Reviewed by Lewis

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Skyrim: Dawnguard Review

Skyrim-Dawnguard

To celebrate the release of Dawnguard and Dragonborn Skyrim DLCs for PS3, (finally), please enjoy this special, two-part review. Dawnguard is up first, with a review of Dragonborn on the way.

After cutting a swathe through the snowy hills of regular old Skyrim I was excited when I heard about the imminent release of Dawnguard and Dragonborn. Then of course I realised that was just for Xbox 360 and PC. So, as I am cursed with a PS3, (my 360 is doing a very admirable impression of a dodo) I was forced to wait.

I purchased the two DLCs, Dawnguard and Dragonborn on the same day; watch this space for my review of Dragonborn. First up is Dawnguard; it’s set in Skyrim but there are a fair few new locations to explore. The main two are the vampire hunter HQ Fort Dawnguard and Castle Volkihar, the vampire’s lair.

Pretty quickly you get to choose between aligning with the Dawnguard, a group of vampire hunters, or the vampire lords.

Choosing the vampires gives you access to the vampire lord form. It’s all fangs, claws and destruction magic. The new form feels very reminiscent of gothic vampires like Dracula, especially with some of the powers on offer; including bats, which works much like whirlwind sprint. You become an invulnerable swarm of bats and jump to a spot several feet away. It is pretty handy in a tight spot. Combat is interesting as a vampire lord; blood magic gives you a spell in each hand. The default is an area of effect drain life spell, which is damned powerful almost a one hit kill. Then you get a powerful raise corpse spell in your other hand. Switch to melee and you get to use your claws and teeth. This is similar to being a werewolf, if not more powerful. As an added bonus you get a cool cinematic when you pull off a critical hit bite attack.

There are some negative points though. The obvious; sunlight weakens you. It doesn’t kill you but you take a hit to health, stamina and magicka. You can feed on humans to lessen this, but it also weakens your vampire powers. The less obvious; as the vampire lord form wasn’t in the original game design, the extra height of the vampire lord makes it very hard to navigate narrow spaces, for example doorways, stairs and so on. You’ll have to drop in and out of the vampire lord form (which you can do as often as you please), to get around this. Also you can only interact with the world in a very limited way. No looting. This is a bit of an annoyance. I am rather loot happy.

The Dawnguard vampire hunters are a lot like the Vigilants of Stendarr, but they have way better weapons, armour and a cool, super-secret fort. Well, it’s kinda secret in that every guard in Skyrim knows exactly where it is. The best thing about the Dawnguard, in one word, is crossbows. You can get a basic model, the steel crossbow as soon as you enlist/ visit Fort Dawnguard. Ammo’s another matter but there are tricks to get around this, as you won’t kind crossbow bolts as regular loot. They pack one hell of a punch (better that a standard bow) but are slightly slower to reload. There are loads of new quests available on both sides, needless to say choosing one side precludes the other.

As you would expect there are tonnes of new items available including shiny, new weapons and armour to find and craft. One of the most notable additions are the Dragonbone weapons. You need 100 crafting and the Dragon Armour perk. It is well worth it. These weapons have a better damage output than their Daedric equivalent and look awesome to boot.

Also it is worth a courtesy mention. Combat on horseback is pretty cool, if of limited use. So there you have it Dawnguard breathes new life into Skyrim. It’s a must own for Skyrim fans and it runs pretty smoothly on the PS3 too.

Click here for my review of Dragonborn https://reviewedbylewis.wordpress.com/2013/04/02/skyrim-dragonborn-review/

Skyrim: Dragonborn Review

skyrim-dragonborn

Part two of my Skyrim DLC special two part review. I hope you enjoyed my review of Dawnguard. Up next is Dragonborn.

Dragonborn is more in keeping with previous downloadable content i.e. Shivering Isles for Oblivion. It’s all set on an island called Solstheim. A Dumner (Dark Elf) province, so the architecture, creatures and landscape are very much reminiscent of Morrowind. It’s rather pleasant, for an ash-blighted wasteland. There is a greater focus on exploration than in Dawnguard. The whole island is about the size of a regular Skyrim hold, but there are loads of caves, mines and tombs to raid (I made a pun.) There are also some Dwemer ruins to explore too. They have some particularly good loot.

