If you're anything like me, when Dragonborn hit Xbox 360 you avoided all mention of it to keep yourself pure, so for my fellow keyboard-jockeys, Dragonborn is available on Steam now. Bethesda has a long and illustrious history with downloadable content, producing some of the best in the business (horse armour notwithstanding), but is Dragonborn a worthy addition to their catalogue?
While Dawnguard merely added new quests and a few new locations to the world map, Dragonborn takes place in an entirely new locale - the island of Solstheim, a ways off from Morrowind. Solstheim was also the setting for Morrowind expansion Tribunal, and so veteran players will likely feel a surge of nostalgia upon visiting the isle, but also take a bit of a punch to the stomach: Solstheim has seen better days. The eruption of Red Mountain has left it much more desolate than before - but the change gives way to new beauty - seeing Red Mountain smoke away in the distance made for a wonderful vista.
The locale also allows Bethesda to revisit some of their more exotic monsters; ashspawn, silt striders and other fan favourites are recreated in glorious HD graphics. The archetecture of Solstheim is completely unique, and a whopping 30 sidequests means that even outside of the main storyline, you
can spend plenty of time soaking up Solstheim.
But because there's so much different and new, the old and familiar becomes all the more glaring; your first major adventure relating to the main quest takes you to yet another Draugr den; same old ruins, same old enemies. It can be quite disappointing to see. Fortunately the main quest does start to come into its own before long, and without spoiling too much, you definitely get to explore some wholly new realms.
There's more to Dragonborn than a Morrowind all-stars reunion; the daedric prince Hermaeus Mora has a significant presence throughout the island, and you will frequently come face to face with his Lovecraftian Horrors. Judging by the HP Lovecraft homages found in Fallout 3's DLC Point Lookout, it's safe to say someone on the writing staff is a big fan.
The plot itself is your standard fare, a terrible and ancient foe has chosen just this time to put whatever nefarious plans they have into motion. Happily, this particular foe, Miraak, has a much more significant presence in the story than even Alduin did in Skyrim's main quest. The ultimate showdown is something to be anticipated, and there's a real sense of working towards it. Good solid antagonists are something Bethesda games in general have trouble with; they tend to be abstracts.
There are of course some areas where the DLC disappoints - while there are plenty of sidequests and a whole island to explore, the main quest on its own is quite short, so if you only care about that and skip through everything else, the DLC can feel a little light for your buck.
A lot of people consider the much-hyped Dragon Mount mechanic to be a disappointment; you can't completely control the dragon's movements, only give it commands as it flies around. I actually think that's a rather nice touch. I mean clearly a flying mount you had complete control over would play havok with game balance, but I just like the way it feels, it rings much more true to the experience of riding a dragon, of mounting an ancient and powerful leviathan and basking in its flight. It's what the ride on Odahviing should have been.
While it's not the absolute work of art that Oblivion's Shivering Isles was, Dragonborn still offers enough spectacle and wonder to tempt back any Skyrim fan. 7/10