Skyrim: Dragonborn Review

Ma'idah Lashani | 11 Dec 2012 12:00
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Skyrim's latest DLC Dragonborn teases the chance to challenge an ancient rival, a return to Morrowind and, most tantalizing of all, the ability to tame and ride your very own dragon. While the whole process of dragon taming is severely underwhelming, what you'll find on the island of Solstheim will be more than enough to hold your attention for a solid 20 to 30 hours of gameplay.

If you were hoping for a spiffy new dragon mount to swap out for that horse of yours, you're going to be disappointed. Although you can bend them to your will and convince them to allow you to mount them, you can't actually direct the dragon's flight path except to fast travel from one location to another. Otherwise, it'll just sort of circle around the area, giving you the option to toggle between nearby targets and command the dragon to attack them on your behalf. Once you dismount, the relationship begins to dissolve. The dragon will fly around in the air for a little while waiting for you to call it back down and then go back to whatever it was doing before, presumably sleeping on a mountaintop somewhere and waiting to ambush unwary travelers. Not only does this lack of creative input make the act of dragon riding itself boring, it seems to undermine the excitement of interacting with dragons in general.

Dragon riding aside, there's still plenty of interesting stuff in this slice of Morrowind to rediscover while you search for the strange, new anti-Dovahkiin drawing you there. There's a good deal of land and a decent variety of questlines to explore Solstheim. As you flit from one catastrophe to another - saving various locals in distress out of the goodness of your heart or perhaps extorting them for money when the opportunity arises - you come across a large range of new and old beasties. Liquid tentacles snake up from dark waters ready to swipe you into an early grave, lumpy Ash monsters claw their way out of the earth around you and Netches glide past ethereally like gigantic floating jellyfish. After a while the journey begins to feel like a waking nightmare, and unfortunately for the people of Solstheim, that isn't very far off from the truth.

Things on Solstheim are really bad. Biblical plague levels of bad. Every time you turn around some fresh new hell seems to crop up, and you begin to wonder how anyone on the island has managed to survive this long. Some folks are depressed, some are angry, others are resigned, and almost everyone is in some degree of deep-seated denial. No matter how wickedly you've chosen to spend your time in Tamriel until now, you can't help but pity the hopelessness of the Raven Rock townspeople's situation. All this really motivates you to want to seek out the person responsible and dish out some justice, making it all the more enjoyable when you do just that.

It's not all doom and gloom, though. Okay, it's mostly doom and gloom, but here and there you'll have a ray of sunshine to keep your spirits up. The Rieklings for example, a blue gnomish people that speak in broken English, have an amusing assortment of side quests for you to take up, including pet sitting and a small degree of drug trafficking.

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