Skyrim: Dragonborn Review
by Matthew F. Hibben
Dragonborn is the third DLC for Skyrim and the second storyline DLC that carries on the saga of our Hero. Bethesda gives players even more content in this latest expansion and this Game Tech article will focus on what you can expect from Dragonborn.
The plot of Dragonborn revolves around a strange cult that has appeared in Tamriel led by the former Dragon Priest Miraak. The cult resides on the island of Solstheim where the majority of the Dragonborn DLC takes place. Solstheim and the inhabitants are being held in thrall by power of Miraak. Through the course of the story it is also explained that Miraak is purportedly the first Dragonborn ever. The main story is expanded by interactions with the Daedric Prince Hermaeus Mora, whom the player will have encountered late in the primary storyline of Skyrim while searching for an Elder Scroll. Hermaeus Mora's realm Apocrypha is featured heavily as the player must uncover Black Books, and the power that lies within them, in order to face Miraak.
Dragonborn takes place on the island of Solstheim. The island is mix of snowy desolate highlands and volcanic looking lowlands. Within Solstheim there is a large population of Grey Elves, and much of the quests revolve around their settlement of Raven Rock. In addition to Raven Rock there is also Skaal Village which houses a small settlement of Nordic people, both the Skaal Nords and the Dunmer of Raven Rock play parts in the storyline of Dragonborn.
There are many new features in Dragonborn, but by far the one that I think has the most promise is the ability to ride dragons. Through the use of a new shout introduced in Dragonborn players can now use this shout against hostile dragons, forcing them to land and be ridden. This new ability is highlighted during the storyline when laying siege on Miraak, but can also be used on dragons found elsewhere. The dragon riding ability currently feels both basic and a little buggy, with the controls of the dragon itself being very limited, as well as feeling inconsistent.
Despite my criticisms of the flying mechanics I still feel there is much promise for it through both Bethesda patches and player created fixes (Mods).
Black Books are another new feature of Dragonborn and also a huge component to the story itself. Black Books are both tomes of knowledge as well as gateways to new areas the player can explore. The Books themselves really add to the customization of the player's gaming style by introducing many new features. Black Book powers range from both active and passive abilities, in some cases boosting all skill sets from disciplines like Shadow Skills versus Magic Skills, while other Black Books give the player a Dremora (lesser Daedra) servant to call upon with different functions based on the players choice.
There is many new item types as well as new item functionality in Dragonborn. The most exciting new feature in Dragonborn as far as items go is the item set bonus. Not a new feature in RPG's and certainly a staple in most MMO's, the item set mechanic is one that rewards players for wearing more than one piece of an item set, bonuses that are inherent on the items themselves, and not to be confused with bonuses from skill points. There is one set that comes to mind that boosts a players enchanting ability while wearing the set, which will certainly spawn even more high end item creation. In addition to item sets, there is also new to Dragonborn the ability to create enchanted staffs, staffs being items that hold charges of specific magical spells. While I personally don't use staffs, I really enjoyed both the implementation of the device used to craft these staffs, as well as the quests that lead up to unlocking this ability.
Influences of Lovecraft
The biggest element that stands out in Dragonborn is the influence of horror writer H.P. Lovecraft. Almost every element of the Black Books, the realm they transport you to, as well as the cultists of Miraak, remind one of the Cthulhu Mythos. Now this is not a criticism, I personally love Cthulhu, and the stories related to it's dynasty, and certainly many other games, WOW being the most prominent, have used elements of Cthulhu, to create many of the games nemeses. Those wishing to learn more about this element should give “The Call of Cthulhu” by H.P. Lovecraft a read, as well as many of his other stories, which tend to reference the Necronomicon, which is the basis for the Black Books themselves, both in terms of their dark knowledge-giving abilities, and as a portal to the realm of Hermaeus Mora.
To conclude I feel that Dragonborn is certainly a vast improvement over Dawnguard as far as a fully realized expansion goes. Dragonborn is worth the cost, and when taking into account both Bethesda's commitment to improvement, as well as the player communities advancements via Mods, we can expect even more fun from this installment.
Skyrim: Dragonborn Video Review