The Scrap Yard

Review of Dawnguard Skyrim DLC for Xbox 360

Do crossbows and flying vampires justify a price of twenty dollars? Read on to find out!

Story: The vampire lords of old have returned, why now exactly is unknown. Regardless, at this exact same moment the Dawnguard miraculously appear and you get the choice to join either side and either suck the blood out of everything that moves or crossbow the shiznit out of vampires. Later, a plot about the vampires wanting to blot out the sun using Elder Scrolls is brought to light (no pun intended) and a magical bow appears, thanks to the help of a really cool cameo character. Sounds like just another faction to me.

Sound: No new music, and the new voices such as Harkon the Vampire Lord and Isran (Dawnguard leader) both sound like extreme interpretations of people with lung cancer. On the other hand, crossbows have a satisfying *kt-chink* when they lodge a bolt in the enemies’ body, so all is forgiven. Sound: 6/10

Presentation: There isn’t a lot of new content that you can repeatedly visit, with the two biggest additions being Fort Dawnguard and the Vampire Fort with a hard-to-spell name. But most of the quests take place either in an already present location or some awesome place that can only be visited for that specific quest. Such places include the Soul Cairn, a purple and black realm of depression where all used soul gem souls go to. In the Cairn there are badass flaming purple ponies, ghosts and a special undead dragon, which are all a great diversion from the usual Dwemer ruin. For me, the one location that really sticks out in Dawnguard is the Forgotten Vale, which is the mythical snowy mountain area that the original Skyrim trailers had but were never present in-game. This is where you battle on thin sheets of ice against dragons over a waterfall, and all other kinds of awesomeness that are non-revisitable. Presentation: 8.5/10

Gameplay: Gameplay varies drastically depending on whether you’re a Dawnguard or vampire, but they both suffer from the same fatal flow: They don’t feel new. Vampirism feels the same as Lycanthropy in that you can’t open chests, can’t loot bodies and it’s impossible to navigate small areas. Dawnguard just feels like more of the same archer gameplay plus some fancy crossbows. I spent the majority of my time in this DLC playing as the dawnguard, so I’ll be more in-depth about that. The only truly new gameplay elements are the crossbows which aren’t very powerful and I still opt for my best bow, and the armored trolls. Now, I normally don’t gush about such small things, but these trolls are awesome. It’s like if you put giant plates of metal armor on a gorilla and had him as a sidekick. Better yet, you can keep your companion with you at the same time so it’s adding one more soldier to your personal army.
One non-story related gameplay element worth mentioning is the newly added Werewolf tree. It expands greatly on the previously weak (at high levels) werewolf, and allows all sorts of town-rampaging that was previously impossible. Abilities range from summoning a werewolf ally to getting twice as much health from feeding on hearts, and overall it’s just a more gruesome (better) experience.
There are two major issues with Dawnguard’s gameplay, aside from its lack of new faction abilities/diversity. The linearity is the most shocking by far from a Bethesda product. Most of the locations aside from the two mentioned in the presentation category are single-hallway/corridor affairs that have a terribly bland rinse and repeat feel to them that makes the quests actually feel like a chore and not an explorable adventure. The other major gameplay flaw is in Dawnguard’s horrifying number of technical shortcomings: Quest markers in completely obscure locations, items not appearing for the proper quests, new shouts not functioning past the first word and all other kinds of nonsense. I encountered almost all of these, as have many other people who are searching for bug fixes via the internet, and it’s a real pain to deal with. I almost would’ve prefered if the developers just spent one more month touching it up and then releasing it to all platforms at the same time. I mean, seriously, why did they even have a beta testing session if within the first two quests the directional marker is glitched? Gameplay: 6/10

Multiplayer: N/A

Length: The main faction questline took about eight to nine hours, give or take. There were a handful of sidequests and new items to beef up that time, but overall for twenty dollars you’re just not getting your money’s worth. The DLC tells its story and then it’s done. Length: 5.5/10

Overall: The first Skyrim DLC gets a 6.5/10. Some cool new locales and an awesome cameo aren’t enough to justify spending the full twenty smackers on this disappointingly linear and bland expansion pack. I recommend this only for diehard Skyrim fans and the most hardcore vampire players.

The Scrap Yard

Review of The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim for Xbox 360

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim lives up to its name, where the sky truly is the limit.

Story: There is a main plot revolving around you being the Dragonborn who must stop the evil time-travelling dragon Alduin, but the glory of Skyrim is that the story is whatever you make it. The game is so big that you can carve out your own set of missions and tales so that no one will ever be able to identically replicate your playthrough.