The plot is centred on Miraak, the first Dragonborn, basically he has got his panties in a bunch because he thinks he owns the copyright on the name Dragonborn and doesn’t like to share. So after slaughtering a few of his cultists it’s off to Solstheim to shove a spanner into his evil schemes. To do this you have to find black books that are sources of forbidden knowledge and power. They transport you to the aptly named realm of Apocrypha. Hermaeus Mora is back in his tentacle ridden, gorge rising, glory.

But main quest lines aren’t why we play Skyrim. There are plenty of new weapon and armour sets to make and craft; including the new Nordic gear, which has similar specs to the Elven weapons and armour, but looks awesome. There are of course plenty side quests on offer as well. There is a brand new smithing element to play with: Stalhrim it’s bright blue and shiny. It makes some interesting looking gear, and it has a rather decent damage output/ resistance. It wasn’t really to my liking as my main character is all about the black knight look. Hell there are even pirates and buried treasure to be fought and found.

There are also lots of new powers (plenty of these), shouts and spells to acquire. It feels like Bethesda have gone all out on Dragonborn. After you’ve played the main quest line and explored Solstheim and Apocrypha a bit your character is going to be way more powerful, rich (this is important to me as I horde gold like crazy) and better equipped than he/she is already.

Without giving too much away; get ready for a birds eye view of Solstheim and Skyrim as the new shout, Bend Will gives you some interesting transportation options. If, like my character, being a werewolf is an integral part of his/ her persona then seek out the hidden clan of werewolves who have some interesting trinkets to boost your beast form.

If it came down to a choice between getting Dragonborn or Dawnguard I would probably go with Dawnguard, mostly due to the awesomeness of the crossbows and Dragonbone weapons. However Dragonborn has way more playability and ‘hang time’, as it has a whole new island to explore. According to the Elder Scrolls wiki there are over 90 new locations to explore. It does what a good DLC should do. It enhances and lengthens the player’s experience while bringing something new and different to the ‘table’.

Dishonored Review

Don't look up yet!

Don’t look up yet!

I originally had my misgivings about Dishonored, ‘Dishonoured’ if you are English and picky about spelling. At a glance it seemed somewhat derivative. There are lots of action-RPG games that empathize player choice. I am a big fan of Bethesda not just Elder Scrolls and Fallout but some of their other projects too, such as Hunted: Demon Forge, which I recommend.

However the initial premise didn’t grab my attention, betrayed bodyguard to murdered Empress turned assassin, choices have consequences blah blah. But as soon as I started, I was hooked. I chose the bloody, high chaos route because I find it’s more fun that way, and that’s just the kind of guy I am. I still used a lot of stealth and I had a merry old time opening arteries with Corvo’s nifty folding sword.

Dishonored is set in the city of Dunwall in an era very reminiscent of steampunk/ Victorian culture. The city, which is at the mercy of a terrible plague, is a great place to explore. There are lots of shadows to skulk in and plenty of high rooftops and ledges to stalk your prey from. The 1st person gameplay features a mix of swordplay, ranged weapons (guns and a crossbow) and otherworldly magic. If you go the pacifist, undetected route then you won’t find the gun or the sword all that useful. Corvo’s crossbow, appropriately loaded with knockout darts of course, will be your go to weapon. You can also use your blink ability to teleport stealthily all over the environment.

But as I said I went for the high chaos route of cutting down any guard that got in my way and a large dose of bullets to the head for those that saw me coming. This route represented one of the extremes available, and I am happy to report that there were indeed consequences to my ultra-violent approach. More corpses meant more plague rats, more rats meant higher infection transmission, and more plague is generally viewed as worse than less plague. Your allies will respond to your choices as well.

The combat and assassination gameplay is excellent. The ability to drop assassinate was my favourite. Drop from a ledge or rooftop and take out the poor sap directly below you; it even works on the tough, armored enemies later in the game. The parry, counter-attack combat is great fun; the 1st person perspective makes it very visceral. You can’t always see an attack coming, very different from say Assassin’s Creed and it’s 3rd perspective. You need to react fast to get your guard up. Having your gun to hand is useful when you need to break through some guard’s block. Immensely entertaining to shoot a guy in the face while he’s attempting to block your sword strike. Maybe I’m just mean.

Dishonored is a fantastic game, the plot is engrossing and while a little predictable has great scope for you to make it your own. The gameplay/ combat is very different to your average 1st person action-RPG. The smaller pool of weapons and tactics available make it more fast-paced than the combat offered up by Skyrim and Fallout. A must buy.

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