do. It is STILL a nothing commute, and the island feels tiny as hell when you can see so far and travel relatively quickly still. Even if nothing was added to it as far as locations when in the expanded spaces, I wish spaces were expanded slightly.

That's my update on my Elder Scrolls adventures of late!

4 comments

Comment from: Legoless [Visitor]  
Legoless

The house in the Pale is by far the least interesting of the three in my opinion. If you’re only gonna build one, I recommend Hjaalmarch for the fish hatchery.

01/28/16 @ 14:41
Comment from: thuum [Member]  
thuum

Yeah, Serana is best companion. I never get married in Skyrim any more because my headcanon is that she has a flirty/casual romance thing going on with the Dragonborn. That being said, I really like Dawnguard as a DLC, since Vampire Lord form makes vampires in Skyrim viable. The DLC is definitely a lot more enjoyable as a vampire, but you’re right that the Soul Cairn is a chore.

Hearthfire is actually pretty neat. I always go in with the mentality that I’ll buy and fully upgrade them all, but I inevitably go to some of them more than others no matter how nice they are (I never use the Cheydinhal house in Oblivion even though it’s really nice). I usually gravitate towards the one in Falkreath just because it’s easy to get at low levels (though some would question the wisdom of having your home near a bandit stronghold).

I lost interest in Morrowind before doing the expansions, so I can’t speak to Bloodmoon, but I found that the best part of the Dragonborn DLC was Apocrypha. The environment there blows the Oblivion Gates out of the water, and that’s not something I say lightly. Although I haven’t really explored Dragonborn as fully as the other DLC’s, I’d still say it’s good, though definitely not Shivering Isles-tier.

01/30/16 @ 08:19
Comment from: robinhood70 [Member]  

Good review, Damon! I’ve always liked the DG add-on, myself, but I don’t think I’ve ever been as low as level 22 when I did it, or at least I wouldn’t have been by the time I confronted the Arch-Curate and Harkon. I tend to focus more than I should on crafting and the like, so I usually advance really quickly in the beginning (often too quickly). Since I haven’t yet tried a play-style of not advancing the crafting skills early, I’ll probably do that and DG early on for my next character, whenever that ends up being.

Personally, I find the Dawnguard side of the story a little less interesting, but it probably made more sense for your character. The Vampire side has always seemed richer to me somehow, despite how little changes in terms of the actual quests and so forth. I’ve done it as a Vampire both staying mostly in human form and maxing out the Vampire Lord skill tree, and it didn’t really make much difference to me which way I went for that part of it. The Vampire Lord skills are certainly interesting to explore, though, at least once. If nothing else, I’d recommend playing the Vampire side at some point just as a point of comparison. The quests are basically the same, but you get to see a different set of motivations and what not when you’re on the other side of things.

I agree with others, though, that the Soul Cairn is just a pain. I mean, there are some interesting ideas there, but it’s too large without enough interesting things happening in it. I’ve also always been susceptible to drastically altered colouring like we see there, and it feels really dismal and depressing to me. I’m usually quite happy to leave it as soon as I’m done everything that needs doing there.

02/01/16 @ 00:24
Comment from: snowmane [Member]  

Re: RobinHood70

I’d already given Vampire Lord a try, if I’m being entirely honest. I didn’t get as far as the Soul Cairn the first time around, but I got far enough in that I had Harkon’s Vampire Lord offer, took it, and I went on a several hour long killing spree with another character to max out my perks for it and give being a BAMF a go for a bit. But, I didn’t stick around long enough to get the story. I had a vampire with an Elder Scroll with me, and once I had Harkon’s gift, I was gone into the wind and never learned what the story was.

Yes, the Soul Cairn was too large and too empty… And a standard Legionnaire isn’t exactly a master wizard, and with a 120 point cost for the ghost horse, I had to run back and forth across that empty waste, because I have not put any points into Magicka, only Health and Stamina… Then I died, reloaded, never saved, forgot to return the skull, and I ended up in the Forgotten Vale running around and angry that I didn’t have a ghost horse to summon.

I don’t plan on returning the skull though. I cured my temporary vampirism from Serana, which I took because being potentially weakened for an unknown length of time didn’t seem as attractive of an idea in the Soul Cairn, and as I said, I convinced Serana to embrace mortality and cure herself. I have a few vampire caves marked on my map undiscovered from idle guard chatter and stuff, and while I may clean them out if I am bored and in the neighborhood, I really see no compelling reason from a roleplay perspective to consciously decide to become undead to get rid of a ghost horse’s skull that is not terribly heavy and that I seldom notice I have.

02/01/16 @ 02:13