Sound: The music is pretty epic, to put it mildly. Fighting a huge ice-breathing dragon and the main theme of the game comes on in full swing? Never felt anything like it before, and probably never will again. It’s intense, it’s fiery, and it definitely teleports you to Skyrim, if only for a few minutes. The sound effects are satisfying, as well. When the music doesn’t quite do the trick, the sizzling crackle of my incineration fire bolt blowing a skeleton to smithereens does. The dragonshouts play a big part in this t00, as being able to yell “YOL TOOR SHUL” and watch enemies burn from your voice alone instills a huge feeling of power. The voice acting is alright, but not amazing. Only a handful of characters have amusing and memorable voices, but the dialogue which everyone speaks is great. The dialogue caters directly to whatever you’ve done most recently in-game, and hearing a guard taunt you with “Let me guess, someone stole your sweetroll” never fails to please in its own odd way. Sound: 10/10

Presentation: The graphics aren’t exactly cutting edge, which is the only true flaw with Skyrim’s presentation. Everything else is phenomenal, from the thousands of gorgeous armor choices to the megasupercalifragilisticexpialidociouscolossul map that contains hundreds of detailed and detailed areas, none of which feel repetitive. It’s amazing that Bethesda managed to make every one of the hundreds of ruins, caves and underground cities all have a unique flavor and visual style, especially considering the almost gross quantity of places to go in the game. Needless to say, there’s a good twenty hours in the game just exploring the map for giggles. The loading times may be a bit long and a bit too often, but with a virtual land this big it’s easily understandable. Presentation: 8/10

Gameplay: Any action game you’ve ever played culminates into this one adventure, in one way or another. Fan of FPS titles? Bow and arrows are present. Love RPGs? Lots of strategy oriented Mage gameplay is here. Want a fun third person action adventure with lots of sword slashing? Even that’s available for gamers like me in Skyrim! Really, if there isn’t a playstyle here that you like, you shouldn’t be playing video games. The depth of each branch of gameplay is huge, allowing you to mix and mingle your favorite various playstyles until you get a combo to suit your needs. There’s the mage/theif hybrid which allows for illusion spells to trick your enemies while you stealthily assassinate all of your foes, and there’s the straight up hack ‘n slash heavy armor style which can intertwine with enchanting to create the most magically enhanced brawler out there. Personally, I started off as a battlemage with one-handed swords and various spells, but ended up becoming the ultimate mage, rocking a fully charged roster of master destruction spells, a variety of flaming death abilities powerful enough to scare any Draugr, the Archmage robes and two magicka-specific Dragon Priest Masks. Things got pretty crazy when I couldn’t see my character due to all of the burning souls around my blazing Dark Elf.
That brings me to my next point, the various races of Skyrim. I stuck with Dark Elf because those guys are bosses, but there were plenty of other enticing race choices with unique bonuses, such as the imperials which looted more money from chests and the Khajiits with dagger-level claws. All of these help you boost your desired playstyle before you even start playing!
My only gripe with the gameplay is a sort of personal one. Unlike Deus Ex: Human Revolution where their were three defining playstyles, I just don’t feel comfortable with this much variety. I feel the game is almost spread too thin, not paying attention to any one area quite enough. But considering the game encourages intermingling of strategies, this can be overlooked.
The main issue with Skyrim is that during some of the best moments of the game, deadly glitches arise. They range from minor issues such as enemies not spawning to massive issues such as being caught in the texture of a wall, both of which can be extremely frustrating given the right circumstances. Considering how large TES V is, it’s alright but it definitely justifies the monthly patches and updates. Gameplay: 7/10

Multiplayer: N/A! Suck it society! A game that doesn’t need online deathmatch to be considered legendary!

Length: Holy crap is what any first time player of this game will say. Holy crap is what a player nearing the seventy hour mark (myself) will say. No matter how long you play, the game keeps throwing stuff at you. Whether it’s randomly generated side quests (which do exist in an abundance, mind you), spontaneous dragon battles, specific NPC missions or conquering one of the main six quest lines, there’s easily over one hundred hours of content to be had in this large section of Tamriel. Easily the longest game I’ve ever played, and it earns my first *positive* (Ahem, UMVC3) score breaking rating. Length: 15/10

Overall: Skyrim gets a well deserved 10 dragon souls out of 10. I say The Elder Scrolls V is equivalent to my only other 10/10 champion, Star Wars Battlefront 2! What it lacks in technical specs and programming perfection, it makes up for in immense quantity and mind-boggling quality. It provides an experience that will make any other supposed “massive open-world adventure game” look like catnip.